Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pants and Possibility

There are so many pleasures and talents to be found in the returning 1995 series Pride and Prejudice. Andrew Davies' screenplay is so much more faithful and fun than that recent film (Kiera who?) Flitterbudget Lydia is played by Julia Sawalha in a role that is hilarious to compare to her fastidious Saffron in Absolutely Fabulous. Alison Steadman, who is so moving as the mother of a bulimic daughter in Mike Leigh's Life is Sweet, amuses as the annoying Mrs. Bennett. Jennifer Ehle fills the screen with humor and wit and sweetness.

Mr. Darcy's surprise appearance, soaking wet after an impromptu swim, is supposed to be an "iconic moment" in Colin Firth's elevation to the pantheon of period piece sex gods, but, for me, I'm agog at the scene that follows when Darcy (now dry and proper) and Elizabeth take a slow walk on his property.
"There is another person in the party who more particularly wishes to know you," he says. "Would you allow me to. . . Might I ask too much to introduce my sister to you?" And Elizabeth replies, "I should be very happy to make her acquaintance." The evening light is behind them, illuminating the silhouette of her legs within her skirts. I laugh when I describe this scene to Randy because there is such an ocean of passionate subtext under the quiet lines. I roar, "I WAAAAAANT you to meet MY SEEEEEEESTER!!!"

I'm a geek for this production. I've watched it and re-watched it, had some intense conversations with other fans, typed "Mister Darcy" as my first search term when I got Internet access at home, complained about the detrimental additional footage on the DVD version - let me explain this last one.

(Skip this paragraph unless you are as big a fan for P and P minutiae as me.)

So in the third act, Darcy, probably on his way to propose again, finds Elizabeth in distress at the Lambton Inn. She shares with him the news that her sister has eloped with a scoundrel and he comforts her, and then quickly takes his leave. She whispers, "I shall never see him again," thinking he is still repulsed by her shameful family.

In the original production, we don't see Darcy again for a while, but later find him searching dark alleys in London and come to realize he was behind the rescue and hasty marriage of Elizabeth's sister. We assume that his rapid exit from the weeping Elizabeth was in order to start immediately the search for flighty Lydia.

But in the "extended version" on DVD, we see Darcy in a less heroic light. Instead of being left to imagine he has rushed off to London straightaway, we get one more scene of him hanging out at Pemberly on yet another evening in the drawing room. The unmarried Miss Bingley says something nasty about Elizabeth (again) and Darcy puts her in her place. But. We've seen this kind of exchange elsewhere. We don't need to be shown again that Darcy is fond of Lizzy and that Miss Bingley is a bitch. And by seeing Darcy at leisure at home, we lose his sense of urgency to help the woman he loves.

In the original, less is more and judicious editing saves the day. I'm praying they don't show that extra scene in the current version on the air.

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