misssylviadrake (misssylviadrake) wrote,

Lost in Austen: "You don't do guilt, do you" amid a time-travelling tale (4)

Dear friends and readers,

As I move slowly through Andrew/Zeff/McKellen's Lost in Austen, it comes home to me stronger how this is a time-travelling story. I have carried on taking down the turns and twists of Amanda and Darcy's relationship but as it moves through the crises to the satisfied ending of "together at last and forever," the emphasis is becomes the disjunctions between the 18th and 21st century as seen comically and plangently.   I'm back working on my book, the Jane Austen movies ("Seeking Refuge"), and in my book will argue for it as part of post-feminism.


In this blog the reader will find more on Darcy (Eliot Cowan) and Amanda's (Jemima Rooper) ordeal whose stinging clashes and wretchedness is often brought on precisely because he cannot understand what she is and she cannot react to him so-called "naturally." We do see how behavior in any era is a construct:   we have gone through the harrowing of Amanda's dream where we saw the key motif of the film as in the disillusioning of Amanda's illusions about P&P, and the themed We must not reproach ourselves for unlived lives where we saw the parallels between Amanda and Darcy's with Jane and Bingley's story, or at least the intersections.  Tonight yet more disillusion, we see that a marriage between Caroline and Darcy is now a possibility and how this will be another parallel to what happened to Jane (Morven Christie) and Bingley (Tim Mison), bring on yet more misery from its false premises.

To this now is added how Darcy cannot see he is at fault until a final crisis of Bingley duelling with Mr Bennet shakes him and seeking Amanda, he follows her into the 21st century and his carapace breaks down, for at least a while:

The episode after Darcy rejects Amanda is called "A Long way from Home" (Part 11), another resonant phrase, this time Wickham's (Tom Riley)..  Another real pleasure and interest for me in this movie is the presentation of Wickham as much better than he is portrayed by Darcy's letter in P&P. I have always felt the original First Impressions was much much fairer to Wickham and there was much truth about the rivalry of the boys and Darcy's jealousy in the letter, and that it was all swept aside in the interest of cutting the book.  The 2005 Wright film began the business of making Wickham more understandable but turned round to make him a wife-abuser at heart (but then the presentation of Lydia as imbecilic over romance was irritating in a way); this one takes it much further.

The scene between Darcy and Amanda when she comes upon him reading the book is also intelligent. She expects he will see and understand. Of course not. He's horrified, mortified, indignant to see this expose. He's never heard of Austen; is that Miss Price's real name?  He has apparently not believed her story of Michael (Daniel Percival). Darcy is presented as too innocent or abstract from the world (the way he believes his sister who is clearly not hurt in the way he thinks), but Amanda's anger at last is refreshing and her accusations.

We see this garden with all the topiary, gradually Amanda walking amid the shrubs emerges and turns and we see (through her point of view) Darcy reading P&P by the fountain. It's only a piece of the book as she ripped it up and it is very wet. Nonetheless, he is absorbed.

She is walking forward not paying attention quite:   "Can you get me a carriage, please?  I want to go home."
He reads on. Heavy chords heard.
Amanda (watching him read):  "Well ... now you know everything
Darcy comes forward (as he speaks we realize he is livid with fury):  "What jaundiced impertinence is this?  To Write a roman a cle about gentle people who have received you as their guest? You have not had the grace or wit to disguise our names. It is monstrous ingratitude and a shameful betrayal of trust. No wonder nothing about you seems plausible. Is your name Price? or is it Austen?  Frankly, Madam, I cease to care."
Amanda (realizing):  "You don't get it.  How could you? Even I don't get it any more."

She picks up the torn book he threw at her feet.
Amanda:  "I'll walk, thanks."
Darcy:  "There is nowhere to walk to from here."
Amanda:  "Then that's where I'll go. Goodbye Mr Darcy."  She turns and walks away, but then stops and turns and walks back, much firmer step. "Everything you think is wrong, Darcy.  But everything.  Georgiana.  Wickham.  None of that happened the way ou thnk it did and you'll never hear it from her because she's scared to death of you, and Bingley your best friend he's become a drunk and that's your fault. Yours.  You're supposed to be so blood incandescent with integrity and you misjudge everybody. You misjudge me."
His face trembles.

Voice over of Amanda heard and then camera on her walking away in intense grief: "I love you. I love you. I want to die (pages fall on the ground).  I love you."


Amanda returns to Huntsford and proceeds to pack; she intends to return to Longbourne, on foot if necessary, and is interrupted by Caroline Bingley (Christina Cole).  We learn how phony Caroline's life really is, when she approaches Amanda to see if they can be lovers: Caroline has heard from Bingley that Amanda is bisexual or a lesbian and it seems that this is Caroline's sexual orientation.  She fully intends to marry Darcy and endure his love-making as part of her inevitable fate of misery.  Amanda is appalled and rejects Caroline.  The next scene brings them together in the front room where Darcy has (by the piano we see him) asked Caroline to marry him and she agreed.

So like Jane and Mr Collins (Guy Henry), we are seeing another pair set for a life of great despair and loneliness.  The dialogue I took down comes after Darcy and Caroline Bingley have announced their engagement. The letter from Lydia has arrived to tell of her running off to escape the confines, imprisonment of their social life -- to somewhere freer of these social conventions which are so destroying everyone:  (We are now in Part 12: Lydia and Bingley run away together.)  Lydia (Perdita Weeks) alludes to what she and Bingley have sensed of Amanda's world.  Bingley has been reading Rousseau too (a gift from Mr Bennet in the early part of the mini-series).  It's an evening gathering with wine and we see Amanda near Wickham (who is mysteriously there quite often, not quite accounted for except as a friend to Bingley so how is he there now?).

Amanda walks over to Darcy.
Darcy (back to being very stiff-faced again):  "Mrs Bennet is indisposed?"
Amanda:  "She is excited by the prospect of a double marriage."
Darcy looks puzzled.
Amanda:  "Mr Bingley and Lydia."
Darcy:  "I think that unlikely.
Amanda:  "Me too.  but let's hope we're both wrong because he has run off with her."
Darcy:  (explosive utterance of this syllable very sharp and precise):  "What!?"  Fury in his face.

He often reacts with great ferocity

Amanda:  "Why do you suppose Bingley has done this, Mr Darcy?  Any ideas?  (she's insinuating). Any twinges of guilt about the situation.
He looks to the side, his face a narrow triangle.
Amanda;  "No. You don't really do guilt do you?  You do whatever the hell you want and afterward call it principle.  Bye,bye, then.

Her face is most often one of open kindness
Darcy:  "Do you have the grace I wonder to wish me well."
She turns: "Good luck" (full tones)
Darcy:  "That I already have."

He is an arrogant bastard even now. If we are to think this wholly a carapace, it's a lot to take before switching back because we are near the end of the third part of the min-series (by which time in the 1995 film Darcy has melted, and in the 1979 film it's in the fourth of 5 parts)

Amanda: "You and Caroline are made for each other."
He looks to the side.

Cut to night time, a carriage moving in the night and we hear a woman's voice from it. Mrs Bennet (Alex Kingston) calling out to the coachmen.

Now we get the sequence where Amanda, Mr (Hugh Bonneville) and Mrs Bennet go to Hammersmith, supposedly to find Amanda's home, where they seem to think Lydia and Bingley may be found; they come across Wickham just as Amanda is about to try to explain who she is, what century she comes from.  Wickham instead produces another series of possible lies to help Amanda fit in, and she goes along with this as easier. Here and in the following scene (as he has done before) Wickham emerges as the most far-seeing, tolerant man in the film world.  Asked why he is doing this for her, he can come up with only that he likes the expressions on her face. He takes them to an inn called the Jerusalem where he knows Bingley and Lydia are.  A terrific fight between the increasingly maddened Mr Bennet (who is also crazy when it comes to his daughter no longer being a "maid" before marriage) and Mr Bennet is wounded.  Darcy sends for his physician (yes he shows up too) but Amanda discovers this doctor is in London and in any case when she asks if the doctor does "stitches," Darcy replies fiercely, "Madam, he is not a dress-maker."  Again while she makes a tourniquet out of sheets for Mr Bennet, Wickham to the rescue: he knows of a woman who does this kind of sewing and will fetch her.

Cut to another room where Darcy approaches Amanda once again. Now Amanda is frantic to find Elizabeth Bennet (Gemma Artherton) because her father needs her, is dying, and Darcy waxes intensely impatient at hearing this name again. She turns around to go out a door, and whoa, she "crashes" back into the 21st century in her anxiety to find Elizabeth to come and comfort the possibly dying father.

We and she are suddenly in the 2st century London streets, a hugely noisy busy thoroughfare with Tube stations around her, buses, crowds of people,

some of whom put money in her bonnet as she sits down dazed.  When she comes to herself she goes to her apartment to find Michael,

her long-time boyfriend half-frantic from worry but also clinging-sullen in that self-important way he had at the start, and gotten him to ride her on a motor-bike to where Elizabeth is now working as a nanny (the modern job for women increasingly):

Sequence 119: Amanda and Michael speeding down London street on motorbike, both with helmets

We see her look to the side astonished and begin to signal Michael

Amanda:  "Stop!  stop!  stop!  stop!"  She managed to get him to stop, gives him helmet.
Then Michael takes off his helmet, we see his eyes and then his face looking at what we see
Amanda walking hurriedly
There is Mr Darcy in top hat amid crowd. 
Music swells -- her face filled with emotion
He is looking out intently and anxiously, highly uncertain of himself, puzzled. For really the first time in the movie, he is uncertain of himself

Michael looking at him now, recognizes a rival

Amanda now reaches him and he turns to her:  "Darcy. You followed me."
Darcy:  "Are my wits disordered by opium? What is this dreadful place?"
Amanda:  "This is London (breathing hard now) my London."
Darcy: "I will tell you this, Miss Price, and it is true, the assembly rooms at Meryton I danced with you not in order to spare my friend but because I wanted to dance with you.  Our entire acquaintance has been informed by my refusal to acknowledge this, but I have been blinded by pride. Charles, Georgiana, Wickham.  You.  ... I was calamitously mistaken in my judgement of you all.  A felllow less pig-headed would have realized from the start that what I felt for you was  ...what I felt for you ... was ... love (music) I love you.  I lhave followed you to this infernal place because I would follow you anywhere. I would harrow hell to be with you.
She shakes her head: "What about Caroline?"
Darcy: "I cannot marry Caroline Bingley."
Amanda:  "Do not tell me it is because she's not a maid."
Darcy:  "Of course she is a maid. I cannot marry her because I do not love her. I love you.

Again the open, this time sad, look on her face
Amanda nods. "Okay. Before we go any further there is someone you have to meet right now.  Take my hand. We're going to find Elizabeth Bennet."
He nods.
Michael (unshaven) watches as they walk off seen from behind.

People look slightly at the oddly dressed couple.

Cut to them on the bus ...

[A startling bold piece of dialogue has Darcy say aloud to Amanda: "A surfeit of negroes," at which her eyes get big and she hurriedly tells him it's not the thing, no gentleman talks on a bus, so he goes silent.

The last moment takes us to the other thread I want to deal with in this blog: time-travelling.   Now what I've been taken up with and moved by has been the love stories, for it seems to me they are conceived to show that 1) social conventions are utterly destructive of private lives unless we break through them or ignore them, or like Wickham and Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Lindsay Duncan in this manifestation is after all a very different kind of  powerful Lady Catherine), manipulate around them; and 2) are rooted in 21st century apprehensions of the preciousness of time, of death being annihilation and thus real of the importance of permanent relationships.

But of course what I first saw is in some sense primary: this is a parody of Pride and Prejudice (see my first blog, Dreaming the Austen movies, especially in the comments) which develops a story by creating a perspective from the 21st century.  The perspective is not just a matter of comical contrasts, and anguished misunderstandings with Amanda trying to change her outward behavior to conform to submission for women and pretended acquiescences the way she sees the other women (and men too) do. It comes out of the original story becoming reconfigured because of Amanda's presence.  At first Bingley is allured intensely by Amanda, and before he can swing back thoroughly and permanently to Jane, Jane has been falsely identified as false and hollow; without Elizabeth there to deter Collins, he seeks Jane as a partner and more docile and obedient than Elizabeth, she accepts him.  The result: the pathos of Charlotte Lucas going off to Africa to be a missionary, which we learn late in the film, was a disaster scenario she and Elizabeth would nightmare about when they were young.

This mismatch fuels an incessantly bizarre behavior by Bingley who clings to the decent (as we learn) hanger-on Wickham; it's not Wickham who will run away with Lydia but Bingley who is on the outs, despairing.  The clash between men is not between two cynics (as in P&P, Mr Bennet and Wickham through Mr Gardiner and Darcy's auspices) but a distraught (Bingley) drunken Rousseauist and a man at the end of his desperate tether (Mr Bennet in this manifestation).

These mismatches are the adverse commentary on the mores then and now.

This time-travelling story intrigues me and I find I'm just loving this contrast and the two eras put side-by-side. I don't know that this means I'd love this genre of books were I to get into it: I suspect that as usual what I'm loving is the Austen material once again, though in a new perspective.  How did it happen?  Well, at the close of the film (Part 13) we are also given a strong hint at an explanation:  when Elizabeth tries to return to the 18th century through the wall of Amanda's bathroom, she cannot. She can only go with Amanda: why?  It has been Amanda's need which has enabled her to cross into the 21st century and will enable the three of them (Elizabeth, Darcy and Amanda) to return. 

This need (Amanda's need) will be the subject of my next blog on Lost in Austen -- after I've taken down a few sample time-travelling dialogues.

For now I want to say I've garnered three books I must read and a couple of movies I should see.  I will go for Audrey Niffenegger's Time-Travellers' Wife first (book and film), and then DuMaurier's House on the Strand. I'll try that Laura Rigler's Confessions of a JA Addict because maybe that did influence Lost in Austen (I may not get far with it.) Also the general study Mike suggested: Paul J. Nahin,Time Machines Time Travel and a film called Primer  One aspect of studying movies is that often I find I end up studying unexpected sources: for Lost in Austen, it's time-travelling literature and films.

What I must do now is go back over my transcripts and stills and pick out the threads about time-travelling as well as read a couple of such books and at least one about the time-travelling, a fantasy genre.

Tags: costume drama, film adaptation, jane austen films, jane austen novels, women's films

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic
    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.