Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

"Pride and Prejudice"

On Friday afternoon the 25th, we went to the Downer Theater for a matinee showing of the new version of "Pride and Prejudice," adapted from the famous Jane Austen novel. This is the latest of many adaptations, including the moderernized and India-themed "Bride and Prejudice" from last year, and one of several I've seen. I do definitely think this one is the best, for a number of reasons. First, it seems most realistic: one sees the Bennetts presented as a farm family, and the rather ramshackle house with its peeling and absent paint and bare, unvarnished board floors gives a picture of genteel poverty decaying gradually down toward the level of "Cold Comfort Farm." In most others, such as the 1995 mini-series, the Bennetts have a quite comfortable appearing home, such that the references to their lack of money seem to be overstated. The difference in ambiance between the country dance that opens the story and the later, very elegant ball at the Bingly residence is quite marked, as well.

But best of all is the performance of Matthew MacFadyen in the crucial role of Mr. Darcy. The usual method of playing this role seems to be to portray Darcy as he is viewed by those around him, arrogant and aloof. In fact, such behavior is often due to profound shyness and reticence, and this is what we see in MacFayden's Darcy. In this version, Elizabeth inquires of darcy if he dances, to which he replies, only if forced. As Elizabeth looks away, he casts his eyes down to the ground, at which time he seems to clearly be saying to himself, "You idiot, why did you say that!" Admittedly, this is a more sympathetic portrayal of Darcy than Austen herself gives*, but it seems to me to have psychological truth, and, after all, a two-hour plus movie is not a three-decker novel, so one has to move character development along to make it at all believable that Darcy will ever fall for Elizabeth.

Keira Knightly is good and sparky as Elizabeth, and the main couple are well supported, with notable performances by Donald Sutherland as the put-upon Mr. Bennett, and Kelly Reilly (also recently on screen in "Mrs. Henderson Presents" as a very snarky and sophistcated Caroline Bingly.

Georgie, who is a bigger Austen fan than I am, enjoyed it as well, and did not find much to quibble with, although I gather that the rabid purists objected to the final scene in which Darcy actually (gasp) kisses Elizabeth (on the forehead!).

* "Mr. Darcy danced only once with Mrs. Hurst and once with Miss Bingley, declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent the rest of the evening in walking about the room, speaking occasionally to one of his own party. His character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and every body hoped that he would never come there again. Amongst the most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of his general behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment by his having slighted one of her daughters.

Elizabeth Bennet had been obliged, by the scarcity of gentlemen, to sit down for two dances; and during part of that time, Mr. Darcy had been standing near enough for her to overhear a conversation between him and Mr. Bingley, who came from the dance for a few minutes to press his friend to join it.

`Come, Darcy,' said he, `I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance.'

`I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this, it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.'"
--"Pride and Prejudice," Chapter 3.
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