Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The perfect Mr. Darcy

January marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, arguably her most popular work. To mark the anniversary, there are all sorts of events planned, from twelve hour readathons to themed balls. There have been a spate of articles this week about the book, including the one I saw today about all the different covers the various editions of the book have had over the last two hundred years. There have been a lot of them because the book has never been out of print.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Ms. Austen's book must surely be one of the most sincerely admired works of art ever. It sometimes seems that everyone and her dog has written a pastiche homage to the book. One of the latest of these was the dean of British mystery writers, P.D. James whose Death Comes to Pemberley came out in 2011.  It was also one of the most successful efforts at channeling Austen's spirit, in my opinion. (I reviewed it here.)

And then, of course, there are the film adaptations, which just keep coming, and which lead very naturally to the question, who is the best Mr. Darcy?. For the connoisseur, there is but one answer to that question. It is Colin Firth in the 1996 BBC series production that my daughters and I still rewatch periodically. As Elinor Lipman wrote in Huffington Post this week:
A geological sample of Darcy's core, as portrayed so beautifully by Firth, would show the following layers: at the bottom, his breeding and wealth. Undeniable. On top of that, confusion, the push-pull of class--egad, 10,000 pounds a year and a house 10 times larger than Downton Abbey! Who wouldn't be conflicted, falling in love beneath his station with a penniless girl in possession of an insufferable mother? Next: love-struck silence. And finally, which we learn from the housekeeper who has known him since he was four, a heart of pure gold. Before Disc Two, it is only hinted at. He stares at Elizabeth Bennet with an intensity that promises passion and--spoiler alert--a happy ending.
I would go even further and argue that not only is Colin Firth the perfect Mr. Darcy but all the actors in this adaptation are perfectly cast for their roles, from the odious Mr. Collins and slimy Wickham to Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine de Bourgh. After seeing it, I could never imagine other actors in these roles. Matthew MacFadyen and Keira Knightley in the Darcy and Lizzie roles? Give me a break!

As proof of my thesis, here's a short snippet from the film, eye candy for the day. 



It is a truth that must be universally acknowledged: Colin Firth in 1996 was the perfect Mr. Darcy and he will live as such forever in my daydreams.

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