I've carried on my study of the free post-modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, the 2009 min-series, Lost in Austen, written by Guy Andrews, directed by Jeff Zeff, produced by Kate McKerrell. I've written about it as a whole as a loving parody-pastiche, Dreaming the Austen movies, and now have been going through it more carefully scene-by-scene, and discovered one thematic shaping is a Harrowing of Amanda's Dream -- where, unlike Austen, Amanda goes through a public humiliation by Darcy, a severe scolding and ejection which shows her that her ideas of a pillow-world of comfort were all wrong. That was the first five episodes. I've gone on for four more, and discovered both modern depths of understanding and a troubling narrow approach to women's sexuality.
This is another blog made up of transcripts, commentary on transcripts and stills from the movie. It first concentrates on Jane and Bingley's relationship and then moves to Darcy and Amanda's.
I understood how deeply this one goes and how much went into it when I reached Part 9 and watched the scenes at Pemberley in the garden where Darcy now altering slowly as he falls in love with Amanda, tries to be host to a shooting party on the lawn. Jane (Morven Christie), Mr Collins (Guy Henry) and Amanda (Jemima Rooper) stand to one side, he later murdering a peacock; under an awning Wickham (Tom Riley), Caroline Bingley (Christina Cole), Mrs Bennet (Alex kingston) and Lydia (Perdita Weeks) sit, while Bingley (Tom Mison) is driven to slaughter birds by Darcy (Elliot Cowan) as sanity (the ironies are so multiple). Bingley is bitterly angry at Darcy and Darcy will not admit he has done anything wrong.
The moment was when Jane approached Bingley:
Jane comes over to him: Mr Bingley. Oh I am glad to see you, sir. In a moment my husband will send for me I have not long to say what I must say. We must accept what has occurred you and I. We must not reproach ourselves for unlived lives. I married Mr Collins and it may not be undone. But you Mr Bingley you must cast off this regret. This is your moral duty, to be happy, Charles ... but you can and soon [I couldn't catch it, something about if you don't all] turns empty and bitterness
Mrs Bennet watching, upset look [even] on her face [but we don't know the cause for sure as yet; later we learn she feels intense remorse as she identifies with Jane now as someone in a loveless marriage:
Jane continues: Marry and be happy for us both.
He walks off.
She cries, hand to her face.
The great and real costume dramas that count speak to us today. They can hark back to earlier ones: Jane and Bingley being cut off from a decent life is found in a novel I'm reading, written in the mid-1970s, Winston Graham's The Four Swans, where a truly congenial decent couple are parted and the young woman, Morwena, is also forced to marry a male horror and I felt this utterance belonged to them; it belongs to me too to my heart yesterday still grieving about something that happened last week which in itself is irretrievable (though unlike the unambiguous nature of art in comparison to life) maybe it doesn't matter and we are better off.
Some mores don't change. The utterance that Jane Bennet in Lost in Austen says about it rang home to my heart yesterday -- "We must not reproach ourselves for unlived lives" (still grieving as I was over a probably irretrievable decision or action we did last week -- Izzy deciding to come home, her withdrawing from her graduate courses in music at Queens -- though since this is not art but life it may be what we did was the best and also doesn't matter so much). "We must not reproach ourselves for unlived lives." rings across situations.
There is of course a profound difference between Graham's presentation of Morwenna's forced marriage to Osborne Whitworth and Jane Bennet's to Mr Collins in Lost in Austen. In LIA, Collis does not go to bed with Jane -- she remains a virgin. Well that just about cuts out what is the horror -- Bingley in the film does not know about this until much later and it's said to make such a difference. All sorts of objections come to my mind like this is making fucking matter far too much and virginity ludicrously important, only it is true that what is so horrible about Morwenna's marriage is the nightly rape, her dislike and distaste for this animal of a man and his cruelty:
Now we turn to Darcy and Amanda. The first intimation of their intense attraction occurs during the card game at Rosings. This occurrs before the above garden party and shoot at Pemberley and these show Darcy beginning to manifest his attraction to Amanda and his valuing of her kind good nature, sharp mind, difference from all around him.
We move back to Part 8 where Amanda has come to visit Jane and Mr Collins at Huntsford and they are invited to Rosings where they meet Lady Catherine de Bourgh and find there Darcy, Caroline and Charles Bingley:
From dinner and cards at Rosings:
Miss Bingley watching.
Amanda [to Mr Darcy]: "Certainly you would benefit from an occupation of some kind. You have no function Mr Darcy, no purpose
Darcy: "Well of course not. What a disgusting idea. That is, the raison d'etre of society we must be seen to be unoccupied."
Voice-over of Amanda's mind, her still silent voice as she looks this time from Darcy: "He is just so toxic. How could Jane think I'm the girl for him."
Miss Bingley: "Your ladiship really must demand a festival for the sense that is Miss Price's music.
Voice-over of Amanda's mind,"You think you're the girl for him. Step off, Caroline you conniving smirking" -- then suddenly aloud, not thinking "bum-face."
Everyone at table shocked and startled.
Amanda: "Did i say that out loud? unm It is a. .. u ... a card-game Lady Catherine ... uh you might know it ... Humpty . . .
Lady Catherine (Lindsay Duncan) looks intense, and bickering ensures, but camera then cuts to all playing in a group, with Darcy standing to the side by the mantelpiece of the fireplace. Amanda plays very well and soon Bingley, half-drunk, desperate, offers up an heirloom from his father, a watch. Again Amanda wins, and Lacy Catherine, seeing her hold back, scoops up watch,
but quick-witted and pushing watch back to Bingley as soon as it comes to her:
Amanda (refusing to take over Bingley's heirloom gold watch: "I won't. Mr Bingley, with pleasure had this not been a practice game. Ah . . . the first round is always a practice. I should have made that clear. Now shall we play for real ...
Darcy beginning to see what a kind heart she has. (Not the sheer phyiscal attraction of the man)
Lady Catherine in Amanda's ear: "You've done well, today my dear. You've won your hostess a guinea. You've spared the blushes of Mr Bingley ... but you cannot have Fitzwilliam Darcy, Miss Price. however good you are at games."
Amanda: "But I don't want Mr Darcy.
Lady Catherine: "What you want my dear frightens you to death. That is why you fail to comprehend yourself."
I am aware this sort of generous insight offered takes us back to the good-hearted Lady Catherine of the 1941 film but on such different grounds, not out of naivete but disillusion and bitterness.
I do so much prefer Darcy to fall in love with Amanda (=Elizabeth) for her kindness and generosity and yes self-erasure than for her looks, nerve, willingness to challenge him and then his saving Lydia, so esteem and gratitude come in that are central to Austen's perception -- later on they discover congeniality and (I hope) shared generosity but it is not the reason for the first love.
Fast forward again past the scene at the shooting party between Jane and Bingley to the scenes between Amanda and Darcy where they first utter and attempt to cope with their intense attraction to one another:
I am troubled by the emphasis on not just virginity but revulsion against serial monogamy witnessed in this mini-series (2008-9 remember and presenting itself as post-modern, ultra-modern). What undermines the depth of the agony Bingley and Jane must endure is that is Collins has not yet gone to bed with Jane, no chance of pregnancy either. Bingley doesn't know this yet. It's a cheat. It will be said well, it's comedy. Yes but it overvalues virginity, a man's desire to be first, and fucking itself as super-important.
I've recently heard a boy in one of my classes look askance when I called Floria in Vampire Tapestry "chaste:" she has been married, and now has a lover, and perhaps has had others. Apparently such a woman is not acceptable to him although serial monogamy is in fact the norm for Americans nowadays.
It also very much troubles me that when Amanda tells Darcy the truth about her life, she prefaces it with the statement her mother would advise her not to and after she's told him and he rejects her, she laments intensely she told him. We are back in the later 17th century where the "crowd" and conventional view is the Lafayette's Princess de Cleves should not have told her husband the truth, or Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles where again a mother says not to tell, she does and he rejects her, and again in 1930s films where lying is encouraged for women.
One should not deny one's real self and identity; anything else is a false basis for a real relationship, does not let it happen. (Soon we'll have justifications for male promiscuity and how women should tolerate that.)
I took down the two fascinating dialogues between Darcy and Amanda, the first where he admits his love and the second, where his suspicions aroused by a spiteful (but effective) Caroline Bingley, he asks Amanda about her past and this troubling attitude towards women's sexuality and a man's right to own a woman by virtue of her not having had a relationship with another (or she is "spoiled"
Part 9: Invitation to Pemberley
Amanda peers round the hedge (this could be an allusion to Miss Austen Regrets where there is precisely this shot only I've a hunch that both movies are "quoting" another previous one).
Now she is looking down a lane between two high hedges (allusion to the 1995 S&S & the 2008 S&S).
We hear birds, we walk with her and then facing her seeing a temple in the background.
A light piano begins the opening powerful theme song of how she escapes to her favorite book ...Then she sees a small figure crossing the area between the hedges (I am reminded of Emma not noticing but we do Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill meeting this way at Donwell Abbey)
She walks steadily forward. We now see him near that beautiful pool, looking down, standing so still as he often does, meditatively. She approaches. Music swells. She is now close.
He turns suddenly and we have a close up of them, him so much taller and bigger than she, in the great coat, reminding me of Matthew Macfayden about to kiss Keira Knightley near the close of that film. He takes her by the shoulders; her dress is so thin and she looks vulnerable.
Darcy: "Amanda. I have met she who must be loved" [the artificial language, part of his identity is kept up]
Amanda has joy in her face, shakes head: "You must not, you must not."
Darcy: "Wherefore must I not? Who is to judge us? I've labored so long in the service of propriety.
Amanda: "Elizabeth. I am not Elizabeth. The entire world will hate me."
Darcy: "Were that true, Amanda, I would fight the world [you?] rather the one I love."
Amanda feeling very intense in her face: "Will you do something for me?"
A second passes and cut to him coming up through the pool water, with a white wet shirt cilnging to him. [I'm not sure this self-reflexive joking is not too much; if we are to see Amanda as still deluded then how are we having a romance? -- but then again this is what she dreamed of and at the opening of her journey into P&P land that's what she longed to do, to make experience physically all the dreams]
Amanda charmed: "I am having a bit of a strange post-modern moment here."
Darcy (in his face we see he doesn't mind this strange request, and he says not all that puzzled] "Is that agreeable?"
Amanda: "Oh yes yes." (big breathing)
Darcy walks forward in the water.
Amanda: "Oh please please stay there. If you touch me again, I will be completely unable to say what I want to say"
Darcy stands still.
Amanda: "You love me. Which one of me do you love? The one you first met when I was spiky and vulgar and I argued with you all the time when you looked at me and felt all that abysmal disregard or the one I've been recently, simpering and and fanning and trying so hard to fit in. Please tell me you've noticed the difference."
Darcy: "I find both incarnations of your character equally disagreable [he smiles] and yet I love you, Amanda Price, with all my heart."
She is smiling, bird sounds
Amanda: "Ignore that, please."
Darcy's face agrees, but he says: "I cannot."
Darcy comes forward and is coming out of pond and the camera cuts to a far shot of them in the garden, just heart-stoppingly beautiful picturesque scene as she stands there facing slightly to the side.
Now she is looking up, close up and he is again towering over her, close, wants to kiss we feel.
Darcy: "When my duties are discharged, I shall find you Amanda for there is smore to say if only the same words over and over again.
They hold hands. He kisses her hand.
Voice-over of Amanda with knuckles of her hand in her mouth as she watches him walk up the slope, mounting higher with shake of his body that we see in the opening paratext.
"I love him, I love Fitzwilliam Darcy. I love him. Maybe that's what's meant to happen (again music of opening soliloquy). I'm like an understudy. The star has failed to turn up and I have to go on and do the show.
She jumps little jumps.
The intervening scenes are Amanda coming round the wall and in beautiful sun coloring the scene encountering Mrs Bennet grieving for Jane and also for herself in a miserable marriage; Amanda promises she will buy Longbourne and give it to Mr and Mrs Bennet and that should relieve the situation "a little."
Mrs Bennet shocked at total overturning of custom
We see she is near thinking the marriage really going to take place.
Then scene of Darcy approaching Bingley, demanding he stop his maudlin behavior, Bingly hitting Darcy hard, bloody nose, and then Bingley doubled over with grief at his behavior and loss:
and then Caroline's poison as she comes up: "I am not worried about him. I am worried about you. I think your Miss Price leads you a merry dance. If I were you, I'd seek to know Miss Price a little better before resuming to know her better' (nasty salacious innuendo).
Another scene of Amanda's joy in coming onto the terrace (again a beautiful sun coloring) and approaching Lydia and telling her to hope, not to "stress about where she's been" but "where she's going."
The scene of her meeting Georgiana in Georgiana's room where Georgiana has been told to stay and where she's told by Georgiana that Georgiana lied that she was "ravished by Wickham." She was a front for the governess and Wickham behaved decently to her as "an adorable child." Amanda's smile widens but she says "jeepers" to the lie. So a fake accusation so typical of male ideas.
The parapet tea-drinking scene where Collins insinuates his brothers good for Lydia (Mrs Bennet, Lydia and Jane sickened present).
And now again the parapet camera looking out across the land to see picturesque view, it's Darcy looking and then Amanda's light footsteps approaching him from the back and confidently approaches him.
Darcy looking out, upset, grief in his face and his nose still has traces of dark blood.
Perhaps thinking about Bingley
Amanda; "What happened."
Darcy: "Mr Bingley and I have been chatting. Miss Price, my life is a pretty drear thing. But it is conducted for the greater part in public. It is a rare moment that I am not closely observed by the servants. If one wished to know the truth about Fitzwilliam Darcy one need merely ask.
Amanda; "You're worried that I have a past ... that you do not know about ...
Darcy: "I am braced for the truth. Pray tell it me."
Amanda; "Okay. What I should do my mother would certainly say I should] do if she were here and thank God she isn't is keep my mouth shut but given that I've never been able to do that and given that Caroline has almost certainly put it about that I am a great whore of Hammersmith (he really looks pained as the camera focuses on his face), but you'd never listen to gossip would you? I nearly forgot that is to the [? end] I love you. I didn't know that, I didn't know that, but it is clear to me now that I have always loved you every time I've fallen in love with a man I've closed my eyes, and it has been you even Michael and dI pretty much lived with him for a year so yes I have a past but every instance in it contains you everything I am ... belongs to you.
Her hand next to his, and moves to it, he withdraws his pinky.
Darcy: "I cannot marry you. I am sorry for it. But a man like me cannot possibly marry a woman like you. His hand closes on itself on the parapet.
Amanda: "A woman like me?"
Darcy: "You are not a maid."
She closes her eyes and her hands move to her face, she is crying (similar gesture to Jane's after she has failed to reach Bingley to tell him they must not reproach themselves ... "
He offers her his handkerchief with blood on it.
Darcy (whispers low) "I'm sorry."
Amanda: "I've been incredibly stupid."
Darcy: "You've told me the truth and I asked for it. For that courage I shall admire you always."
Amanda: "But it has cost me everything."
Darcy: "It has cost that of us both."
He bows briefly and walks off.
In the next sequence Amanda is seen tearing her P&P book to pieces and tossing it around the balcony, face so fierce
and then out the window; one of the biggest pieces of the book swirls high in the sky.
She makes a terrible grieving sound. And then all falls into the pool.
Nadir of film, dream gone utterly
And so Amanda and Darcy are facing an unlived life too. They are dream figures we might say, but what is not in literature and film (the imagination)?
I do find the theme of disillusion in Amanda apt but again compromised: she is learning her idea of this comfortable world of long ago is untrue. That could be salutary and bitter but of course since Darcy is so super-rich, the environment so beautiful, and (as I know) the ending the collapse into love-happiness after all, the message is somewhat undermined.