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Pride & Prejudice: two versions!

Pride & Prejudice: two versions! November 18, 2005

Apparently we Canadians get to see a longer version of Pride & Prejudice than most of the rest of the world, because eight minutes were added to the ending to “sweeten” it up for the American market (and Canada is, for better and for worse, considered part of the American studios’ “domestic” market). Reports USA Today:

North American moviegoers are being treated to a smoochier finale to Pride & Prejudice, which opens wider Nov. 23, from the one playing overseas.

“You got the more sugary one,” says Matthew MacFadyen, Mr. Darcy to Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Bennet, of the version that runs 135 minutes — eight minutes longer. “The Brits hated it.”

In the U.K. and Europe, the last scene concludes with Elizabeth’s father (Donald Sutherland) giving his consent when Darcy asks for her hand and then, being in an expansive mood about his unwed daughters, declares, “And if any young men come for Mary or Kitty, send them in, for I am quite at my leisure.”

But when Yanks sat through a test screening, they swooned over an alternate ending where Elizabeth and Darcy kiss in a moonlit haze of post-nuptial bliss on a terrace. “Mrs. Darcy … Mrs. Darcy,” he delights in calling her repeatedly.

Many of the 450 members of the Jane Austen Society of North America, who caught a preview in early October, were so taken aback by the unexpected onslaught of mush that even those who liked the movie up until then held their applause. Or broke out laughing.

“It has nothing at all of Jane Austen in it, is inconsistent with the first two-thirds of the film, insults the audience with its banality, and ought to be cut before release,” complains member and former society president Elsa Solender of New York City.

Now, it seems the Brits want their eight minutes back:

Across the ocean, a U.K.-based petition is launching a different kind of smack attack, with more than 500 names requesting that the kiss be included in all DVD releases as well as “a few special screenings on this side of the pond.”

FWIW, I saw this film a week ago with my sister. She had all sorts of gripes — similar to the ones Mark Steyn made, which I agree with BTW — but, what can I say, I was still entertained.

I especially loved the roving camera shots at the ball, and elsewhere, and the way they focused on individual characters and some of the extras, too; and I liked the realism, which got almost vulgar in places, with the horseshit in the road and the big pig testicles. My sister liked those bits too, actually, but she didn’t like the lead actors — or any of the actors, really, except for Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethyn, who play Mr and Mrs Bennett. She also wanted more moments of down-time, like the one in which a weary Sutherland sits and looks at a dragonfly; she didn’t want the characters always to be going into feisty “hoopla” mode.

My sister was also bothered by the fact that we never find out all that much specific about Elizabeth or Mr Darcy, anything that they might build a relationship on; instead, they just get together because getting together is what they have in common. I replied by making an argument from Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics that I once applied to My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), regarding the “iconic” development of the characters — by downplaying their specificity, the film subjectivizes them and allows each of us to put ourselves in their shoes, instead of objectivizing them and encouraging us to observe them from a distance — but my sister would have none of that.

Anyway, if the 1995 BBC version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle really is better than this one, as many people have said, then I imagine I’m in for a real treat when I see it.

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