a little east of reality

Sunday, June 03, 2007

in an austen kind of mood

Last night I fell asleep watching Pride and Prejudice (THAT'S how tired I was!) and this morning when I woke up I couldn't even think of having a shower or getting dressed until I'd watched the rest. Ah, that Mr Darcy!

Actually it's been an Austen-filled weekend. I watched both the newer ITV version of Mansfield Park, and then re-watched the 1999 movie version just to compare as I hadn't seen it for years. What a beautiful and perfect movie that is, and I like it so much more than the newer version. The casting is much, much better and the dialogue of the romantic ending, so important to any Austen devotee who's waited through two hours of unspoken but fervent feelings to hear it, plays like music, not because it isn't corny, but because the actors are good enough to make it sound natural and lovely.

Edmund: Fanny, I must confess something.

Fanny: Mmm?

Edmund: I've loved you all my life.

Fanny: I know Edmund. [She smiles and then goes back to reading her book.]

Edmund: No Fanny. As a man loves a woman...as a hero loves a heroine...as I've never loved anyone in my entire life. [Now she's listening.] I'm so anxious to do what is right, that I forgot to do what IS right. But if you choose me...after all my blundering and blindness, it will be a happiness which no description could reach.

Fanny: Oh Edmund. [They kiss. It's terribly perfect, and I of course have the expected and involuntary moment of wondering if things like that ever actually happen in real life.]
Actually let me tell you a secret. They do.

When I was fifteen, I fell in love for the first time, with a guy in my class at school who was sweet and funny and so interesting that most of the girls in our year liked him in spite of the fact that he really wasn't particularly good-looking. When I first got to know him about a year before, he was going out with one of my closest friends, so we became friends, too. They broke up eventually, but he was in my class and we remained friends, and by the next year I was writing bad poetry about him and generally wallowing in my spare time in the angst of unrequited teenage love. And one night in the cemetary next to our school where we'd all met up before a dance (because we were wretched little smokers and didn't want to get caught :)), we had a moment where everything shifted suddenly. We decided to spend the following Saturday together.

Well, I made the mistake of getting on the express train and consequently got off the train two stops past the one I wanted. I was so worried that he would leave, thinking I hadn't come, that I ran about two kilometres back along the road by the train line to make sure I wouldn't miss him. He on the other hand had missed his bus and, I confess to my secret delight, stolen a bicycle from outside the bank because he was just as worried about being late and missing me. (Yes, yes, I know, but he took it back later.) We spent a most Austenesque day, talking fervently about everything except what we were most feeling right then. I remember lying on grass with my head on his lap, looking up at him as we talked, and studying his hands just as an excuse to touch him.

That night I had the strangest phone call from a mutual friend of ours, a guy I rode to school with on the train every day and knew really well. He knew I'd liked the other guy for months and so it was with much amusement that he explained that I absolutely, positively had to assure him that I was going to, without fail, be going to the movie about six of us were seeing the next day, because he had already had three phone calls that night from the other guy, asking if I was going, and asking him to please call me and make sure that I was going, and explaining that life as they knew it would surely end if I did not see a movie with them the following day. I was so happy that I considered spontaneously combusting, but decided against it on the grounds that it would prevent me from going to the movie, a clearly unacceptable option.

And that was the beginning and eventually there was an end, but the point is that when I read Jane Austen novels or watch the movies based on them and the couples are aching for each other but completely unable to make the first move because they're not sure whether the other person really does like them or if they're just imagining it because they want it so badly, I know how that feels. And I know what it's like to realise that they really do. And it makes the stories far more powerful, and far more beautiful, and occasionally far more painful, too, because I sometimes wonder if it will ever happen again.

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