Each year I find myself reduced to bachelor status, as my wife packs her bags and heads over the big pond to Japan to visit her mother. Over the years this has changed a little, as my elder sons are now old enough to have summer responsibilities and are, thus, unable to go. Their sister is still young enough to go with her mother, and while I miss them, I don’t begrudge them the chance to visit her family. Being required to babysit two adult sons does not change the fact that I tend to have much more free time on my hands.
It has become something of a ritual to watch the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice during those suddenly unoccupied hours. It’s easily my favorite version, being the most complete and accurate. (Don’t get me started on screen adaptations that change a bunch of stuff for the sake of change or a misguided attempt to make it “better.”) While the Keira Knightly version is charming, it has always seemed rushed, unsurprising when you try to cram an entire book into two hours on screen. I will say the music of the Keira Knightly version is divine—yeah, I’m a sucker for piano music. The older versions all have their own charms, but simply cannot match up, though the Greer Garson version does have one of my favorite lines. “(Mr. Collins) is such a pudding!”
I thought, since I’ve recently watched it again, that it would be fun to list my favorite scenes in my favorite version. Some of these will be rather familiar (okay, all will, since we’re all very familiar with the material) but my reasons might be a little different than you think. Just because a scene is memorable in the book doesn’t mean it’s equally so on screen. So here goes:
5. Lucas Lodge fine eyes scene
What I like about this particular scene is the way Darcy is focused on Elizabeth after she walks away. She’s standing there, speaking with one of the officers, her manner rather flirtatious, and he’s watching with that slight smile on his face. Miss Bingley comes up and tries to make him confess how much he hates it there, and her little smirk in reaction to the fine eyes comment makes me laugh every time. The best part, however, is how he’s not paying any attention to her as he drops the hammer as if she really doesn’t matter. And she doesn’t! The interaction makes a priceless scene even better.
4. Netherfield dance scene
Again, this is another example of the actors making the scene all that much better. Darcy is proud and disagreeable, and Elizabeth is angry and determined to provoke him, and Sir William, when he interrupts them, is delightfully goofy. I’ve used this scene as a basis for several of my own in variations I’ve written, and it’s always fun to play with the dialogue. I’ve also noted that Jennifer Ehle, who I’ve always considered pretty but not beautiful, looks more beautiful in this scene than in just about any other in the production, with a couple of exceptions. About the only thing I would have liked to see to improve it is for them to somehow include the well-known “Oh, I can never speak of books in a ballroom” quote.
3. Opening horses scene
A simple scene, showing Darcy and Bingley inspecting the grounds of Netherfield and speaking of it as they look at it in the distance. It sets up their characters, not to mention Bingley’s dependency on Darcy’s advice. But the best part is Elizabeth watching them as they ride off. Lots of foreshadowing going on here which is a nice touch, as Elizabeth sees, for the first time from a distance, her future nemesis turned to eventual husband. Of course, I suspect at the time she doesn’t know who she’s seeing, but she likely guesses quickly, perhaps as soon as the family hears of the new tenants at Netherfield. It also makes Darcy and Bingley seem somehow real, more than just two dimensional characters.
2. Netherfield ball arrival scene
Most of you might consider this one odd, but I have a very specific reason for liking this part. There is a lot of interaction going on here, from Caroline’s insincere greetings, to Bingley escorting Elizabeth and Jane into the ballroom, Denny informing her of Wickham’s absence, and, of course, the dark brooding presence of Darcy. But my reason for liking this in particular is the sublime music playing in the background. It is from the marriage scene Ecco la Marcia in the third act of Mozart’s opera Le Nozze di Figaro, in English, The Marriage of Figaro. As many of you know, I’m a classical music nut, and that’s one of my favorite pieces by probably my favorite composer. (I’m hard-pressed to choose between Mozart and Beethoven and will give a different answer depending on my mood.) Ecco la Marcia is also the point where the emperor enters Mozart’s rehearsal in the famous scene in the movie Amadeus and finds the cast dancing with no music. “Well, look at them! Oh, no, no, no, this is nonsense!” Ah, fun times. One of my favorite scenes in that movie too.
1. Pemberley piano scene
Hands down my favorite scene, and it’s not even close. I suspect many of you would also say this is your favorite. Elizabeth and Georgiana becoming better acquainted, Elizabeth singing Voi Che Sapete (which, incidentally, is also from Le Nozze di Figaro), Caroline Bingley in all her nastiness, flinging arrows and, like a true marksman, coming nowhere near her target, instead discomposing her “dear friend” but for Elizabeth’s intervention. But the best part of it is the look on Darcy’s face as he’s watching Elizabeth. If Caroline had ever seen that look directed at her, she would have ordered her trousseau on the spot! And, for the first time, we really see Elizabeth beginning to respond, to see him as more than just the jerk who slighted her. Wonderfully done scene, again, especially enhanced by the talents of the actors.
Honorable mention: any scene with Mr. Collins
I couldn’t finish this without an honorable mention of our favorite greaseball, Mr. Collins! He’s oily and slimy, stupid and falsely confident, and his mannerisms are just priceless. The Mr. Collins in the 2005 movie was cute with his boiled potatoes comments and so on, but no one catches the essence of Mr. Collins like David Bamber. There are so many good references, but a few I especially like are the goofy grin when he asks Elizabeth to walk to Meryton, the simpering superiority when they begin the first sets at the Netherfield ball (and the dolt thinks she is somehow paying a compliment to him), the oblivious disbelief when she refuses his proposal, and, of course, who could forget the tender wave to his wife (and Mrs. Collins looking like she wants to heave) as Elizabeth is leaving the parsonage? What a twerp! What a masterful job of catching the character of Mr. Collins! In a lot of ways, David Bamber stole the show with his performance.
I know some might be disappointed I didn’t include the proposal scene or the lake scene at Pemberley. Those are both good, but I don’t include them for different reasons. For the proposal scene, though it’s very well done, it’s also the low point in the story. As for the lake scene, I know that the ladies swoon over Colin Firth disheveled from his swim, but I’m a guy, so I find Jennifer Ehle prettier than Colin Firth! The swim was a nice touch, but I’m afraid it doesn’t make my list.
Well, there you have it. If there are any others you especially like, please let me know in the comments!