In continuation of our Movie Roundtable discussing Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice (2005) film, and to conclude our 4-part movie discussions here (Read part 1, part 2, and part 3), we (Regina Jeffers, Sharon Lathan, Jeane and I, Natasha Shubrick) discussed (in this part 4) about any P&P movie related topic (excluding the common Darcy wars, of course) that we've always wanted to say something about and our favorite visual technique or symbolism that director Joe Wright used and emphasized throughout the film.
Read our Pride & Prejudice (2005) movie discussion (part 4) after the jump, below...
We all know that a wealth of commentary and dialogue can be found on various internet sources regarding Pride and Prejudice adaptations and the novel itself. Is there a topic that you’ve always wanted to say your piece, with the exception of the Darcy wars?
Regina Jeffers: The staging of the confrontation between Elizabeth Bennet and Lady Catherine de Bourgh at Longbourn smacked of poor research and a disregard for those who love Austen's mastery of plot points. Having Lady Catherine arrive so late was beyond the pale. The woman is a paragon of self importance, but even she would not act in such a crass manner. I understand the scene was designed to set up the pre-dawn romantic reunion between Darcy and Elizabeth, but Elizabeth could still have experienced a sleepless night without Lady Catherine's intrusion on the Bennets. I much as I love Judi Dench, I often fast forward through the scene. Its insensibility and its poor lighting effects causes me to cringe.
Sharon Lathan: In my time as an Austen fanatic I have “chimed in on” just about every discussion topic there is! Quite vociferously, in fact. I’ve long since grown weary of the debates, most especially the “Darcy Wars” as you put it. Most of them are utterly ridiculous, IMO.
Now, some of the discussions can be fun and informative (if kept civil, which is a rarity it seems). When I was still an Austen-novice the plethora of forum threads, blogs, commentaries, etc. were extremely helpful. They were also insightful, specifically in realizing that the opinions, even from learned Austen experts, were remarkably varied. This was not a surprise to me, as my feelings, understanding, and interpretation of any book change every time I re-read it! I assumed this was a given, but not so amongst many Janeites. Those varied opinions are typically surrounded by hostility and arrogance. That isn’t fun at all! So I’ll reserve my interactions to place like this fine blog where kindness prevails.
Jeane: For me, it's not just one, but a few other topics. The Keira Knightley is "too pretty" to play Elizabeth Bennet is one of the few topics I've always wanted to say something about, which I think already have. I totally agree on what Natasha said here about it. Another is The UK Ending vs. The U.S. ending scenes, the supposedly controversial topic. I've actually chimed in, on this one a few times, but I'd like to say it here (again) that, in my opinion, the American "Mrs. Darcy" ending scene was a thousand times better and more satisfying than the UK ending scene. There, I said it. At least it was, in this adaptation for me, as I love the Mrs. Darcy ending scene. After seeing Elizabeth & Darcy endure so much (due to their pride and prejudice and misunderstandings) and to finally see them get together in the end, only to have the movie abruptly end with Mr. Bennet calling out for suitors for his two other younger daughters (Mary and Kitty) was just anti-climactic!! Also, after teasing the audience with the "almost kiss" in the first proposal "rain" scene and Elizabeth only kissing one of Darcy's hand in the second proposal scene towards the end, the viewers deserved to see Elizabeth & Darcy kiss and living happily ever after inside their grand estate of Pemberley (as shown in the American ending). I would've loved to see Elizabeth & Darcy's wedding scene (according to director Joe Wright, they had plans and ideas for this, but ended up not doing it!) just to see Lizzie wearing her wedding dress and Darcy in his fancy suit, but at the same time I'm glad they didn't go for a typical wedding (which the 1995 version ended it with...then, this movie would be criticized for copying it...as that wedding scene was NOT in the book), and just added their own unique "Mrs. Darcy" ending scene. I know not everyone likes the Mrs. Darcy ending (though who wouldn't want to see Darcy kiss his Elizabeth 5x and him calling her "Mrs. Darcy" 5x at the same time? Right? I thought so)...I've heard others argued that the US ending was awful (just because they didn't like it and they think it was cheesy...doesn't mean it was) and it's not how it ended in the book and should be left to our imaginations. Well, this isn't the book, it's a movie and an adaptation. If I want it left in my imagination, I would rather read the book (which I did and wanted more). That's what books are for, while movies can show us a visual presentation of any scene, so the filmmakers might as well show (not just tell) us something interesting visually, whether it was in the novel or not.
And one more thing, an interesting topic that comes up from time to time, which others mocked and called Elizabeth's "lame" answer to Darcy's second marriage proposal to her when she said to him, "well then, your hands are cold" after he just declared his love for her. I can understand not comprehending her answer to him, as I too have wondered (in my first few viewings of the movie) why her reply was what she said. I've even asked P&P's own screenwriter Deborah Moggach recently about it (read my interview of her here) and unfortunately, she didn't have an explanation for it, since she said didn't write that line (but she said, she liked it) and suspected Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility 1995) did when she did a few revisions of Moggach's screenplay (there were several revised drafts for this movie too).
Since there's no explanation either from director Joe Wright about this particular line in the movie, and having seen it countless times for a decade now, I've come to understand it a lot better and think it was actually clever and thought-provoking (not your typical "yes" answer like her beloved sister Jane, which they didn't repeat). I think the line "your hands are cold" is there simply to imply that Darcy needs Elizabeth to "warm" him up, so to speak, as she had essentially done so throughout the film. By knowing her, his manner has become warmer to her and even to those, whom he would not have spoken to because of his pride earlier on. I'm guessing it was supposed to be taken as metaphorical. Also, by kissing his hand, the hand was symbolized as her accepting his hand in marriage (which she refused in the first proposal scene, when he asked her, "please do me the honor in accepting my hand"). In addition, the similar title track, "your hands are cold" score played in the background just fits and matched perfectly for this scene.
Joe Wright used both visual suggestions and beyond normal sound-tracking as symbolic clues to communicate or emphasize details or emotion that were taking place in the story that may or not have been voiced by the characters. Which are your favorites or caught your attention?
Regina: Despite lacking the ability to play an instrument or to carry a tune, I am one of those people who hears the background music and recognizes how it is part of the storytelling. For example, when I taught media literacy, I would point out how when Arnold Schwarzenegger as U.S. Marshal John 'The Eraser' Kruger (in the film "Eraser") retrieves Robert Pastorelli, who plays Johnny Casteleone, from where Kruger hid him in a witness protection program, in the background the song is "It's Raining Men" by the Weather Girls. That is very appropriate for Casteleone is working in a gay bar.
There is no gay bar in Pride and Prejudice, but that does not mean the production does not use similar manipulations.
The song "Dawn" is used three times. We hear at the beginning of the film when Elizabeth is walking home while reading her book. The idea of "home" then becomes associated with the tune. Later, we hear it in the background as she explores the figurines upon Darcy's desk and peeks through the door to spy on Georgiana at the pianoforte. Elizabeth realizes Pemberley could have been her "home" with Darcy. Finally, we hear the tune when Darcy and Elizabeth are asking Mr. Bennet's permission to marry: Elizabeth will leave her childhood home to live with as the Mistress of Pemberley.
Other tunes are repeated. For example, "Living Sculpture" is used as Elizabeth explores the statures at Pemberley. She learns something of the man she has come to love, and she stares upon his familiar countenance with new appreciation. Later, we hear it as Bingley proposes to Jane. Notice how he goes down on one knee (totally not appropriate for the time period) to propose to the "goddess," which is Jane Bennet. "Your Hands Are Cold" is used in times of strife and high emotions: First, as Elizabeth rushes from the church upon learning that Mr. Darcy manipulated Bingley away from Jane; next, as Mr. Gardiner's carriage races away from Lambton; and lastly, in a softer manner as Darcy proposes a second time to Elizabeth. The tune known as "Georgiana" is used when Darcy and Georgiana await Elizabeth and the Gardiners at Pemberley and then again when Darcy coaches Bingley into a proper proposal. Ironic in the fact that Darcy's own proposal hangs on Bingley's success. It is a definite case of the blind leading the blind, but perhaps Darcy learned something from his previous mistakes. On a more personal note, I love it when Mrs. Bennet (Brenda Blethyn) is leisurely humming "Greensleeves" as the Bennet women spend a day at Longbourn (right before Kitty rushes in with news that Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy approach for a visit). It's one of my favorite all time tunes.
Sharon: Beautifully worded! Cinematically, Wright’s adaptation is astounding. It was the power of his direction that truly captured me.
I’m hard pressed to pick a favorite. One scene that definitely caught my attention was when Lizzy is twirling on the swing as time passes around her. Incredible! We see Elizabeth Bennet as the unpretentious, youthful, nature-loving woman she is (no shoes, simple clothing, elements of the weather not affecting her, etc.). We see her somber, thoughtful face (in sharp contrast to the smilingly gay expressions before) as each turn on the swing shows her maturing. All while the common tasks of a working farm and normal changes in seasonal climate occur around her. SO effective in conveying time passage, emotion, her world, and much much more. Brilliant!
Jeane: What I love about this movie is its grittiness and authentic portrayal of Austen's P&P characters and story as well as the attention to details of the setting and time period. I have so many favorites, but what really caught my attention was the symbolism used throughout this movie. I didn't really pay attention to these many interesting symbolism in my first few viewings, but the more I watch this movie, the more I began to noticed them and discover new things I failed to noticed in my previous viewings. That's why this movie is AMAZING and it requires repeat viewings to fully understand and appreciate what Joe Wright and his brilliant production crew has shown us.
That's a wrap on our 4-part series of Movie Roundtable discussing P&P (2005) movie here as well the last day of our month long P&P movie 10th anniversary celebration. Thank you for taking the time to read this and all the other P&P Movie Rountable posts. A big THANK YOU to Regina, Sharon, and Natasha for discussing this movie with me (Jeane) here on this blog. Also, special thanks to Regina, Natasha, Maia, Christy Farmer, and Karin Quint (of Jane Austen.nl) for guest blogging and taking part of our P&P 10th Anniversary celebration here as well.