Mr Darcy, at his most vulnerable
Mr Darcy, at his most vulnerable

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.

4 Comments on The Vulnerable Hero: Mr Darcy

  1. Frances
    January 12, 2016 at 9:45 pm (8 years ago)

    Hi Kathryn,

    Thank you for revealing the actor’s name! He truly is Darcy the way Jane Austen envisioned him, or the way I envisioned him when I read the story. To see him come alive on the screen did my heart a whale of good.

    The producer and/or director truly picked a real-life Darcy. MacFadyen has what I call the “Darcy mouth,” which Austen took the pain to describe through Mrs. Gardner who also took pains to explain to her niece, Elizabeth, the attraction of that mouth.

    I teach “Pride and Prejudice” and can show only one of the movies to students. I am always torn between which of the two to show. I wish they had cast MacFadyen with Jennifer Ehle in the same movie.

    I love Keira Knightley in everything else she has done, but I believe Jennifer Ehle resembled my idea of Elizabeth Bennet, hence my dilemma. I love Colin Firth in everything else he has done, but like you, MacFadyen embodied Darcy. I have a criss-cross of actors in both versions of the book: Keira and Colin in one screen and Matthew and Jennifer in another screen would have made the two perfect movies in my opinion.

    Thanks for sharing,

    • Gianna Thomas
      January 30, 2016 at 8:05 am (8 years ago)

      I love the 2005 movie with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. There are so many layers to Darcy, and I think that Macfadyen captures all of them. For me, it would be hard not to love someone like that. And I agree with the following quotes.

      “I love You. Most ardently.” (Mr. Darcy) “Reading the script it’s clear the moments when he’s vulnerable. The scene in the rain, until then he’s just unlikable. He doesn’t say anything nice about anybody, he doesn’t look at anybody. He makes a little bit of an effort in the scene at the piano when he explains why he can’t talk to people. But it’s the scene in the rain, that car crash scene where everything goes so badly when he tells her he loves her, that’s when you like him.” ‪#‎MatthewMacfadyen‬

      “Matthew Macfadyen finds a human dimension in the taciturn landowner Fitzwilliam Darcy that was missing in earlier, more conventionally heroic portrayals. Mr. Firth might have been far more dashing, but Mr. Macfadyen’s portrayal of the character as a shy, awkward suitor whose seeming arrogance camouflages insecurity and deep sensitivity is more realistic.” (Stephen Holden, The New York Times)

      For myself, I don’t think Jennifer Ehle would have played as well against Mcfadyen as Keira Knightley did. Just my thought.

      • Kathryn Barrett
        January 30, 2016 at 4:02 pm (8 years ago)

        Gianna, where did you find those quotes? They’re spot on! thanks for posting them. I’ll never get tired of this film!

    • Kathryn Barrett
      January 30, 2016 at 3:59 pm (8 years ago)

      You’re welcome! I wasn’t altogether pleased with Keira as Elizabeth either, but watching Jennifer play the part later, I wasn’t convinced by her portrayal either. She seemed too bubbly, somehow. But I do love Matthew as Darcy; now I can’t imagine anyone else playing it!


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