Jane Austen understood these romantic conventions, how they worked on people, what they implied. If she'd wanted to go there, she could have. She chose not to. And that's where the genius lies, in what the critic Terry Castle has called "the implacable anti-romanticism of her vision." That's what makes "Pride and Prejudice" endure -- what makes it more than just your average, run-of-the-mill, bodice-ripping fairy tale about soul mates and true love conquering all. "Jane Austen kept to her compact," Virginia Woolf once wrote. "She never trespassed beyond her boundaries. Never, even at the emotional age of fifteen, did she ... obliterate a sarcasm in a spasm of compassion, or blur an outline in a mist of rhapsody. Spasms and rhapsodies, she seems to have said, pointing with her stick, end there; and the boundary line is perfectly distinct."
The current film version, of course, captures none of this distinction. It's all spasms and rhapsodies. But since it's so "alive," "whirling," "voluptuous," "intoxicating" and "delirious" no one seems to care that it's not ..... well, it's not exactly Jane Austen.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
And a Fifth Misconception
Over at Salon, Gina Fattore is getting all bent out of shape over the new Pride and Prejudice adaptation, in a less than dignified manner. The article goes rather far at points--no way would Jane Austen do anything as melodramatic as spinning in her grave over a silly movie--and as one of the commenters points out it's pretty obvious that Fattore only went to see the film because she wanted to feel the righteous indignation that permeates the article's every word (although the commenter is wrong to say that such behavior makes her a chump--I think I'd be more inclined to pay ten bucks for a chance at a good rant than I would in order to see most of the movies currently in release), but she does rather succinctly summarize the fundamental failure--as I understand it, the film not having come to Israel yet--of the adaptation: