misssylviadrake (misssylviadrake) wrote,

Costume Drama: The elegiac mode; the function of friendship

Dear Friends,

As I was watching Part 24 of the 1974 BBC Pallisers, a beautifully picturesque and yearning, melancholy scene between Jeremy Irons as noble, well-meaning Frank Tregear, and Anna Carteret, as Lady Mabel Grex who  is now wrenchingly regretful that she had given up Tregear two years ago now that she sees him at Matching and taking up with Lady Mary (played winsomely by Kate Nicholls), a few lines delivered by Irons had the tone, the very accents of Ronald Colman when he makes one of his poignant rueful appeals

Irons as Tregear in such a moment speaking to Carteret close by, looking up, as Mabel

I was struck by a realization that a central mode or mood of film adaptations of older books which are also older costume drama is the elegiac.  And that this is rarely available to modern contemporary films.

You need the slow graceful pace for at least a few moments; you need the distance so that you can lend yourself to believing such sentiments can be uttered and at length; you need the beautiful surroundings ,the subtle long-drawn developing characterization in a seriously-taken story.

The drawing room in this part of the series has become green as a meadow, lit with sunlight.

The next scene is the curiously memorable one of the grown children (Silverbridge, Gerald, Lady Mary,, Duchess, Mrs Finn and Lady Mabel) processing out to the grounds of matching on a fine spring day -- one's heart stops at the sense of a precious moment caught from the flux of time.

Last night I was watching the antepenultimate part (the third before the last) of the 1984 BBC Jewel in the Crown:  Sarah Layton (Geraldine James) and Guy Perron (Charles Dance) finally consummate their love (Nigel Rowan having disappointed her centrally when he will not help her with what she regards as desperately-needed information about Ronald Merrick). They must part, but first they walk in the summer residence of the one of the high officials of the Raj after strolling through a garden of the Nawab. Again this strongly elegaic mode.  The book, The Making of the Jewel in the Crown, had this fine melancholy riverscape with suggestive hills and houses on its cover:

And throughout the book are line drawings, picturesque style, of typical buildings, gardens, festivals associated in the imagination the the Raj.

I remember reading how the Arcadian mode is central to costume dramas of these types; now I'm thinking yes "the allure of green thoughts," but not out of a fresh Arcadia, rather a fractured elegiac dream.

This fits the Austen movies I'm so involved with -- today I managed to paginate my typescript, and finally subdivided Part 2 into its parts; I gathered what essays and books I have on Indian and Bollywood cinema and I Have Found It, systematically gathered the now many Persuasion Online essays on the various movies (and read one on Lake House, a free adapation of Persuasion), read the opening chapter of what appears to be an excellent suggestive subtle book on Austen's novels, Susan Morgan's In the Meantime

So here's where I am with respect to my book project.  I've been worrying the question why I love these film adaptations of great books as historical costume drama so.  Well, now I've reached a new clarifying realization and a new turn or phase in the ms.

Jeremy Irons and Anna Carteret as Frank Tregear and Lady Mabel drawn to one another again, maturely disillusioned people
Tags: 19th century, anthony trollope, costume drama, film adaptation, historical novels

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