Monday is the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice, everyone’s favorite Jane Austen novel. Well, maybe not everyone. If you’d asked me a few years ago which was my favorite, I’d have said Sense and Sensibility.
Then I saw the film version of Pride & Prejudice with Kiera Knightly and Mathew Macfadyen. And suddenly I had a whole new appreciation for P&P.
Until the 2005 film, the on-screen version most people loved was the BBC miniseries with Colin Firth. I’m not a huge fan of Colin (as an actor, I mean—he comes across as very nice in interviews). He seems like a stick-in-the-mud to me. And in the BBC version, which I couldn’t even finish, he seems like a sadistic stick-in-the-mud.
But Mathew Macfadyen gives the character of Mr Darcy a different twist. In his portrayal, there are moments when Darcy comes across as very vulnerable—one of the wealthiest men in England, a prize catch for any young woman in the marriage market, and yet he puts himself at risk, emotionally, when he falls in love with Elizabeth Bennet.
The look in his eyes when he is told by Lizzie that she won’t marry him just slays me.
I have no idea how actors achieve that sort of look, or how they portray the inner turmoil of their characters, but Macfadyen obviously saw something in that character that other actors didn’t, or else he’s just better at showing it. I’ve seen him in many films (and currently in Ripper Street), and he’s a great actor, but I like him best in P&P.
Maybe that’s because I love a vulnerable hero. A man who seems strong on the outside, but inside his heart bleeds for a woman who won’t have him. Or who he imagines won’t have him, since getting up the courage to put his real feelings on his sleeve is too great a step.
And then he takes that step… I love that moment, in a book or film, when a strong man lets a woman—or anyone—see how much he’d be hurt if she spurned him.
Sigh. I’m going to watch Pride & Prejudice again, just so I can savor that moment.