So I watched Pride and Prejudice (Keira Knightly) the other night and let it percolate for a few days while I read about half of a critical essay on it, talked briefly with a couple women in the office, all the while doing a cursory comparison with Ang Lee’s rendering of ‘Sense and Sensibility’. After all, its summer, a time for cinematic exploration beyond that permitted by the rest of the year.
Here are just a few discursive thoughts.
I enjoyed it immensely. I find many of the 18th century social conventions, (to say nothing of the British accents), charming and engaging. There is just something about that era that appeals to my moral and social sensibilities in an interesting way. There is no uniform antiquarian delight here - the ‘soft’ caste hierarchy and classism are undesirable - but the defined parameters of social intercourse appeal to me. It seems that folks knew what was expected and how things (like marriage proposals) were to go down. In our own day, not knowing those things and consequently not having a generally well understood way/manner in which relating of all sorts happens, makes things awfully confusing in my opinion. I’m not hankering after the ‘good ‘ol days’. Still less, am I suggesting a social straight jacket be imposed on male/female relating….just think it would be nice to have more common cultural understanding in these matters.
Be that as it may. The aspect of Pride & Prejudice (and all of Austen's stuff) that I most enjoy is the insightful psychological interactions of the characters. The way she opens up human intentions (for all to see) and common ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving, just leave me breathless. There are numerous 'ah ha' moments in listening to the exchanges, far too much to digest and process in one hearing (or reading). Darcy and Elizabeth's argument/misunderstanding after the first proposal was a study in the ways people misunderstand each other, a paradigmatic demo of ways in which out of 'pride', we show 'prejudice'. Elizabeth and Jane's discussion about Elizabeth’s initial would-be suitor was brilliant and so eloquently got to the heart of the oftimes abated approach and retreat of a man in the early phases of pursuit. So much of what she says rings so true and is so well put that I'm left in awe. I wish I could reproduce the insightfully precise phraseology of that exchange.
And of course, the way the meta-drama of love plays out drew me in. I was aching for love's long resolution! When Darcy finally called her....named her...had her hand in marriage....called her 'Mrs. Darcy' (not less than three increasingly intense times), a 1000 pound weight fell off of my shoulders. Finally, all was right in the romantic universe. Things were as they should be. And this was just the 2 hr version. I can't imagine the tension of watching the 6 hr BBC production. 'Hope deferred makes the heart sick' undoubtedly must take on new meaning.
Admittedly, I go about life with abstract notions of romantic love most of the time but when I watch something like p&p, enter into the sympathetic motions of heart vicariously with the characters (the initial rebuff of Darcy was oh so painful), I feel, hope, and long more than ever for what he eventually obtained - love. Isn't that the heart of the universe? Isn't love the way the world is made right ultimately (Richard Hays’ ‘moral vision’ notwithstanding)? "God so loved the world', 'Christ loved the church….'. This is a reality beautiful beyond belief!
In some ways, I found p&p more hopeful than s&s. Sense’s Colonel Brandon was just so perfect, so patiently persevering, so self-giving that it actually had the effect of discouraging me from romantic pursuits. He evinced no proclivities for ‘prejudice’. He showed no ‘pride’. Darcy, on the other hand, while fundamentally honorable, still found love in spite of his 'chinks in the armor'. I loved that. I see and feel the inner logic of gospel redemption in him. He embodies the hope that one must not be perfect to get the great woman in the end.
I wonder if so many of the frustrations, dashed hopes, deferred desires for marriage among so many Christian singles would be beneficially addressed by seeing the noble love embodied in the films of Jane Austen repeatedly. I mean, what would happen if men/women communally sat down and watched these films together over and over and over until they were compelled to walk away and imaginatively inhabit in real life, the relational grace so on display in this drama?
This movie was such a helpful hermeneutical tool in opening the deep structural vision of love in Ephesians 5.
……just some ramblings on p&p