Just in case anyone has been waiting with bated breath for my impressions on the new Pride and Prejudice:
We went last Wednesday night with two other couples, bearing high hopes for an enjoyable evening with friends, if nothing else. (And the fact that my mother tapped me on the shoulder from behind was a pleasant surprise! Unbeknownst to any of us my parents had chosen the same theatre and the same show!)
For any one of the half-a-dozen or so people who aren’t acquainted by this time with Jane Austen’s immortal story, spoilers may follow…
The movie opened on a mist-shrouded English landscape and I clutched Philip’s arm—the loveliness simply unfolded and took us in. From there issued one scene after another of such breathtaking beauty and careful detail that I told Philip later it was like watching a series of exquisite paintings succeed one another in lyric procession: portraits, still lifes, landscapes. The filmmakers were not afraid of moments of pure silence, of exacting studies of the play of emotion over the human face. The panoramic sweeps of the camera made you feel that you were a part of the film itself, a partaker instead of merely an observer.
I felt that the characters themselves were remarkably well-drawn in a relatively short period of time. Keira Knightly’s flashing-eyed repartees were delightful; one trickling tear was heart-rending. And Donald Sutherland was by far the best Mr. Bennett I have seen, as Daddy’s low commentary of chuckles behind me attested. Jane was gorgeous in every way and Bingley was disarmingly boyish. And Lydia’s shame was handled with such taste that I was quite honestly surprised.
When the film was over we congregated outside the theatre for nearly an hour, tossing omitted lines back and forth and rolling our eyes a bit at the last scene, ostensibly tacked on for American audiences who somehow need more than seamless subtlety to convince them that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy really are in love! But even then there was a wholesomeness rarely found in 21st century movies.
No, it wasn’t perfect. Keira Knightly’s hair often needed attention. There was a little too much barnyard screen time which could have been used for some of that dialogue we missed. And though Matthew MacFayden did an admirable job, he’ll never be Colin Firth. (And yet, his brooding Mr. Darcy leant a rather Bronte-esque air…) But for me the good points so far out-stepped the less-than-ideal that it didn’t matter. Even when I tried to take issue with the whole wrong-time-period thing, I couldn’t escape the fact that from start to finish it was a feast for the eyes. As Philip said when we came out of the theatre, “Who cares when it’s set—it’s beautiful!”
The verdict is that we loved it. We eagerly anticipate seeing it again in the theatre. Unspoiled movies are few and far between, but this is one that I cannot wait to own and add to my collection of films that inspire me to beautiful thoughts and gracious living.
And I can’t help feeling that Jane Austen would be amused at all the ranting over the adaptations of her book—perhaps only more fuel for witty observations on human foibles…