Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Movie Discussion of Pride and Prejudice 1995
In reading Jane Austen, one can easily imagine the Austen children acting out a play created by the boisterous Jane. Her novels have all the elements of drama: a small cast, limited settings, and no special effects. In this manner, Austen writes cinematic novels – those easily adapted to the screen. We find in Austen’s works very precise stage directions (“Darcy shook his head in silent acquiescence.”) and characters who disclose their inner lives through dramatic interactions with others. Translation: Austen writes telling dialogue.
Today, we discuss Andrew Davie’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and, specifically, Colin Firth’s portrayal of Fitzwilliam Darcy. I do not wish to debate who was “the best Darcy.” What I wish to discuss is how Davie created the image of Darcy. Firth once said, “What Darcy doesn’t say” is as important as what he does say. As viewers, we observe Darcy looking disapprovingly at all the Meryton residents. He puts distance between himself and others. We watch Firth observe Jennifer Ehle’s character, and we have no doubt that as Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet’s disregard for him piques his interest. In reality, Firth has few lines in the first half of the series; yet, he “speaks” to us. He must convey Darcy’s thoughts and attitude with a raise of an eyebrow or a tightening of a jaw line.
Davie creates scenes and emotions (not expressed in the novel) to “flush out” Darcy’s character. In truth, Darcy is a major minor character. In the novel, he meets Elizabeth at Michaelmas (the end of September) and is at Netherfield until the ball (end of November). Darcy then does not see Elizabeth until Easter at Rosings Park. They are together a fortnight before the disastrous proposal separates them once more, leaving the suspense to build to the fateful meeting at Pemberley during the first week of August. In other words, he has been in her company three months spread over a year before his second proposal. Yet, Davie was smart enough to know that the dominant female audience would want to see Darcy fall in love with Elizabeth Bennet.