During the decade when Napoleon was transforming Europe, Jane Austen write this novel in which the main events are that a man changes his manners and a young lady her mind.
Well, the synopsis, which is printed on the back of my battered 10-year-old book, sums up the book, really. But then again, it fails to capture the sparkling wit and sardonic humour that had made this book such an evergreen in the fickle circles of Literature.
Having had the chance to watch the 6-hour miniseries produced by BBC in 1996, I trooped on down to the cinema yesterday to watch the movie version and was pleasantly surprised by the near faithful adaptation of the book. More ahead after the jump.
In the time of Jane Austen, marriage was seen as the only way that a woman could live comfortably for the rest of her life. However, marriages were often of convenience rather than of love and could, therefore, lead to a compromise in happiness. Austen herself never married, having rejected suitors who were said to be far richer than Mr. Darcy (who earns, we are told, 10,000 pounds a year). Elizabeth Bennet could be seen as a mirror of Austen, who said of her character: “I must confess that I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared on print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know.”
“!(imgleft)http://static.flickr.com/40/74864753_56b5d58c0b_t.jpg!(Keira Knightley as Lizzie Bennet)”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/yannisms/74864753/
The main beauty of a character such as Lizzie is in her gamine charm. She loves to laugh, is intelligent and witty, loves devotedly with all her heart and has a mind of her own, unlike her rather silly mother and sisters, barring Jane. The attraction of her character lies in that she is not perfect – she is strong-willed and can often be fooled by her emotions – but her flaws accentuate her likeability and increases our affection for her.
Keira Knightley played Lizzie with more charm than Jennifer Ehle did in the BBC series, and with more emotions to boot. Although Lizzie is not supposed to upstage her eldest sister Jane in the beauty stakes, the casting of Keira is quite apt. She grows in her role, she is oh so believable as the headstrong but kind Lizzie. Although her beauty has been downplayed in the show (dowdy brown hair that is perpetually bunned up and frocks that do little justice to her figure), she still manages to glow somehow, with her wide-eyed charm.
“!(imgleft)http://static.flickr.com/6/74695770_596e6174d8_t.jpg!(Oh, Mr Darcy!)”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/yannisms/74695770/
We catch our first glimpse of Mr Darcy at a ball, where he sweeps into the room with a disdainful look. He refuses to dance with anyone (the horror!) and worse, manages to offend Lizzie when he comments that she is pretty but “not enough to tempt me” (like, how could anyone say this about Keira Knightley?).
Matthew Mcfadyen plays his part with an awkwardness that is actually endearing. Unlike Colin Firth, who played his version of Mr Darcy with a touch of aristocracy and intelligence so sharp it could cut, Matthew Mcfadyen is slightly more surley and taciturn. He was rather, well, human actually. He masks his sensitivity and shyness with seeming arrogance and when he strides in the morning fog towards Longbourn in search of Lizzie to confess his love, I was actually cheering for him and his bravery. Sigh. How many Mr Darcys actually exist in this world, outside of the pages of a novel?
“!(imgleft)http://static.flickr.com/43/74696118_d70af1e4f3_t.jpg!(Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennet)”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/yannisms/74696118/
The rest of the cast blended perfectly into their roles too. Brenda Blethyn shone as the clucking Mrs Bennet, who is obsessed with marrying her daughters off and is silly as can be. Rosamund Pike, as the eldest Bennet daughter and the prettiest, was sweet and demure.
Some of the more memorable scenes take place within the balls, as dancers whirl about incessantly, intoxicatingly. Conversations are shared and loving glances exchanged. Mr Darcy keeps Lizzie in his sight as she goes off on a search for the deceitful Wickham. And when they finally dance, it’s almost as if they are dancing alone in the crowded ballroom, such is their chemistry with each other.
My favourite scene is actually the ending, where Lizzie is “teazing” Mr Darcy about the endearments that he is allowed to call her. Of course, his personal favourite is “Mrs Darcy”. While this scene is nowhere to be found within the book, I daresay it would go perfectly well. It made me tear but I had to blink bear the tears because…..I had mascara on.
Another wonderful thing about the movie was the soundtrack. The music was perfect, reflecting breathless joy, painful realization and the burden of secrets kept from loved ones.
Is this a must-watch? As a Literature student, I say, ay! But well, judging from the snoozing boyfriend next to me in the darkened and less than half-filled theatre, I guess English literature might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But I’m definitely snatching up the DVD when it arrives.