Thursday, November 30, 2006

Pride and Prejudice (1995): Part One

There are few cinematic translations as good or as enjoyable as the original books. To Kill a Mockingbird comes to mind as one successful example but frankly, almost any Andrew Davies adaptation ranks rather high as well. His 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice weaves a nearly seamless flow between what Jane Austen actually wrote and what we could justly infer about her characters.

Jennifer Ehle is a lovely Lizzie Bennet—her spark and wit are reminiscent of Greer Garson in the 1940 version. Who could not instantly like her as she runs through the countryside in the opening scene spying the gentlemen on horseback discussing Netherfield. Lizzie’s intelligence and her spirit are clearly larger than her surroundings, something Colin Firth’s Darcy can’t fail to see and be attracted to.

There, the subject is broached: Colin Firth’s Darcy. It has all been said, the smouldering looks at Lizzie from across the room that could be mistaken for contempt and not lust—very clever; the deliberate choice to wear waistcoats with colour in avoidance of the anti-hero-in-black appearance; and, of course, the- GULP- lake scene which culminates in the most endearing expose of his human side “I trust your parents are in health…” While we find him handsome from the onset, now we have full leave to love his character as Lizzie will.

There is not a single deficit in the supporting cast either. Julia Sawalha is hilariously naive and properly irritating as Lydia, Adrian Lukas is smarmily charming, Alison Steadman’s Mrs Bennet unbearable with her unguarded prattling and the praise goes on. There is one minor though criminal weakness to be sure and that is the lame, very lame final kiss that we waited the whole film to see. Could they not have re-shot that one scene? The carriage jolts just enough to make Lizzie and Darcy’s kiss goes from passion to mashin’. I screamed for a redo right away but no one seemed to notice.

Those Darcy Moments

A minute-to-second guide to when Darcy appears on screen – taken from the US 2-disc Special Edition. In bold are my best moments.

00:51 Horses and riders on the scene…
01:05 Mr Bingley is introduced…but we are denied a real look at Darcy—from behind and profile only…great tease.
01:42 Enter Lizzie…
04:14 “For a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
08:30 “Only the deepest love will induce me into matrimony.”
10:46 “I’m afraid we cannot escape the acquaintance now.”
12:04 DARCY steps from the carriage
12:11 Darcy surveys the environs and looks at the camera for the first time!
13:14 Enters the assembly rooms
13:54 “Better and better…”
14:16 Lady Lucas gives the lowdown via Mrs Bennet
14:32 Would he be as handsome if he weren’t rich?
15:12 Looking rather surly over Bingley’s shoulder
15:34 “Are you fond of dancing too?”
16:01 He had said he didn’t dance and so he left…OUCH
16:25 Who does he think he is?
16:59 Looks dismissively at Bingley and Jane dancing.
19: 00 “I must have you dance!”
20:00 “She is tolerable, I suppose…”
20:24 Lizzie walks by Darcy greatly amused by his arrogance
22:45 “I believe I may safely promise never to dance with Mr Darcy”
23:22 “I should as soon call her mother a wit!”
27:28 Lizzie notices Darcy is staring at her at the Lucas Lodge party
30:10 “Mr Darcy looks at you a great deal Lizzie…”
30:35 “Any savage can dance”
31:09 “Please don’t suppose I move this way to beg for a partner”

31:40 Lizzie gives Darcy his comeuppance and walks away herself
31:53 Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s eyes
37:09 Lizzie bumps into Darcy at Netherfield (she comes on foot as you see)

38:49 Lizzie’s eyes were “brightened by the exercise.”
41:28 Oops—wrong turn

The UK version - BBC 2000 DVD

Episode 1
01:05 Darcy and Bingley ride across to look at Netherfield. Darcy says ‘You’ll find the country manners something savage.’
12:04 Appearance of Darcy outside the Ball
13:15 Darcy and party enter ball
15:50 Darcy rarely dances
16:16 ‘Proud disagreeable man’
18:05 Darcy skulks around the dance floor
19:07 ‘I certainly shall not (dance)’
19:59 ‘She is tolerable I suppose’
22:30 ‘I should as soon call her mother a wit’
27:13 ‘Poor Darcy’ gazing at Lizzie
30:06 Mr Darcy looks at you a great deal
31:13 ‘Happy honour to dance’
32:25 ‘Fine eyes’
37:09 Darcy meets Lizzie after walk to Netherfield
38:23 Darcy at lunch
40:16 Darcy after shooting
41:31 Playing billiards – pots a hole
43:23 Accomplished woman
45:50 Darcy at visit of Bennets
46:55 Darcy in bath
47:47 Looks out of window and sees Lizzie playing with the dog
49:00 Lizzie and Miss Bingley walking around the room
51:30 Darcy looking out of the window as Lizzie leaves

Episode 2
11:00 Darcy sees Wickham
14:50 Wickham talks about Dracy
26:32 Darcy sees Lizzie at Netherfield Ball
28:44 Darcy laughing at Mr Collins dancing with Lizzie
30:19 Darcy asks for a dance
31:05 The dance (lasts until 36:00)
40:00 Collins toadies to Darcy

Episode 3
03:40 Darcy leaving Netherfield
33:44 Darcy at Huntsford (Mr Collins’ vicarage)
35:58 On horse back coming across Lizzie’s walk
36:54 Darcy at Rosings
37:29 Darcy at piano with Lizzie
40:02 Darcy visits Huntsford and not say any thing in particular
45:45 The proposal (lasts till 51:28)

To Be Continued…

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Everything Old is New Again

Just when we became comfortable with the idea that our DVD versions of Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion were the definitive adaptations--unsurpassable in cast, costume and content, someone else selfishly, if not arrogantly, decided it’s time to share their visions of Jane with the world.

The 2005 offering of Pride and Prejudice appears to have opened the floodgates of such egotism because 2007 is setting up to be the new 1995—the year we were last showered with such an abundance of Austen offerings.

The coming year brings us the currently filming yet ever-iffy Mansfield Park starring the ever-youthful Billie Piper as Fanny Price in a Maggie Wadey adaptation.

Already in post-production is Simon Burke’s Persuasion though I don’t know how Ciaran Hinds could ever be replaced in my heart as Captain Wentworth. Progress be damned in that case, I just upgraded my faded video with a crisp new DVD so stay tuned on that front.

Lastly, there is a double offering from the uncrowned King of costume drama adaptations: Andrew Davies. His version of Northanger Abbey is filming while his version of Sense and Sensibility is in pre-production. Again, though Davies is godlike to the genre penning possibly the best Pride and Prejudice script ever, Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility should be allowed to stand a few more years at least. It was Oscar worthy for goodnessake.

Men's Regency Costume

Let’s be frank a BIG part of why Jane Austen’s heroes and villains are particularly sexy is the clothes they wear. Knee-high boots, long great coats, tall neckties, floppy shirts and tight breeches all make us shudder. Male costume changed dramatically from 1780s to the 1800s – becoming more austere and less colourful. Grooming and unshowy style were all-important. And fortunately we have our costume expert Mrs B to hand to explain why and some illustrations from a 1907 edition of Pride and Prejudice for illustration!

Mrs B says:

In the period 1795 to 1820 the male fashionable look was the perfectly tailored, figure hugging style devised by Beau Brummell and his circle. Brummell took the practical frock coat, waistcoat and breeches worn by the English Peers in their enthusiasm for farming and country pursuits and refined the look.

By the end of the eighteenth century English tailors became the leaders of men’s fashions, because their long experience of the subtleties of cloth had developed their skill and they gave style and elegance to the practical country coats and so made them acceptable for fashionable wear. Beau Brummell, not an innovator but a perfectionist, set the seal on the new fashion by removing the odour of the stables. He had the floppy cravat starched, the muddy boots polished and, above all, he demanded the perfect cut and fit (see Nora Waugh, The Cut of Men’s Clothes 1600-1900).

The double-breasted riding coat was turned into an elegant garment by giving it a curved front and tailoring it to fit the body closely.

Breeches were replaced by pantaloons, which were tighter fitting and extended to mid calf or below. These were bias cut to achieve a much closer fit. They were worn with highly polished tall boots. Between 1807-25 trousers, originally worn by working men, appeared as an alternative. They were skin tight to the knees and below the knee they were looser and anchored in place by straps under the instep, a device possibly introduced by Brummell to ensure the trousers’ unwrinkled perfection could be maintained. Breeches, pantaloons and trousers in this period fastened with a side buttoned rectangular panel to produce a flat front to the garment and preserve the closeness of fit.

Thanks Mrs B (see more of her here).

I just love Darcy’s great coat in the BBC series and pantaloons worn with hessian boots could not be sexier, though they need good legs and firm thighs to carry them off!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Pride and Prejudice: Film 2005

I actually liked this adaptation – though there are some very silly (and socially inaccurate) moments in it, for example Bingley being in Jane’s bedroom at her bedside and the announcing of the Bennet sisters all as ‘Miss Bennet’ at Netherfield to name but two. There is also no real feeling of the ‘shame’ that Lydia put her family through or the real danger to her reputation and that of her sisters that her elopement with Wickham caused.

Such quibbles aside, I liked the fact that the Bennets lived in a disorganised, rustic house and one got the sense that the Bennet sisters really were squabbling, problematic teenagers. The fashions between the generations were more old fashioned – Mrs Bennet and Lady Catherine are in late eighteenth century fashions while the younger ladies are in regency empire dress. The balls are much more rough and tumble and alcoholic. The sense of war going on and patriotism is much bigger than in the BBC 1995 version. Mr Collins is much more creepy – his voice and habit of hanging around in the shadows reminds me of a Dr Who fan/stalker I have met – than comic. Mr Bennet is more unkempt and vague and his library is well used and in constant turmoil.

Matthew Macfaddon’s Mr Darcy is sulky, surly and awkward but in a good way (if you know what I mean). He appears to be shy rather than down right rude, opinionated rather than arrogant and misguided rather than self-righteous. He is also a very passionate Darcy – the proposal scene where he comes close to just snogging Lizzie had me in meltdown in the cinema. I think he is much more of a ‘Bronte’ Darcy than an Austen one. And, though the end is very silly when Lizzie and Darcy walk across the field in the morning mist, what an image of him striding across the fields!

Just a shame about Keira Knightley as Lizzie – let’s say no more.

Those Darcy Moments

A minute to second guide to when Darcy appears on screen – taken from the DVD.
Pictures © 2005 Focus Features

06:01 First appearance in the noisy ballroom
09:07 Won’t dance
09:58 ‘She is perfectly tolerable, I suppose’

12:26 Arch conversation between Darcy and Lizzie on poetry being the food of love
16:40 Darcy and Miss Bingley at breakfast
19:20 Darcy writing a letter
21:21 Miss Bingley and Lizzie walking around the room
22:00 ‘My good opinion once lost is lost for ever’
22:52 Visit of the Miss Bennets
24:23 Touch of hand while handing Lizze into the carriage
36:53 Darcy asks for dance
38:00 The Dance

39:10 Stop in the middle of the dance and look at each other
42:25 bored disdain when dancing with Miss Bingley
57:05 Darcy appears unexpectedly at Lady DeBourghs
58:10 Darcy and Lizzie sat together at dinner
59:58 Great shot of Darcy (hands on hips) and Fitzwilliam
101:15 Darcy comes over to piano and talks to Lizzie

102:24 Darcy stares at Lizzie
102:50 Darcy comes to visit parsonage and clearly perturbed
105:08 Darcy in church. Lizzie told about Darcy’s interference with Bingley and Jane
106:00 Darcy proposal in rain – very breathless.
108:30 Lizzie mentions Wickham and Darcy steps towards her
109:12 Almost kisses her
111:15 Darcy appears to give her the letter
119:40 Lizzie at Pemberley amongst naked neo-classical sculptures
122:47 Darcy and sister
123:03 Darcy sees Lizzie
124:45 Darcy goes to pub in village and meets aunt and uncle
125:30 Darcy and Georgina playing piano
127:10 Letter from Jane
127:50 ‘This is my fault, if it was not for my pride . . .’
133:28 Lizzie finds out about Darcy and Lydia’s wedding

136:33 Darcy and Bingley go to the Bennets Darcy and Bingley
137:15 Exchange of looks
137:27 ‘Are you quite well?’
138:15 Leave taking
138:30 Darcy prepares Bingley for the proposal
140:25 Bingley proposal
141:38 Darcy looking at house from distance
148:42 Darcy walking across the field in the mist
149:37 Darcy and Lizzie meet
150:00 Second proposal Proposal

151:47 Darcy as goes to see father
152:47 Darcy outside waiting for Lizzie

Misc. Info.

Directed: Joe Wright
Script: Deborah Moggach

Matthew Macfadyen - Mr. Darcy
Keira Knightley - Elizabeth 'Lizzie' Bennet
Rosamund Pike - Jane Bennet
Simon Woods - Mr. Bingley

Official Movie Site:

Can download the trailer on official site.

Working title films website have extra photographs – including behind the scenes:

Buy DVD:
In UK (has extra features and a making of)


Visit the natural sights in the Peak district – Darcy country

Visit houses in film through the National Trust

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Pride and Prejudice: Pulsating Passages

"Mr Bingley was good looking and gentlemanlike . . . but his friend Mr Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien; and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes of his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year." (p.58)
"‘Which do you mean?’ and turning round he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said, ‘She is tolerable: but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.’" (p.59)
"‘I am afraid, Mr Darcy’, observed Miss Bingley, in a half whisper, ‘that this adventure has rather affected your admiration of her fine eyes’.
‘Not at all,’ he replied; ‘they were brightened by the exercise’." (p.82)
"‘All this she must possess,’ added Mr Darcy, ‘and to this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.’
‘I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.’" (p.85)
"Elizabeth, having rather expected to affront him, was amazed at his gallantry; but there was a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner which made it rather difficult for her to affront anybody; and Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her. He really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger." (p.96)
"‘Are you consulting your own feelings in this present case, or do you imagine that you are gratifying mine?’
‘Both,’ replied Elizabeth archly; for I have always seen a great similarity in the turn of our minds. – We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the eclat of a proverb.’" (p.134)
"Darcy smiled and said, ‘You are perfectly right. You have employed your time much better. No one admitted to the privilege of hearing you, can think any thing wanting. We neither of us perform to strangers.’" (p.209)
"Mr Darcy drew his chair a little towards her, and said, ‘You cannot have a right to such very strong local attachment. You cannot always have been at Longbourne.’" (p.213)
"‘In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.’" (p.221)
"Mr Darcy, who was leaning against the mantle-piece with his eyes fixed on her face, seemed to catch her words with no less resentment than surprise. His complexion became pale with anger, and the disturbance of his mind was visible in every feature. He was struggling for the appearance of composure, and would not open his lips, till he believed himself to have attained it." (p.222)
"‘From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that ground-work of disapprobation, on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed upon to marry.’" (p.224)
"They were within twenty yards of each other, and so abrupt was his appearance, that it was impossible to avoid his sight. Their eyes instantly met, and the cheeks of each were overspread with the deepest blush. He absolutely started, and for a moment seemed immoveable from surprise; but shortly recovering himself, advanced towards the party, and spoke to Elizabeth, if not in terms of perfect composure, at least of perfect civility." (p.272)
"It was not often that she could turn her eyes on Mr Darcy himself; but whenever she did catch a glimpse, she saw an expression of general complaisance, and in all that he said, she heard an accent so far removed from hauteur or disdain of his companions, as convinced her that the improvement of manners which she had yesterday witnessed, however temporary its existence might prove, had at least outlived one day." (p. 282)
"‘Yes,’ replied Darcy, who could contain himself no longer, ‘but that was only when I first knew her, for it is many months since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance.’" (p.290)
"‘Good God! What is the matter?’ cried he, with more feeling than politeness; then recollecting himself, ‘I will not detain you a minute, but let me, or let the servant, go after Mr and Mrs Gardiner. You are not well enough; - you cannot go yourself.’ [. . .] Darcy, in wretched suspense, could only say something indistinctively of his concern, and observe her in compassionate silence." (p.294)
"‘If you will thank me,’ he replied let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you, might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.’
Elizabeth was too embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, ‘You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on the matter for ever.’" (p.375)
"‘What made you so shy of me, when you first called, and afterwards dined here? Why especially when you called, did you look as if you did not care about me?’
‘Because you were grave and silent, and gave me no encouragement.’
‘But I was embarrassed.’
‘And so was I.’
‘You might have talked to me more when you came to dinner.’
‘A man who felt less, might.’" (p.389)
Page numbers refer to the Penguin edition.

Fortune's Fool: A Jane Austen Game

When my friend was young, she and her classmates would trace their hands and tell each other’s fortunes based on the age they thought they would marry.

They would write that number in the traced palm. In each of the traced fingers they would write three possibilities starting with where they might honeymoon, how many kids they might have, would they be rich, middle class or poor (this was the only part of the fortune that was not at the girl’s whim).

Most importantly, which boy in class they might marry.

After all the possibilities were written out, the girl reading the fortune would start the process of elimination by counting through them up to the marrying age and scratching out the answer when that number was reached. This went on until one answer remained in each category.

At 12 years old, the ideal was that you’d be rich, marry Mark, have 3 children, drive a Mercedes and honeymoon in Paris. Clearly, this was not a very certain foretelling because you could figure out where to place the answers you wanted depending on the age you chose to marry and, Mark was going to come out on his sixteenth birthday regardless of your plans for him.

However, this game reminds me of a more serious childhood experiment that my friends would do to confirm that we were fancying the right person — indeed, the person we were meant to either love, hate, marry or simply befriend. The science of how this works is extremely complicated so I will not tax you with its mechanics now but I will tell you how to try it out for yourself. In fact, I am certain that even Jane Austen knew the formula.
  1. Write out your name and then the person you are wondering about.
  2. Cross out all the letters your names have in common.
  3. While ticking off the remaining letters follow the pattern “Love, Hate, Friendship, Marriage”, again, “Love, Hate, Friendship, Marriage” until the letters run out. Whatever is the fate on the last letter is your answer.
For example:


Apply the Love, Hate, Friendship, Marriage formula and it ends quite solidly in marriage, like Jane intended.

If you think this is hocus-pocus, pseudo-science, try it for Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars or Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth. Marriage!
They all end happily with marriage. How does it work out for you?

Breeches: Jane Austen and Costume Drama

Darcy and Lizzie (c)BBCJane Austen is the most popular of our literary heroines for television and cinema and, given the lip-licking fashions of the Regency period and romantic convulsions of plot; it is not hard to see why.


Pride and Prejudice (1813)
Sense and Sensibility (1811)
Persuasion (1816/17)
Mansfield Park (1814)
Emma (1816)
Northanger Abbey (posthumously published)


Darcy (c)BBCThe most famous hero of Jane Austen’s novels is Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Lizzie Bennett and Mr Darcy are instantly repulsed by and attracted to each other and the book recounts how their relationship changes from critical disdain to love and mutual respect.

Other heroes worth noting for their melty moments are Captain Wentworth in Persuasion and Colonel Braddon in Sense and Sensibility. The most rakish and dashing villains are John Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility, Mr Wickham in Pride and Prejudice and Henry (and Mary) Crawford in Mansfield Park.

Historical Background:

Austen is writing during a period of great change and crisis in Regency England. The Napoleonic Wars meant that Britain was at war with France throughout much of the period in which her novels are set and the industrial revolution was transforming British society. However, Austen’s novels focus on the seemingly unchanging social lives of the upper-middle classes and aristocratic society and the interior worlds of her main heroines.

Literary Background:

Jane Austen’s writing and thought was influenced by the eighteenth poetry of ‘sensibility’. She liked the work of George Crabbe and William Cowper, who wrote on rural scenes and nature. However, she also read contemporary poets and in Persuasion Anne Elliot and Captain Benwick discuss recent work by Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron. Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding and Walter Scott all influenced her writing style but Austen owes much to the comic-tragic prose of Fanny Burney – try Evelina (1778).

Jane Austen Biography:

Jane Austen was born in 1775 and died in 1817. One of eight children, she never married and lived in Steventon, Bath, Southampton and Chawton Hampshire with her mother and sister.

Useful websites:

Jane Austen Centre in Bath

Jane Austen’s House

Jane Austen Society UK

Jane Austen Society US