Tarry for the Nonce

November 16, 2005

Yes, I’m an Austen Snob

Filed under: Entertainment — lmwalker @ 6:06 pm

I find myself inexplicably galled by the reviews of the new Pride & Prejudice. Some reviews laud the movie as yet another Austen triumph (puh-leez). Some think Keira Knightley “too beautiful” for the role – an insult, I may add, to the other comely actresses who have filled those shoes, including Greer Garson, Jennifer Ehle, Aishwarya Rai, Celia Bannerman, Ann Baskett, Curigwen Lewis, Jane Downs and the (incomparable) Elizabeth Garvie. Some reviews even have the audacity to intimate that the Colin Firth version is definitive.

Gag me with a sterling spoon.

Joe Wright has been seduced by Bronte’s own critique of Austen’s novels (“Anything like warmth or enthusiasm, anything energetic, poignant, heartfelt, is utterly out of place in commending these works. The passions are perfectly unknown to her”) and has made the egregious mistake of assuming that American audiences won’t “get” Austen without the sweeping cloaks and brooding scoundrels of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Oh, and he boiled the whole mess in unrestrained, drippy-eyed passion, much to the chagrin of the Jane Austen Society of North America:

Although the Jane Austen Society in North America had been looking forward to a special screening of the film at their annual convention, they have since decided against the idea after discovering that the picture fails to do justice to the novel, claiming that the filmmakers are more interested in sexual imagery than romance.

IMDB.com quote president Joan Klingel Ray as saying: “The film is full of sexual imagery which is totally inappropriate to Austen’s novel . . . ”

Director Joe Wright doesn’t seem too bothered by the group’s dislike of his film, reportedly advising: “They can go jump in a lake.”

Sorry to tell ya, Joe, but Colin Firth already had that one covered.

Unswayed by the people who actually appreciate Austen for her delightful everyday wit, Wright has gone as far as to soup up the ending for “plebeian” American audiences:

An eight-minute segment has been added for US audiences who love ultra-happy endings.

Elizabeth Bennet, played by Keira Knightley, kisses Mr Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen) “in a moonlit haze of post-nuptial bliss” as he repeatedly sighs her name . . .

The romantic ending was chosen for release after a test screening in a US cinema. Audiences reportedly “swooned” as Elizabeth and Darcy kissed on a terrace, as he cooed: “Mrs Darcy. . . Mrs Darcy.”

American audiences are actually responding favorably to this saccharine tripe? Have Americans no pride? The least they could do is wrangle up some good, old-fashioned American prejudice! I mean, c’mon, people! This is internationally humiliating!


1 Comment

  1. I think Anthony Lane said it better than I:

    What has happened is perfectly clear: Jane Austen has been Brontëfied . . . The question is not whether the director was justified in that transmutation but whether he had the choice; whether any of us, as moviemakers, viewers, or readers, retain the ability—not so much the scholarly equipment as the imaginative clairvoyance—to see Austen clearly. Maybe we are doomed to view her through the smoked glass of the intervening centuries, during which the spirit of romance, and the role of the body within it, have evolved out of all recognition . . . Any resemblance to scenes and characters created by Miss Austen is, of course, entirely coincidental.

    Comment by laura — November 20, 2005 @ 3:32 pm

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