Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Freeze Frame #2: Pride and Prejudice

I quite loved the latest Jane Austen adaptation starring Keira Knightley. I thought it had a lot of life in it, and featured a great performance by Knightley as Elizabeth.

P&P has never quite appealed to me as a book - I found it to be nice, in the way that Hum Aapke Hain Koun would be nice if you went into the movie hall expecting nothing. It was obvious that there was a lot of social commentary there; I just didn't find myself captivated by it. Watching the movie, however, changed some things. And it was this little, barely noticeable pause, that did it for me.

There's this twit called Collins that wants to marry Lizzie, and she says no. Obviously, Mrs. Bennet finds her refusal unacceptable, so Lizzie turns to her dad for help. And the dad says, with trademark wry humor, "An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day on, you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do."

Back when I read the book, this scene seemed to play for laughs. It's a good line, and conveys the father's support of his daughter at a crucial juncture. And Donald Sutherland is the kind of actor that can deliver a good line like that as well as anybody else in the business.

But no, what made all the difference for me in the movie was, after Lizzie has thanked her father and run off, and Mrs. Bennet has stomped off, the camera holds for a moment on Sutherland's pensive face. He has just given his daughter the support that she deserves, but in doing so, he has also quashed hopes of a financially advantageous marriage for one of his five daughters. It was the right thing to do, maybe, but not easy.

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