Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What I Watched Last Night

Needing a little emotional pick-me-up last night I turned to that happiest of six-hour miniseries, the 1996 BBC Pride and Prejudice. Others will tell you that the Kiera Knightley version was just, like, so great, but those people are wrong. Colin Firth is the O-G Darcy, and if anyone wants to say that Kiera Collarbones is a better Elizabeth than Jennifer Ehle, well, you should just punch that person in the face.
It's really at the point now where I hardly watch the show anymore. I listen to it in the background and dig the music and then somehow, like magic, I know when my favorite scenes are going to come on- when Elizabeth is going to rescue Georgiana Darcy at the piano, when Darcy is going to lay the epic bitchslap down on Caroline Bingley, when Lady Catherine De Bourgh is going to talk about the barouche box like it's a vehicle sent straight from Jesus for the conveyance of poor relations. While reading or checking my tumblr obsessively for someone to please post the G-D Green Hornet trailer already (sidebar: it looks awesome) something happens and I somehow know from hundreds of viewings that it is Time To Look Up, and I do, and it's magical.

This is not to say that I don't recognize that re-watching (almost) all of a six hour miniseries adaptation of a piece of literature which I have also read hundreds of time isn't a colossal waste of time. I could be doing innumerable other things with my evening- cleaning my apartment, working on one or more of the 23402834 writing projects I have going on right now, thinking up a solution to the problems in the Middle East or finding a way to fix the oil spill in the Gulf. But since last night I felt down I decided to turn to my old pals the Bennetts. I decided to watch Elizabeth and Darcy go from hate to grudging respect to "Crap, now that I love this person my sister has gone and eloped Dang." I decided to say, like Mary, that I take little pleasure in a ball. I decided to watch Mr. Bennett win the award for Father Who You Thought Was Only Benignly Neglecting His Children, Only It Turns Out He Was Actually Being A Terrible Parent Cause Lydia Turned Out To Be A Flighty Skank.

One of the reasons it's so easy to watch P&P in one massive glut is that the DVD has divided it into two parts of three hours each- back in The Day, if one wanted to watch it, one had to get up every hour to change the VHS. Now one just pops the DVD in and three hours later Mr. Darcy is getting his ass handed to him. Colin Firth is brilliant in this scene and it's here where contrast between this version and the feature film is really pronounced. The subtle winces he makes as Elizabeth tells him just how much she dislikes him are so much more evocative and true to this buttoned-up character than Matthew MacFayden's emo twitching. In the new movie, I kept expecting MacFayden's Darcy to run off to the woods and write poetry and cry. Firth's Darcy is controlled to the point of icy coldness to just about everyone. It's not until Elizabeth's and Mr & Mrs Gardner's visit to Pemberley that he comes out of his shell. Contrast this to Darcy's goopy proposal in the rain on the porch of a neoclassical temple in the new version. I'm sorry, did I stumble into a Stephanie Laurens novel, or is this one of the classic pieces of English literature?


Diana said...

I used to leave it playing quietly in the background on nights I couldn't sleep. I love it for every reason you listed.

cinefille said...

The BBC version is the best. No one will top Firth as Darcy. Although when I am in need of a quick Pride and Prejudice fix, I do watch the 2005 film.