Let Me Explain: A View on Art and An Austen Adaptation

Let Me Explain: A View on Art and An Austen Adaptation

Art, as I am certain we would all agree, speaks to each of us individually.  Though we may have some similar observations or reactions to a particular piece, it is inherently impossible for any two people to experience art in exactly the same way.  Things that shout to one person, might whisper to another, or remain silent and hidden to a third.  Art is an individual experience, and therefore, when an interpretation of a particular piece is given by another person, it should not be discounted just because it does not agree with the view that we hold.

Art is not confined to a museum wall. It is not revealed only by paint or chisel.  It stands before us as a small cottage garden.  It towers over us as a structure of steel and glass.  It fills a room with melodies that wash over us and vibrate through our being.  Art marches in words on a page.  It pulls us through a screen and engulfs us in a world that is not our own.  Art, in all its forms, surrounds us, captivates us, teaches us, inspires us, and adds great beauty to our lives.

13077038_994471243934436_2890602779805543618_nToday, I would like to share a few of my observations on a piece of visual art that is familiar to most lovers of Jane Austen and happens to be my favourite film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice to date — the 2005 version of Miss Austen’s novel.  Notice, please, that I did not say it was the best production.  I said it was MY favourite.  I am not comparing it in any way to any other of the many film or stage productions of Pride and Prejudice.  In fact, this is not the only adaptation I enjoy, but it is my favourite, and I would like to begin to explain what it is about this piece of art that speaks to me.

(So do we all have that? This is my favourite. I like others as well. We are not comparing and contrasting.  I am just sharing a few observations about this piece of art. Got it? Good. Let’s continue. 🙂 )

I will begin by saying it is not the script that spoke to me — although there are terrific lines in it! Nor is it the music even though the soundtrack is beautiful! It is also not the actors, although there are things about the portrayals by those actors that I have found to be so close to what I imagined when I first read the book many years ago as a young teen. (And if you know me at all, you know I love great characterization! So not commenting on characters is no easy task. 🙂 )

So, if it is not the script or the music or the actors, what does make this production my favourite? Well, it comes down to details.  There are a great number of scenes with lovely details that I could highlight, but to keep this post from growing too long, I will limit myself (with great discomfort) to just four examples and a link to a fifth.

A couple of notes: 

All Pride and Prejudice 2005 pictures in this post have been used with permission from the thousands that can be found on the Facebook Page Devoted Fans of Pride & Prejudice (2005).  And the portrait, which is not from the movie, was found on  Andrew and Rachel Knowles website, Regency History, and is also used with permission. 

These interpretations and opinions are mine. I have no idea if the director or producer of the film intended any of these things to speak to me as they did.

10257958_925611670820394_2539560238047501191_n

Shall we start with a scene that makes many say “Oh, that hair!”?

I think we will.  🙂

This scene shows so clearly that Elizabeth is not like other ladies, and this difference is what, Mr. Darcy? Intriguing, beguiling, tempting, worthy of a long stare and stumbled over words? It seems to be. 🙂 But, I also like Caroline’s comment about Elizabeth’s hair being “positively medieval.”  To me, she is pointing out just how backwards and unfit Elizabeth is.  Caroline had just been speaking about the redecoration of someone’s room.  So, to Caroline, Elizabeth is just so last century in her style.  Surely, Mr. Darcy would not want a wife that was out of style? Would he? He must see how unfit she is? Mustn’t he?

Ok, I can’t help poking a bit of fun at Caroline. 🙂

lady-jersey-from-la-belle-assemblee-1844
Lady Jersey from La Belle Assemblee (1844)

 

 

I found a portrait from La Illustrated Belle Assemblee (1844) of Sarah Child Villiers, Countess of Jersey and patroness of Almacks.  I grant you the hairstyle is more tamed and less wind blown, but her hair is down and flowing about her shoulders. So perhaps, Miss Bingley that instead of being behind in fashion, Miss Elizabeth might be ahead of the trend?

(By the way, the article at Regency History about Lady Jersey is interesting and definitely worth a read. 😉 )

13962783_1060111877370372_1189475442868640458_o

The next scene that I have selected to highlight is the swing scene. This scene speaks to me of the changes happening at a rather fast pace in Elizabeth’s life.  Her world is beginning to spin — and will continue to spin until the end of the story, really.

12933151_978013018913592_6650783434713848143_n 12800382_963109303737297_3507201111469420776_n

The third scene I have selected to highlight is the first proposal scene.  Yes, I know, it is not at the parsonage, and Col. Fitzwilliam spills the beans in the church and not on walk, but hang on, let me explain what I like about this scene.  Art, for me, must connect on a deeper level than just “oh, that is interesting” or “oh, how beautiful.” For me, art must speak to my emotions. This scene is rife with emotions — strong emotions.  To me, the torrents of rain represent the emotional upheaval that is storming about our dear couple during that first proposal. These emotions are threatening to drown them. And the ferocity of them leaves them exposed and out of sorts much like being caught in a rain storm might.

Before I get to my fourth selection, let me include a link to a fifth scene. (I know it is out of order numerically, but it falls here if we are following the storyline.) The fifth scene is that scene with the letter where Elizabeth is looking in the mirror.  Regina recently had a great article on her blog about how this filmic device of the mirror is used in this movie.  It is absolutely worth a read. 🙂

“Mirror, Mirror on the Wall” — The Employment of Filmic Devices to Tell a Story in Austen Adaptations

13417038_1018107594904134_557382012629924054_o

Now, for my fourth and final scene selection, I am choosing the second proposal scene.  In this scene, we see both Darcy and Elizabeth dishevelled and unable to sleep.  They appear to each other out of the morning mist.  These external elements once again speak to me of the emotional state of our dear couple.  Without each other, they are undone and wandering in the night and in the fog, but as they come together and reach an understanding, the sun breaks through and a new day dawns — bright with the hope of a happily ever after.

902259_580575205324044_1560356192_o

 

 

The storm from the previous proposal has stopped. Elizabeth’s world is no longer spinning and unsettled.  There is only peace. And she,who had bewitched and beguiled Darcy, is finally his.

That’s it.  That is why I love this movie — this work of cinematic art — and count it as my favourite adaptation to date.  I know that the screenplay does not follow the novel dot and letter.  But, I do believe that it is true to the story whether it is in the snide remarks and haughty nature of Miss Bingley or the ridiculousness of Mr. Collins or the demanding presence of Lady Catherine or in a rainstorm proposal. However, to “hear” the full story, a viewer must take note of the details, and in my opinion, it is in those details where the true beauty of this work of art is found.

~*~*~

I would love to hear your comments about what makes art speak to you, but I feel I must preface it with a little bit of a warning.  It is easy when sharing why you like somthing to do so at the expense of something else, such as “I like chocolate icecream because it is not so dreadfully boring as vanilla.”  While this might be true for you, it tells me nothing about why you actually find the chocolate icecream to be so lovely and casts the well-loved-by-many vanilla icecream in a poor light. So, keep that in mind when you are replying.  I will put on my teacher hat, if necessary, and use it to disallow comments that use comparisons in a negative fashion (such as the one above does about vanilla icecream). 🙂

~*~*~

LOGO_email header (2)

KOBO      AMAZON      NOOK      IBOOKS

 

 

33 Responses to Let Me Explain: A View on Art and An Austen Adaptation

  1. I remember when I first saw that 2005 movie, having had to travel an hour to where it was released, and think it to be a cacophony of sight and sound…not the staid calm and polite British scenes I had expected. Then when he is proposing and the sexual tension is so strong and it looks as if he is going to kiss her, I am saying to myself “That was not in the book!”. Yes, the scenery in that film version is some of the best of all the adaptations but 1995 remains my favorite. I do have all the versions and it simply is my favorite. I did not read P&P as a young girl or teen or even as a young adult but upon seeing the 1995 version on TV then had to read the book. The ballroom scene does serve its purpose in this version – isolating the couple and focusing on their conversation and reactions…well done. I know how I look to see the hair in the 1995 dance scene at Netherfield which made most of the dance scenes to be left on the cutting room floor. Some things do stand out and grab your attention. There is the very large sow which wanders through the house and I am always wondering why that was part of the movie? What did that add? I have viewed interviews about the filming of the 2005 film and always remember how the Bennet family cast lived in the house before filming to become comfortable with the surroundings. Did they have updated bathrooms facilities? I am sure that they did. Odd how some questions come to my mind. But the outdoor scenes in that movie were the most beautiful…there I agree. I have the soundtrack also and love listening to it.

    • I did not have access to either movie at their release time — for various, non-important reasons. 🙂 Both were viewed by me much later after they were already released for purchase. So I did not come to love Jane Austen based on a movie as I know some have (and I think it is awesome that people were drawn to her books through watching a movie!). I did not even come to love Jane Austen from reading Pride and Prejudice. I read Sense and Sensibility first and loved that book (it was my preferred book over Pride and Prejudice for some time…probably because it was that first introduction and first introductions are special.)

      I noticed in your response that you mentioned twice that the British mini series is your favourite. I would love to know, without any comparison to other versions, why it is your favourite. What is it that makes it so special? What makes that piece of art speak to you?

      • As you said first loves are special and since the 1995 mini-series/movie was my first introduction to not only Pride and Prejudice but also Jane Austen. That alone is reason enough. But also when I viewed the 2005 and even the 40’s versions I just thought 1995 was more true to the story. I also have the 1985 version and while it has parts that are truer to the book the character of Darcy played by David Rintoul is not my Darcy. Colin Firth is and will always be the perfect Darcy for me. (Even without the pond scene.) He captures the facial expressions which, though at times very subtle, portray what he is feeling or thinking to me so well. Love the scene in which Georgiana is playing and Elizabeth is turning pages while the Gardiner party is visiting Pemberley on their trip north…the exchange of glances is potent without a word said…IMHO.

  2. I’m late to the discussion, but I agree with your beautiful comments about the 2005 version. Joe Wright did a great job in bringing to the screen all the angst and the passion of Jane Austen’s book. It spoke to my emotions as well, and you’ve helped me understand better why it did. Zoe’s comment about looking at it as JAFF hit home with me as well, and I realized that’s kind of how I look at it. Between the characters, settings, and the music, Wright touched everything that underlies Austen’s tale of Darcy and Elizabeth. I’ve always felt that he handled the scenes the way he did because of time constraint, and I hated that the wedding scene was deleted.

    Love this post, Leenie. I also love JAFF that makes me laugh and cry and that’s exactly what is enjoyable about your books. Please keep them coming.

    • It was a beautiful, emotion-filled movie that left you feeling….sigh…good 🙂 I love movies and stories that can do that.

      Thanks for the compliment on my stories. 🙂 I have one getting ready for a pre-Christmas release date right now. Fingers crossed that all the edits will be easy to fix and the timeline will not need altering. 🙂

  3. Looks as though I’m going to have join Stephanie against the trend here and say that 2005 isn’t my favourite either. I enjoy it well enough, went to see it at the cinema, possess my own DVD copy and if I want a quick start to finish fix of P&P, it’s the version I’ll choose. The cinematography and music are wonderful and the scene in the sculpture gallery is my favourite from the whole film. As an inveterate consumer of DVD extras, I learnt that they’d orginally planned to film the scene as written by Jane Austen, but when they saw Chatsworth’s amazing sculpture gallery, they decided to have a bust of Darcy made instead of a painting. The statue of the veiled Vestal Virgin is one of the most beautiful sculptures I’ve ever seen. But it’s still not my favourite version. Here in the UK, the final scene after Darcy and Elizabeth are married is a DVD extra and I’m extremely pleased about that as I really have a hard time liking it. Sorry to all of my US friends about that.

    Again, like Stephanie, I’m a 1995 girl, even though I had to watch the Netherfield Ball from a hospital bed the night before I was to have surgery on what could have been a life threatening problem. The remaining episodes followed each Sunday night as I convalesced and eventually found out that I was going to be OK. And I’m still here to talk about it! Life would be boring indeed if we all agreed on everything

    • You might be going against the trend here, but you know that there are a whole slew of people who do not find this movie to be their favourite. 🙂 In fact, I was a bit nervous to post about liking this movie since it often feels like I am bucking the trend. I live in Canada, and I saw the UK version and not the US version when I saw this movie the first time. And although the scene at Pemberley is sweet, I prefer the version without it. (So see we agree on something. LOL) That sculpture is fantastic. It amazes me that someone could create that from marble! Like what kind of talent is that? Unbelievable.

      I am so glad you had that to watch before your surgery and while you were recovering! That has to make it even a touch more special, I would imagine. And I am super glad that you did survive it and are here to talk about it…and that I have had the chance to “meet” you in the online world. 🙂

  4. While I cannot claim that P&P-2005 is my favourite film version, I do love it, and tend to view it the same way I view the 1940 version: more inspired by P&P than faithful to canon. I always thought it was the gestalt of it, that it just fits together as a beautifully-crafted production. Now I see that perhaps some of the points outlined here influenced my view. I understand that the final scene is in the USA version only, and I do love it. You can feel the joy of being an in-love newlywed from both characters, and the setting is almost magical with the fire, and a lit-up Pemberley House in the background. Doesn’t get much more romantic than Darcy’s repeated “Mrs Darcy, Mrs Darcy, …” I have watched it and re-watched it often. What makes art speak to me? I used to answer “Usefulness.” I much prefer a cup or a teapot to a figurine. But it’s not that simple. Perhaps it’s a matter of whether I can actually feel the artist creating the piece, whether it be ceramics or films or music. Whether or not the creator/s come through the piece, and I can understand why they designed it the way they did. A thought-provoking piece, and some very interesting reader comments. Thank you, Leenie!

    • Those are great reasons for art to speak to you. And function is important. 🙂 I am not in the US so the version that I saw of this movie (and fell in love with) did not include the Pemberley scene. I remember my sister, who is in the US, saying something about a kiss, and I was like “What kiss?” I do own a version of it now that has that scene included, so I have seen it now.

      When I watch a movie that is based on a book, I always expect it to be only inspired by the book — an adaptation, if you will. I don’t think that any book can be portrayed as written because screenplays are not novels. One screenplay may focus on keeping dialogue faithful to the canon while another may focus on keeping the theme or tone faithful to the story. There will be places in all movies where artistic license is taken — and I think, the shorter the amount of time to tell a story, the more the film/play needs to rely on that faithfulness to theme rather than dialogue. But, then again, who is the person to declare it faithful to the story when the author is not available to do it? When we start to rely on our perceptions, then what I find faithful is not what someone else might find faithful because no two people read the same book…oh, they read the same words, but they come to it with their own experiences through which to filter those words. That is what makes art so individual. And frankly, what a boring world we would live in if we all liked and saw everything the same!

      Thanks for your comments, Janis! Love thinking about these things and discussing them. 🙂

  5. I’ve said before that I am not a deep reader. I seem to miss symbolism in movies, too, so I guess I’m not a deep watcher, either. 😉

    I have also seen every P&P adaptation from 1940 to 2005. (I, personally, do not count many of the more recent movies as adaptations of Jane’s work. To me, [MY OPINION] they are JAFF instead.) I have enjoyed every single one of them, but, like you, 2005 is my favorite.

    Why, you ask? Well, to start with, it was the first P&P movie I ever saw, and I saw it on TV in 2010. It sparked my love of Jane Austen and JAFF. I watched it every day for months, and read the book more than a dozen times over and over. I could almost quote that movie line for line at one point.

    Also, I was impressed with the way this movie version gave the essence of P&P to its viewers in such a short amount of time. Perhaps it was the symbolism I didn’t notice that did it, but they somehow managed to boil down the story to a delightful (not to mention clean!) two-hour movie. At the time, I did not know the costuming was all wrong, nor did I understand that many other things were wrong about it. I did know that it was not faithful to the events of the book, but still….it was, to me, a perfect representation of what Jane Austen wrote. The movie left me feeling uplifted every time I watched.

    Since we’re on the subject of symbolism, Leenie, what was with the whole standing-on-the-cliff thing supposed to mean? 😉

    Thank you so much for this great post! 😀

    • Well, Zoe Burton, I have no clue, how is that? Haha. But if I were to think about it now (and I will) — Her eyes are closed before we get to that scene. She is sleeping in the carriage as they travel with light filtering in through the window. This is the part right before they tour Pemberley, and she begins to see Darcy in his world. So perhaps it signals her eyes being opened to the larger world rather than just her narrow, “sheltered” world?

    • Yes, it does! There are so many options that eventually everyone can find one or two that they enjoy — if they are at all open to the possibility of playing with the stories. 🙂 (Asking what if is so much fun!)

  6. I love this film adaptation too. It may not be my absolute favorite, but I do love it, and, I agree, it is a true work of art, and your post beautifully points that out. Can I just say though, because I never get to say it, other than to my husband who is sick of hearing about it, that I don’t think (correct me if I’m wrong) that Jane Austen ever used the work “incandescently?” 😉

    • Oh, my poor husband hears things from me all the time, too, that others are not as “privileged” to hear. 😉 LOL He is pretty awesome to put up with me and my oddities at times (although he does not refrain from laughing at me…nor do my sons 🙂 ).

      I love that there is more than one version of this film that we can love! Every book should be so lucky as to have multiple adaptations made of it. As far as I know Jane Austen never used the word incandescently in her books, but that does not mean she never could have possibly used it since its history dates back quite a while. 🙂 I think we hear the word and think light bulb (or at least, I do — thank you Thomas Edison), but Miss Austen would not have.

  7. I think that the art from the movies would not be complete without the music. And the sound tracks that go with these scenes just pull the emotions our the characters as well as us. Loved your post. Thanks, Jen

    • I think you are absolutely right, Jen. If you had any of these scenes without music or with a different sort of music, the effect would be diminished. It is all the details working together that truly bring the piece to life and make it powerful. And you know, I LOVE music! 🙂

  8. I loved all the points you have mentioned, and agree that the ’05 movie speaks to the emotions more than any of the movies… and you have just explained why. The scene that got me [in addition to the ones you have mentioned] was Lizzy in the sculpture gallery. Her awakening to the sensual aspects of her feelings for Mr. Darcy. I loved her getting lost in the art form and starting to reach out and touch objects by the time she was in the house. Her gliding her hand across different objects on the table/desk. That tactile response to her emotions was very powerful as her hand gently caressed objects that belonged to… and had been touched by… him. Great post!!

    • Thank you! I love movies, stories, paintings, music, etc that speak to the emotions! I love being wrapped up in the very spirit of the piece.
      That is a great scene, too! There are so many that I like. It was hard to chose just four.

  9. May I commend you on your use of visual aids? Your post is wonderful, and the images really brought it to life. I hadn’t appreciated the difference before, between actors and the emotional tone of a scene. I love, as you said, the emotions in this movie. Before now, I attributed most of them to the actors. Yes, I could see it was raining and realized that added drama, or that it was foggy, and many other things, but I didn’t fully appreciate how well directed the movie is until you pointed it out. Next time I watch it, I’ll have to do so with your words in mind. I’m going to try the technique on some of my other favorite movies as well.

    • Of course, you may! I will gladly accept commendations. 😀 I am glad that you enjoyed the post. I find it hard to explain anything without a visual aid. My students would often laugh at me because I would say, “wait, I need a paper and pen to explain this” — because I needed to draw some sort of diagram or thought bubble while explaining. There is a connection between actors and elements used in the scenery that I did go into in this post. Can you imagine if lines in the rain scene had not been delivered in the way they had .. if Darcy had been confrontational or angry instead of unsure? The rain would not have heightened the scene in the same way. In fact, it might have made the scene seem very cold and depressing and disappointing, but as it was played the effect is spectacular.

  10. I concur. There are so many ways to appreciate the art of a work and art appreciation is one of the most personal things I have discovered. I quite often find myself on the opposite side of people and keep my opinion to myself because I really don’t want the passive aggressive diatribe about my unsuitable preferences. LOL That said, I actually prefer the BBC Firth/Ehle version for its length and for the (to me) more “springy” feeling that it has. I think that Firth (my opinion only!) is a more appropriate Darcy and Anna Chancellor a better Caro (along with better Mr. Bennet, Wickham, Lydia and Col Fitzwilliam). I am very fond of the 2005 version for some other things. That soundtrack remains a favorite. I can play Track 15 “Your Hands Are Cold” on replay for infinity. I also prefer this version of Mr. Collins and Charlotte. One scene that always stands out to me is the Netherfield Ball when Darcy and Lizzie are dancing together and everyone else disappears. Fabulous cinematography and symbolism! In the end of it though, to me, they are different viewpoints on a favorite. If you and I stood at a window and looked out across a vista and then proceeded to interpret it in some way, the results would be different but the subject matter is they same. I own all of the Austen adaptations. All of them. Some I like better than others for various reasons, but at the end of the day they are the ONLY MOVIES I OWN because I adore the subject matter. 🙂
    Note on characterizations: I often get lots of negative feedback because I prefer RPJ to Cirian Hinds for Wentworth, and George Knightley will always be Jeremy Northam in my head not Jonny Lee Miller or Mark Strong.

    • Oh, I do that, too. I try my best to bite my tongue because I fear the attack of those who are not of my opinion (and my opinion quite often seems to run contrary to popular opinion 😉 ) My eldest sister and I disagree on our fav version of Pride and Prejudice — she likes the 95 version. 🙂 She and I have different viewpoints. What is important to me is not the same as what is important to her. The way I read the characters in the book are not the way someone else might have read the characters in a book. What gets frustrating for me is the attitude that one must subscribe to this movie or that actor/actress being the only acceptable portrayal. For my sister and I, this is not an issue. We have disagreed on things forever, but we are respectful of each other’s opinions. (Even if I do tease her that hers are wrong 😉 But what are sisters for if not to tease?)

      I actually only own this Austen movie. I keep putting the others on my Christmas list and the men in my house keep ignoring the suggestions. 🙂 I live in an Anti-Austen home it seems. LOL And even get occasional plot ideas thrown at me that usually end with Darcy dying, so I guess I might have to start buying my own presents. 😀 (That’s how I got this one — birthday gift to myself) I will admit that Jonny Lee Miller is my fav Austen actor and will always be my Edmund Bertram, Knightley– that could go either to him or Jeremy Northam — but then again, I love Mansfield Park and only like Emma. Although, I have been learning to like Emma more as I am doing the Wednesday Readalong. (yep, shameless plug…my day is tomorrow for hosting that.)

      • Jonny Lee Miller is Edmund to me. That is one good reason he can never be Knightley…besides the fact that Jeremy Northam is just how I SEE Knightley (who is my favorite Austen hero, though Emma is not my fave heroine).

        Buy them for yourself. They’re for you in the end anyway…LOL My family never buys anything Austen for me, though they are thrilled to supply gift cards that I use for that purpose. 😉

  11. I taught media literacy for many years and served as a media literacy consultant to many school districts and upon a national level. What you did above would be a perfect media literacy analysis. We must remember that most screen plays are only 120-130 pages long (with spacing for scenery notes, between dialogue, etc.). We authors customarily write 200-300 pages. Something must go, so film makers employ certain devices. Rain, as you mentioned above, indicates a death or an upheaval. For example, in Becoming Jane, there is rain plaguing the supper party at Lady Gresham’s manor right the letter arrives to announce that Cassandra’s betrothed has died. We unconsciously accept these devices, but they can be read as easily as reading a book.

    BTW, thanks for the shout out about the “Mirror, Mirror” piece.

    • I never taught or took any media literacy classes, but I have spent many classes teaching students to evaluate sources and to pay attention to details. I did in one junior high social studies class use media clips to evaluate how culture is transferred through media, but that is probably as close as I got to media literacy on any level. Screenplays are not novels or even novellas. They are a creature unto themselves. That is why films based on books state that they are based on the book. They are not the book, and I never approach a movie as if it is the book. What I hope to see is a faithfulness to the concept, theme, characters — the heart — of the story. And as you said both here and in your lovely article 🙂 there are ways to portray that without words — visual cues that we understand without putting much thought into it. I just happen to be the type that loves to analyze why I love something. (I do this with books, too. I will read for pleasure and then reread it if I loved it looking for the why. 🙂 )

  12. While I love most adaptations this film is my favourite too. The cinematography is breathtaking. I know it is visually beautiful but to me it feels beautiful too, so much emotion is never spoken but felt through what is seen. Love your choice of scenes. Not sure if I could stop with five. Some of my favourites are the dance scene when slowly the world drops away and its just Darcy and Lizzy. I also enjoy when Darcy is sitting on the steps with Jane and Mrs Bennett looking out the window after the second proposal. I could go on and on.

    • Oh, stopping at five was hard! There is just so much I enjoy about this movie. And yes! It does feel beautiful. Oh, that scene where he is sitting outside feeling uneasy — anxious to have his Elizabeth is how I see it — is awesome. I always wanted her to come rushing out of the study and straight out into his arms.

Your thoughts are precious!