It was published in the New Yorker as the Austen tsunami was still rising – not yet peaking – across our literary, cinematic and cultural landscape. BBC just released Colin Firth’s Pride and Prejudice (Is it any other’s?) and the remakes were rolling out apace. We had yet to see Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey, but, twenty years later, we know they came.
What struck me, however, was not his commentary about Austen’s popularity or the burgeoning industry or this newfound enthusiasm of ours, but his comment on the very words, the very scenes, as portrayed through these new movies.
For instance – In Pride and Prejudice, cast your mind back to the moment when Lydia’s elopement over Elizabeth and Darcy leaves her in the inn near Pemberely. Ames notes that the book states: Elizabeth felt how improbable it was that they should ever see each other again on such terms of cordiality as had marked their several meetings in Derbyshire.
The BBC’s 1996 Davies movie, however, reveals this moment, Elizabeth’s thoughts, within one line: “I shall never see him again.”
Ames comparison reveals that Austen’s lines show a brave face in adversity, and that Davies’ interpretation puts forth a premature admission of love. Austen hasn’t revealed that yet. Ames further asserts “each shifted brick threatens the whole building.” And the more I thought on it, the more truth I found in his logic.
Now to be very clear, I’m not condemning the movies – and I’m not sure he is either. I adore them – each and every one, including those delightfully formal ones of the early 1980s. But I am wondering how much of what I adore is truly Austen and how much is my perception of her – as tasted through spectacular costumes, soft lighting and carefully choreographed sexual tension? And are they different stories completely?
I may need to return to my source material and find out.
What do you think? One thing I love about this blog is that we talk… So let’s talk… How different are the movies from the books? Is that an issue at all? And do you prefer one over another? I’m still pondering it all myself.
Thanks for stopping by!