Day 111: Pride & Prejudice (June, 28)

Another day that found me not in the mood for movies... Unwilling to risk something new, I stooped in front of the TV, waiting for a miracle... just to see one of my most beloved stories on the small screen. I have three or four DVDs of this movie, but I couldn't move myself from the couch when I saw it was starting on the TV.  So I made the decision for a reprise this day, because few movies are so perfect to me as Pride & Prejudice, the 2005 version of Jane Auten's.

And to think that this film is the Joe Wright's directional debut on features. There are so many beautiful details, such attention to tiny aspects of a story that has been in the world for little more than 200 years, and inhabits the imaginary of its readers for many generations. The first scene, with Elizabeth reading the end of her own tale, with a knowing smile on her face, patting gently the closed book never ceases to amaze me. The whole movie never ceases do enchant me, actually. This way, a movie with approximately 2 hours, seems to me to goes through only for 5 minutes. It gets to its end too soon, and so I have no other option than to watch it over and over again. 

Movie adaptations of books, specially classic ones, are tricky. Two different medias don't enable the so called fidelity to facts. How we tell a story influences the story itself. What I think is valid on adaptations is to keep faithful to the the story and the characters that we loved in words. But in order to do that with images and sound and music, it will be necessary some changes. It is ironic that this changing is what makes it possible to tell the same story in different ways. 

An outstanding example of this - and the thing that made me aware of literary adaptations on movies - is a scene between Elizabeth and Darcy in Joe Wright's film: the characters have a strong and passionate argument, a confrontation that in the book is told in the distant - and yet strong - manner of Austen. The reader has to transcend the mere words and embark on what was actually being told there. At the praised BBC adaptation, the scene is exactly as described in the book - so it lacks passion, despite the impeccable production and performances. Joe Wright, in other hand, chose to change de scenario to achieve the intense emotions present on the scene. The result was one of perfection, I think. And so we are able to understand the link between those two proud, prejudiced and strong characters and what it means to them to realize the same. This scene never gets old to me.

As so many other on the movie: the mirror scene is outstanding... the long shots on the ball, all of the women in white... Darcy flexing his hand after touching Elizabeth... The hills scene... The camera that enters the private ambients... There are too many, listening it is to tell the whole movie :)

And among all the beautiful images, there is the surreal Dario Marianelli's original score. It tells the story in each scene, and it is one of the most beautiful things that I've seen in the movies. It is another aspect in this movie that never fails to enchant me. 

The controversy in the matter of filming a classic novel is even bigger when we consider some views that defend that such task is impossible. Gina and Andrew McDonnald, researchers of the subject, sustain that "[...] the very nature of translation makes “fidelity” to Jane Austen unlikely, while such characteristics of cinema as spectatorship, commercialism, visuality, idealism, realism, velocity, and a perceived need for “relevance” open up even wider distances from her texts.” (MACDONALD, Gina; MACDONALD, Andrew F. Jane Austen on screen. Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 44). According to that idea, a literary work has its place historically, and nothing would never change that.

However, the wonderful thing about art and culture is that both are not shackled to their origins. The world changes, a work of art changes, the relationship between an iconic work and the public also changes constantly. And it is actually frivolous to ignore that. Of course, the mentioned icon is there, and we can try to understand its place in its time of origin. But today, Jane Austen, for example, is so many things to her readers and admires, there's no way to get around that and ignore it.

Adaptation is a form of translating, and it suffers from the same questioning and controversies. But the fact is that the place of an work of art changes in time in its original language... what to say in others and completely different societies and times from its own? What it becomes is not false or untrue to its origins... it's only different, as it should be. 

Joe Wright can be true to those ambivalent aspects presented in a classic literary work, and I believe he was very successful in telling this beloved story of how inane are the first impressions. Elizabeth and Darcy are considered one of the most iconic literary couples in history. Jane Austen didn't elaborate much about them in the end of her book, and Wright's film did the same, perfectly. The public is so avid to more information that an alternate US ending was added. We also see reflexions of this desire for more on many books that continue the story, or tell how it influences today's readers. Some of these I know, and enjoyed all of them, avoiding however those that present a sequel to the story - I don't want it to spoil my views.

A friend once told me how he wouldn't risk to watch the movie version of Tristan and Isolde on the screen because he'd rather be careful with a story that he loved so much. I was a bit incredulous at the time, but I understand him now. And I agree 100 percent with him. 

And this is one of the trickier aspects on telling such a story: how it is carved on the readers' imagination with such care that it becomes precious. Joe Wright took good care of those aspects, in a recognition of what is important in this story as only a good reader is. For me, Joe Wright is the most careful reader, presenting a beloved story with gentleness, accuracy, care, intensity and love for what he was telling, along with one of the most beloved writers in the world. 

An afterthought: the commented version on the DVD extras is a lesson on filmmaking and storytelling. Joe Wright highlights many details - as the housemaid always is singing when on screen -, showing his care in telling Elizabeth and Darcy's story. How he chose the sets, the relations with actors, the attention to various aspects, the long shots without a cut... It is all there, and it's as beautiful as the movie itself.  

I was very happy with my choice at the end of a boring cold Sunday.

Pride & Prejudice. Directed by Joe Wright. With: Keira Knightley, Matthew
(Oh, my heart), Brenda Blethyn (the whole cast is actually incredble).
Writers: Debborahg Moggach  (and the uncredited Emma Thompson) from the
book by Jane Austen.  France/UK/US, 2005, 129 min., DTS/Dolby Digital, Color (DVD)

PS: The first time I've read a book inspired in Austen was one that I bought in a gas station in England. Mr. Darcy and Me was something that sounded good. And it is sweet, funny, silly but also reflexive about some aspects on the influence of Austen literature. Written by Alexandra Potter, I recommended it or gave it as a gift to many friends. And from this first encounters, I usually seek books like this, that present modern characters that have their lives influenced by Austen books and characters. Those who continue Elizabeth and Darcy story, though, I consider cautiously. One of these is the TV show Death Comes to Pemberley, that present the married couple some years after the end on the book, involved in a mystery plot. It looks good (and it has Kevin on the cast!!!), I've seen the first episode, but I'm still afraid of it, a little, even if it is an indication by the always wise Samara. 

PPS: Matthew MacFadyen as Mr. Darcy is too good. His "I love you, most ardently" line. oh, well. So, at the time, I was a bit of a stalker, actually, and could find some good movies with him (even if nothing like Darcy, though):  Death at a Funeral, 2007, one of the funniest movies I've ever seen, and In My Father's Den, 2004, a heartbreaking story, were my favorite. 

PPPS: Some scenes lead to other on real life. In both classes I've lectured, I presented this movie. Everytime I see the "most ardently" scene I never fail to remember a student's dreamy sigh in class :) 

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