a little east of reality

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

movie review: pride & prejudice


Today I saw a preview session of the new adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Already I've seen reviews written by sulky purists rambling about tiny, unimportant details. They SO miss the point.

This movie, like all of Jane Austen's work, shows an era where marriage had little to do love and where happiness was a precarious business decided much more often by gender and status than by anything else. Women in particular had no way to 'be successful' except through marriage, and their happiness was often in other people's hands. This much, with all its aching frustration, the movie captures perfectly.

Actually I was chatting to Roofshadow about this today ~ how marriage was considered such a mark of success that people allowed it to overshadow much more important things. Here's part of our conversation:
chosha says: I haven't read it for ages, so I have no idea exactly what's changed, but I love the way they've done it anyway. Did her youngest sister run off with an officer in the book?
roofshadow says: Lydia, yes she ran off with a total cad named Wickham who was wooing Elizabeth at first.
chosha says: ah, well that's the same. The two silly sisters are...you seriously want to swat them. Lydia is played by Jena Malone - she plays it well (ie so annoying )
roofshadow says: It's her mother I really want to take down, but yes Lydia and Kitty too, to some extent, need to be tied to their beds for a few years.
chosha says: SO TRUE! Like when Jane first meets Bingley (it's Bingley, right?) and things are so perfect, and then her mother opens her mouth and you feel like you want to rush forward and just tell her to shut up and not wreck everything.
roofshadow says: Does Lydia put on airs after her marriage? I love that scene because it shows perfectly what an utter nincompoop Lydia is that she is proud, actually haughty about being married first when she ought to be so very, very
humble and contrite.
chosha says: yes the scene is exactly like that - Lydia has absolutely no concept of how shameful her behaviour has been. It's like her marriage wipes it all away AND elevates her - what really pissed me off there was how her mother has exactly the same attitude. She is lying in bed dying of embarrassment and then she hears that Wickham agreed to marry Lydia and suddenly she is PROUD of her. I hated that.
I was very much reminded (not unusual with Austen) of the early feminists who intended to improve marriage, not disdain it. They wisely argued that if a woman could work and own her own property and inherit, she would have no reason to marry unless for love and mutual respect. Marriage itself would be improved, elevated, as a result.

Austen's heroines hold to this ideal ~ that marriage should be something other than a business deal. These women have so much character and wills of steel to fight even those closest to them just to be allowed the freedom to make their own choices. They can't make themselves rich, or change the rules of society, or transform their families into respectable or reasonable people ~ but they can stand firm and be true to themselves.

Some people think that these concepts are not relevent today, but they are. Women even now feel the pressure to be married, and can be made to feel a failure by family and society if they are a certain age and still single, no matter what their other accomplishments might be. I could be married now if I had compromised some things that were really important to me, but that was never the kind of marriage I wanted. Even on lonely days I know it was the right decision. I can't imagine living a life where someone else would have had the right to make that decision for me.