Thursday, September 6, 2012

About the whole Darcy thing

Every time I alter my "favorites" lists in my head, I have a mini crisis in my heart. As if it really matters how you answer the question "What is your favorite movie?" when a friend asks, right? It's not like a little change in your answer will make or break your opportunity to become friends with someone. It really doesn't matter.

So they say.

For quite a few years, I always said Ferris Bueller's Day Off. It was practically a no-brainer. Though for a while it tied for "my favorite movie" with Little Miss Sunshine for perhaps a few months, nothing could quite knock it out for first place. I guess because I'd gone on so long with it holding the title that rescinding the allocation felt wrong. Improper. Insulting.

But then came along this little film that I'd seen when I was 13 and brushed off to some extent. While I bought it on DVD not long after it was released, I certainly was never obsessed with it. It was worth multiple watches, sure, but I didn't go out of my way to do so.

Fast forward a few years and I start watching it almost every week. Sometimes multiple times a week. I grow obsessed with the characters and the story arcs and the actors and their voices. It's the kind of movie that always seems fresh somehow. There's always something to learn from it.

When I went to Japan, it was the only DVD I brought along with me. I would play it every couple of nights. If I didn't have access to the internet, I'd run it multiple times. Hearing the English accents was a comfort to me. And it absolutely never got old.

Now I realize I've not exactly given any indication of what this movie is (except for the whole English accents thing; the title I've given this blog is also a reference; and I guess if you know me well you've understood where I was going just because you care enough to know what my favorite movie is), so let me just put it out there. It's Pride and Prejudice. The 2005 version with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. And it is the most wonderful piece of cinema I have ever seen to date.

The problem with stating that this is your favorite movie of all time is that if someone doesn't agree with you, they meet you with a certain strange incredulity. It's a bit exaggerated, I guess, because a lot of people see the film as a love story akin to something like The Notebook. It's for cheesy romantics who love love. Not people who actually appreciate movies. It's too froofy for people who have a true love for the art of filmmaking.

But in the event that you do meet someone who also appreciates Pride & Prejudice, it's like this immediate kinship. Because once you fall for this movie, you never look back. I know this especially through my group of friends. Though our tastes don't consistently coincide, I'm pretty sure that most of my high school friends within my immediate group own (or have owned, in the case of Diana) a copy of Pride & Prejudice on DVD.

The interest was only multiplied when I got to college and discovered that my friend Dana was also obsessed with the movie. And though we make it a point to hang out and watch lots of different films together, we've seen P&P (as we call it) at least a dozen times and probably more in the space of a couple years.

So what is it about this movie? And its characters? And its story? Why does it have all of my friends and I on the edge of our seats? Why does it have us planning movie nights at random just so we can get a taste of some early 19th century romance?

I think in some ways, it is the romance - as the people who might compare it to other romantic films might say - but saying it is all about Mr. Darcy and his love for Miss Elizabeth Bennet is short-sighted.

The first time I saw the movie, I swooned at that final scene (omitted from the British version of the film) where Mr. Darcy sits at Pemberley with his new bride and kisses her over and over in a cheesy but lovely flourish, sure. But that didn't have me coming back to the film over and over. It was once I learned about Jane Austen, about the history of courtship during her time and the intricacies of her storytelling that I started to come back over and over. And it was once I began to appreciate that art that is Joe Wright's filmmaking.

You can say that this is just another film that could be placed in a three-part series on the BBC. And yes, I love those adaptations of Austen novels too. But it's really not.

The long take sequence depicting Darcy behind Elizabeth at the ball.
There's so much that is intriguing to the eye and the spirit in Pride & Prejudice. The subtle long take that encircles the ball at Netherfield Park and the wonderfully choreographed dances in that scene and the Meryton Townhall ball, in which chaos becomes something orderly and beautiful, are just a few things to marvel at. The color palette alone is made up of muted pastel and jewel tones that practically ooze period beauty off the screen. With these elements, combined with the actors' incredible realism, it's hard not to get sucked in to the story. You end up watching and reciting word for word, as if every single moment counts. And it does, not only because it's Austen, but because it's Wright. They're like partners in crime, living centuries apart.

I probably needn't even defend my love for this movie. For those who have seen it, and by that I mean really taken the time to see it, there is no question that it is a well-concocted piece of cinematic excellence. All the elements required are there. And not only is it done well for the screen, it is done well for repeat viewing. The amount of attention paid to detail is astounding, and even though I've seen the film almost 100 times now I'd think, it never gets old or tired. And I always find something new to love about it.

Tonight is yet another night for watching Pride & Prejudice. Though I make jokes about it being yet another opportunity to swoon at the sight of Mr. Darcy, it's really not about that. It's about this movie that has proved to me why filmmaking exists. Because it draws you in and keeps you thinking constantly, and it makes you feel emotions that even real life can't make you feel. That's why I love it. That's why it's my favorite movie. That's why I keep watching it.

No comments:

Post a Comment