Pride and Prejudice: A Visit in Film History

Pride_and_Prrejudice

Elizabeth, having rather expected to affront him, was amazed at his gallantry; but there was a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody; and Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her. He really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger.

I was thinking about writing a post on the first time I saw the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. But as much as I loved it, it didn’t have the impact like when I actually saw P&P on the screen for the very first time. It was the 1940 version with Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier. Mmmmm, Lawrence Olivier.

And yes, I know. To Austen purists, it is fraught with holes and odd interpretations. I noticed that the last time I watched. But the essence of the story is there. To those who have not watched it, I included a few stills to show the lovely sets and costumes.

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The family. Like many other versions, the mom is hilarious. Ringlets are a popular hairstyle for them, although you can see the forties style given to Elizabeth. Jane is played by Maureen O’Sullivan.

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At the dance, when Elizabeth overhears some very uncharming things about herself. Yes, the location makes one wonder why the Bennet family is in any way concerned about money, but, what the hey. The style costumes that the men are wearing are probably (not 100% sure) more authentic for the time period.

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Elizabeth, Jane, and Kitty. Kitty is played by Heather Angel.  She is really funny in this adaptation. The scene where she plays the piano and sings is priceless.

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Elizabeth and Lady Catherine de Bourgh played by Edna May Oliver. Check out that hat!

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Sigh, true love. The sets are so lovely. The roses in the background are just beautiful as are these two. This is what happily ever after looked like to me when I was young.

I love watching all the versions of P&P, depending on what mood I am in. I had lots of fun looking up all these stills and remembering how enchanted I was as a little girl when I first saw this wonderful. Little was I to know what a lasting positive impact it made to my life, and the literature I was inspired to read and enjoy.

The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau is a movie that is loosely based on the novel Adjustment Team by Philip K. Dick. Some other films based on his writings are Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report. Dick liked to explore the relationships between free will and predestination and wrote very imaginative stories to conceptualize these themes.

Do we control our own fates? Sometimes it seems that way and sometimes not. And if we don’t who does and to what degree? The Adjustment Bureau shows a world in which a hierarchical group of men led by the mysterious Chairman see to it that things go according to plan.

David Norris is a rising politician running for Senate.  An early loss devastates him until meeting Elise, a ballet dancer, in the men’s bathroom while rehearsing his concession speech. Their encounter inspires him to give his greatest speech ever and puts his career back on track. However, when David’s personal adjustment bureau guy falls asleep on the job they meet again, this time on a bus.  This was not supposed to happen and the Bureau is in a tizzy. David and Elise find themselves drawn to each other and David especially feels like they are meant to be together.  

Later at his office David walks in his friend and campaign manager’s office and finds him frozen in place surrounded by men in suits examining and shining something into his head. David is chased, caught, and sent to a warehouse where he is told to forget about Elise, they are not supposed to be together in the plan. Furthermore if he tells anyone about them, he will be reset, or lobotomized.

The Adjustment Bureau is about what happens when two people want to change their stars. There are reasons things must go a certain way. And just as certainly, why they must not. Roger Ebert says this was a good movie that could have been a great one if more risks had been taken. I wanted more about the secondary theme concerning choices between personal happiness and the greater good. Which is more important?

We both enjoyed the jumping in and out-of-doors and those super cool plan-books. The scenes between Damon and Blunt are quite charming, definitely a cut above the usual Hollywood falling-in-love drivel.  The film wasn’t the best adaptation of a Dick story but very entertaining nonetheless. We are considering getting yet another anthology.

Breathless and Black Swan

Breathless

Dean Koontz

Bantam Books (2010)

Mass Market Paperback 413 pgs.

3 stars

     Up in the Rockies, Grady Adams and his dog Merlin have no idea what they have just encountered on their daily walk. It is effecting all the animals in the area, however and he and the local veterinarian are about to witness history in the making.

     A neighbor is about to visit his own history, in the form of a twin brother. But actions have consequences and the best laid plans often must be put aside for the unexpected. In Seattle, a lawyer makes arrangements to have his family killed, and a vagrant who decides to give life another chance becomes a hero.

     Koontz has always been a hit or miss author for me. I absolutely loved The Face last year but was a little confused by this one. As usual, he starts out running and you never know what hit you. But it kind of fizzled and one thread that was really hot just disappeared and nothing came of it. I still like and will read Koontz from time to time. His books are always fun and fast-moving. Sometimes the ending just doesn’t fit the pace. And that’s ok.

     I also saw Black Swan this week. I don’t usually review movies but this one was unusual and it swept me away into a very mesmorizing and weird world.  It starred Natalie Portman (Nina) who just won the Golden Globe for this role and Mila Kunis (Lily) as the ballet dancers with strong supporting roles by Vincent Cassel as Swan Lake’s director and Barbara Hershey as Nina’s mother.

     Nina lives with her mother who retired from the ballet to raise her. At first the relationship seems happy, if a little suffocating, but they are both excited at Nina’s opportunity of getting the lead in Swan Lake.  Beth (Winona Ryder), the older prima ballerina whom Nina considered “perfect” was being replaced as Swan Queen and many auditioned for the coveted dual role of  the White and Black Swan. Despite reservations on the part of director Thomas Leroy, Nina got the lead. Leroy loved her innocent and graceful interpretation of the White Swan, but her sensual Black Swan was lacking in passion.

     As Leroy both encouraged and criticized her, a new face appeared in the company. Lily danced a wonderful Black Swan and Leroy was impressed. When Lily tried to befriend her, Nina became convinced that she was trying to take her place. The stress of the dual role took its toll on her already fragile mind which disintegrated in a most bewildering and exquisite intensity.

     My first impressions was that this movie sold as a psycho-sexual freakout actually didn’t have that much sex.  Ok some, but it was so cleverly crafted that there was no actual nudity. The psycho part was more of a functional mental illness that blew a fuse over the stress and the dual nature of the swan role. Nina and her mother both seemed to suffer from something. There were signs of strange in the apartment from the beginning like the dozens of painted faces hanging in the mother’s studio. However, like many people suffering from mental illness, they manage to survive and even thrive despite their problems. Nina was the most dedicated dancer in her ballet company.

     As in real life, stress can really upset the mental apple cart. Leroy felt Nina had what it took to be brilliant while Nina was obsessed with being perfect.  She begins to steal the former prima ballerina’s things and experience both visual and auditory hallucinations.  As we are drawn into her increasingly bizarre world, I began to wonder what was real and what was illusion. I’m still wondering about a couple of things.

     I got swept up in watching Black Swan. The sometimes scary imagery was enthralling while the ballet dancing with those fabulous feathered costumes was breathtaking. I just love Swan Lake. It juxtaposed that beauty with Nina’s scratching self-mutilations and illusions of her skin peeling, blood, and broken bones. I am sympathetic for people who actually have to deal with mental illness challenges while trying to maintain a normal life. I don’t think it is nearly as exciting, or psycho-sexual, as Portman had it in the movie.