Sunday, April 10, 2011

You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you. And then you should tell me how good I look while seductively moist.

Which Darcy do you prefer? Matthew MacFadyen from the 2005's Pride & Prejudice with Keira Knightley or Colin Firth in the 1995 BBC/A&E production?

I'm a MacFadyen-ite myself.  

Fifteen years ago Firth's Darcy made me swoon. But when I watch it now (and I do watch it at least once a year) I think his Darcy needs a good stiff dose of prozac to cure his pathological moodiness. Whereas MacFadyen's Darcy is a shy and awkward hero, who hides his vulnerability behind prideful behaviour.

The scene where MacFadyen's Darcy awkwardly and rudely declares his love for Elizabeth when they are caught in the rainstorm by the folly (or is it a gazebo?) is a thing of beauty. And by thing of beauty, I mean porn for thinking women.

+ + + + + + + +

Now I'm going to dispense some advice:

I advise you to watch Fortunes of War. It's a 1987 miniseries starring Emma Thompson. Please do NOT confuse it with the same-named Martin Sheen movie from 1994. Uh. That one looks horrible.

I saw five and half (out of 7) episodes of Fortunes of War in the early 90s, and spent the better part of 20 years hoping to see it rebroadcast or re-issued. While I waited, I read and re-read the source material (Olivia Manning's The Balkan Trilogy and The Levant Trilogy). I enjoy Manning's crisp, unsentimental writing style. In general I love movies and books set during WWII, and these books are a rare treat because the narrative focuses upon a female character.  Harriet Pringle is a flawed but noble heroine, whom you can't help but love.

Last month I finally bought a copy (via With some trepidation, this weekend I sat down to watch it end to end.  I was afraid it wouldn't live up to my expectations, but it was wonderful. Emma Thompson is sublime. For the duration I forgot that I hate Kenneth Branagh. The sets and the dialogue are gorgeous. It's definitely aged well. As has Emma Thompson, for that matter.


  1. While MacFayden put up a good fight, I'm all Firth, all the way. I'd pay good money to watch that man read my grocery list, or possibly the ingredients on a box of Cheerios.

  2. Matthew. My ONLY quibble is his terrible hair. It was MOST unkempt and thus completely out of character. But I could help him with that.

  3. i'm needing a darcy dose, methinks....

  4. I can't speak to how well Firth's Darcy holds up over time - it's been a few years since I've watched it, mostly because I'm waiting for a time when I won't be able to chime in with every line, pitch perfect on every subtle intonation.

    As I mentioned on Twitter, I find the McFadyen/Knightley adaptation interesting mostly for its policy of kindness to characters to whom Austen herself was fairly harshly critical. Everybody got a chance to give a heartfelt speech justifying their actions. Mr. Bennet, in particular, was a far more affectionate father than he was in the novel. Darcy is possibly one of the closest to the novel, in that he's the version we're told in the end was the true one all along: shy and misunderstood (whereas in the novel it seems fairly clearly that he was genuinely arrogant as well). It's a kinder reading of Darcy's character, but it's Elizabeth who ends up paying the price for that, as she is more to blame for having misinterpreted him all along.

  5. Take 2, since my comment seems to have vanished into the ether...

    I never tried the remake of P&P, as I was afraid that Ms Knightly's performance might scar me for life. If you can assure me that this is NOT the case, I will be willing to give this MacFayden chap a chance to out-do My Colin, but ONLY because you show excellent taste in Ms Thomspon, excellent DIStaste in Mr Branagh, and, well, MacFayden *does* look somewhat scrumptious-when-wet. That said, moodiness is an important part of Darcy's character, IMO, as it demonstrates the inner turmoil between his arrogant embodiment of class and gender and his sensitive inner-self that he would choose to share with Elizabeth if only it were proper and he was sure that she wouldn't spurn him.

    Also? Caught in the rain moist will out-do drowned rat soaked any day of the week, but it is really about half an hour after either scenario that sensitive man curls look their very best, IMO.

  6. THAT IS MY NUMBER ONE FAVOURITE LINE IN A BOOK EVER. Sigh. What is it about Mr. Darcy that is so freaking sexy? Is it his aloofness? I don't know but I lurrrvve him. I like the Colin Firth Darcy the best. I guess I'm just old school.

  7. Also? I wrote a thing for Yummy Mummy relating to this, about how guys on screen could seem so yummy but imagine actually living with them? Like imagine living with Ralph Fiennes in the English Patient? So sexy, so hot, but yet...on a day to day basis? All that intensity would be a bit much, is all I'm saying.

    "Honey, could you take the recycling out?"

  8. I am so incredibly amazed to have found your blog - Nan, you have meshed the brains of my husband and me together...the fact that the Star Trek homeschooling post was followed by an ode to Mr. Darcys is just beyond comprehension! We both ardently admire and respect you (and you make us laugh)!! I found you while searching for Wills and Kate teatowels, and I found so much more!! ha

  9. Colin Firth all the way, baby! He is the closest to how I envision Mr. Darcy. MacF is fine when I need a little Darcy and I don't have 5 hours to spare, but he's just not my Mr. Darcy. Have you heard that there is a Wild & Wanton Pride & Prejudice book out? Apparently, it's very...boom chikka wow wow.

  10. Can I have both Darcy's, please?

    & thanks for recommendation! Looks great.

  11. I'm so with you on this Mr. Darcy opinion. I tend to prefer a more aged Colin Firth. The version of him now (Bridget Jones...even gay him in Mamma Mia) makes me swoon.

    Porn for a thinking woman!? Perfect. Thanks for that one.

    And thank you for the advice. I've been on a mini series break after quite a binge in the fall. I will definitely hunt this one down. :-)

  12. @hodgepodgeandstrawberries -- Firth's voice is the v. definition of dulcet.

    @Kimberly -- Team Matthew! FTW! Yes, he could use w/ a haircut, there's the tiniest hint of a mullet.

    @Christine -- P&P is v. restorative. I recommend a double dose.

    @Bea -- My reading of the 2005 Mr Bennett is actually the opposite. Compared to the novel and the A&E version, he comes across as an emotionally distant, self-absorbed father puttering about in his study oblivious to the financial peril faced by his daughters. I think the 2005 Mrs Bennett (though still the silly woman created by Austen) is re-interpreted as being the more selfless parent who knows that marriage -- even a marriage to Mr Collins -- is the only hope for the girls' survival. I liked her more in this telling as she was more a character less a caricature.

    @turkeydoodles -- Disclaimer #1: I like Keira Knightley. I know a lot of people don't, but I think she's a little cutie. Disclaimer #2: The 2005 edition is less than perfect. It suffers from some heavy handed direction (dream sequences, odd imagery) that are very showy. These elements don't detract from the perfection that is MacFadyen, and the rest of the cast is pretty spectacular.

    @Nicole -- Have you watched The English Patient lately? It's not aging well. I think it's b/c I'm a grown woman now and that whole "I don't like to be owned" spiel doesn't play so well once you've had a dose of reality. And a few kids.

    @Janice -- HELLO! Austenites and Trekkies -- a match made in heaven. I feel some degree of guilt about the number of people (about 20/day) who come here looking for info about the wedding tea towels. I feel like I'm leading people (especially those from the UK) astray.

    @Marilyn -- "boom chikka wow wow" HAHA! I'm in! Many times I've thought, "Well I'll just watch the first 30 minutes of the A&E's P&P while I fold this basket of laundry." Next thing I know it's dinner time and the whole series has been watched and the house is a sty and the kids are reenacting scenes from Lord of the Flies.

    @hornblower -- BOTH Darcy's? What ever rocks your boat, you saucy lil' minx.

    @Omaha Mama -- I loved him in Bridget Jones. "I like you, very much. Just as you are."

    Psst. Just realized that Fortunes of War has been posted (in 10 minute increments, mind you) on to youtube. Shh...

  13. I've only watched the MacFayden P&P once and it didn't leave that much of an impression on me. I think it was the awkward post-marriage scene at the end of the film that undid a lot of its charm for me. Maybe it's time I watched it again. Maybe if I stop it before that final scene, it'll appeal to me more. I do remember liking the rest of the film. I just wasn't struck by it in a "must watch more than once" sort of way.

    I am a Firth woman but I'd never really thought of it as a competition before. I'll have to do more research and report back.

  14. @Sue -- That final scene of the 2005 P&P was not included at the end of the UK version, it was released only in North American version.