Revisiting Pride and Prejudice
Lynna had a great post last week where she talked about this season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and discussed their production of Pride and Prejudice. I saw the production as well (and liked it, I think, a bit better than Lynna did). Pride and Prejudice has been much on my mind lately. I recently bought an ipad, mostly because of the wonderful research books I could download (well that and because I wanted one). I've found I love reading on it. In addition to a whole library of research books for my Waterloo book, the first novel I downloaded on it is Pride and Prejudice, which I'm now re-reading.
Perhaps it's the different medium, but I've been noticing new things about it (but then I always find new things when I reread Austen). Interestingly, in light of our recent discussion of book openings, Austen jumps right into the action (the action being Bingley's and Darcy's arrival at Netherfield). It's only a bit later that she stops to explain the exact circumstances of the entail on Longbourn and the Bennet family history. The five Bennet sisters are differentiated through action and dialgoue as well, without a lot of long narrative descriptive passages. In many ways, there's something very crisp and "modern" about the story telling, which I find fascinating.
The 1940 movie of Pride and Prejudice was my first introduction to the Regency. Yes, the costumes are updated to something more like the late 1830s, but the movie sent me to the book and then to other Austen books. I fell in love with Austen’s novels and with the era in which they were written. The time period continues to fascinate me (I love writing in it), and I keep going back to Austen’s novels and to the film adaptations.
I’m still very fond of the 1940 Laurence Olivier-Green Garson movie. I know the costumes are the wrong era and the story is truncated and rearranged. But to me, the Aldous Huxley-Jane Murfin script captures a wonderful dry, satirical note that I love in the story (while at the same time having some beautifully romantic moments). In some ways, I think my image of Darcy will always be Laurence Olivier. I also love the A&E version with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth and the recent movie with Keira Knightley and Mathew McFadyen. All of the film adaptations capture different things I like in the book. Each adaptation has made me see new things in the book. For instance, in the Keira Knightley version, in the scene where Elizabeth insists she won’t marry Mr. Collins, for the first time I had a sense that she is actually afraid her father may take her mother’s side and insist on the marriage. This really drove home the precarious economic circumstances of the Bennet family. In the recent OSF stage production, some of the secondary characters came to life with wonderful vividness, particularly Mary, Kitty, and Lydia. Mary in particular was more touching and interesting than I usually find her. There was a wonderful, painful irony in the way the production pointed to the fact that Mary would be a good match for Mr. Collins and yet Mr. Collins ignores her.No adaptation I've seen of Pride and Prejudice is precisely and completely my vision of the story, I think because the book is so rich and has so many layers and complexiites to explore. It’s a bit like seeing different productions of a Shakespeare play and getting new things each time one sees it.
What about you? Was your first introduction to Jane Austen from reading one of her books or seeing a film adaptation? Do you have a favorite film version of Pride and Prejudice or another Austen novel? Have you tried reading on an ipad or other e-reader?