Saturday, February 9, 2008

which of all my important nothings shall i tell you first?

i watched the new pride and prejudice with keira knightly last night at my friend's house, despite the fact that i complain incessantly about it. i did enjoy it, sort of... it is a vaguely romantic film, but in many ways hardly the novel.

for one thing, in this newer version, lizzy and darcy fight in a much faster exchange with much more heightened emotions. they talk more rapidly and listen less. it's difficult to convey this without damaging the delicacy of austen’s narration because the episode is full of heightened emotion–but in austen’s text it is guarded and constrained by the dialogue, and it's only through the narration that we get to hear how lizzy and darcy each digest the other’s biting remarks.

secondly, the mr. darcy of joe wright’s (i.e., the newer version) directing seems more like a boy who never really grew up and who has poor social skills, than the proud, haughty darcy of andrew davies’ production (the 'colin firth version'). darcy in wright’s film constantly regards lizzy, i.e. that is his intensity, but with a look that makes it seem almost as if he were more in pain than in love.

he's also a much more romantic character: handsome and brooding, he seems to be constantly yearning for something, perhaps a more volumizing shampoo, and never achieves it. he makes me think of a lost puppy, whimpering throughout the film, so that in the first shot of him, even though he is silent and upright, every female in the audience is supposed to immediately empathize with him and swoon. i can't see this darcy fighting off wickham from his sister, but I can see him writing the love sonnets that “starve love entirely away.” i am too cruel. he is, after all, pretty attractive.

finally, the newer film played out the romantic and sexual tension between darcy and elizabeth pretty well, but it also demeaned the original conception of love in austen's text. austen does not give fond love scenes as henry fielding does, for example, but the actions of her hero and heroine clearly draw them together not only as lovers, but as companions and partners, qualities that are critical to sustainable love. austen narrates, “had elizabeth been able to encounter his eyes, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight diffused over his face became him; but though she could not look, she could listen…” (265 modern library classics edition).

likewise, when lizzy complains that darcy “might have talked more” than he did during the dinner after their private engagement, he replies, “a man who had felt less, might” (276). lizzy cannot look directly at mr. darcy at first, just as he cannot at first speak to her extensively of his feelings; they are both so overcome by the intensity of what they feel that, initially, they cannot directly face it.

at any rate, i know i sound like an elitist, and maybe i am, but there is so much more to pride and prejudice than the movie really allows us to see, and i wouldn't want people to watch it and believe that they have known all there is to know about austen.

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