31 October 2005

Ahoy, it be a trrruth uni’ersally acknowledged...

Over at The Valve, Laura Carroll (of Sorrow at Sills Bend) has effectively shaken me out of the doldrums with her witty and incisive critique of the latest adaptation of Pride and Prejudice:
With swiftly rising spirits I anticipated how this bold new adaptation, for such it suddenly seemed to be, would develop. Perhaps the respectable London merchants the Gardiners would turn out to be Cornish wreckers swinging lanterns over the rocks by night to lead unsuspecting merchant ships to their doom. Mr Bennet might choke to death on a doubloon and his five daughters forcibly abduct Mr Collins and make him walk the plank. Charlotte Lucas could housekeep and cross-dress her way to the top of the British navy, drinking a bottle of wine every day as she went. Instead of running off with Wickham, Lydia Bennet could head up a failed mutiny & be abandoned in a whaleboat drifting on the Pacific with no parasol and nothing to eat but Kitty. For this, I thought, I am willing to bear Keira Knightley’s smirking, blank-eyed version of Elizabeth, Donald Sutherland’s glassy, senile Mr Bennet with incongruously glittering Beverley Hills bridgework, and all the boringly heavy hints about how hard an intelligent but impoverished woman’s lot was in c18, how critically important to make a good marriage, blah blah, zzzzzz.

I was mentally putting the finishing touches on how the dialogue ought to go - “Yarr, Darcy, I must have ye dance, ye whoreson bilge-drinker. I hate t’ see ye standin’ about by yourself in this mangy mannerrr. Ye had much better dance - or be keelhauled. Arr!” - when these enjoyable musings were spoilt by the arrival of a pair of ominously unsmutched Bingleys toting [Comeback Special Elvis] a Darcy about whom it must universally be acknowledged that he is not, and is unlikely to ever turn into, Colin Firth. How can such a thing be? Women all over the world are desperately trying to understand.

As my salty dreams faded and the movie inexorably ground on, I began to think that demonstrating the utter irrelevance of Colin Firth to its universe is indeed the chief motive of Pride and Prejudice ‘05 (that and making a squillion million, of course.) The movie is too conscious of the 1996 TV serial: it wants to duplicate that version’s success, but without acknowledging it as an honourable and still impressive precursor. The film makes a long string of adaptational choices and decisions which have no purpose I could guess at other than to drive the BBC / A&E series out of everyone’s minds. (A bit like telling a person not to think of an elephant.) And so some seriously self-defeating innovations are introduced.
Read on!

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