Mike Kueber's Blog

January 15, 2015

A fan letter to Deborah Moggach re: the Pride & Prejudice script

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 3:04 am
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Because of my obsession with Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, I have re-read the book annotated by Patricia Meyer Spacks, re-watched the 2005 movie with Keira Knightley, and read the Deborah Moggach script of the 2004 movie. After reading the amazingly well-done script, I wrote Moggach a fan letter as follows:

Deborah,

In the past few weeks, I have become a huge fan of Pride & Prejudice. After seeing the 2005 movie that was based on your script, I followed up to watch the 1995 BBC version of the movie and then read Jane Austen’s book.

Today, I read your P&P script on IMSBD.com and loved it.  Austen provided great dialogue in her book, but you enhanced it. And although the director was pretty faithful to your script and even made some improvements (“completely and perfectly and incandescently happy”), there were some really good things in the script that apparently were edited out.

Your website includes some comments and insights from you regarding your books. I suggest that similar information about the Pride & Prejudice script for be similarly interesting.

Best wishes,

Mike Kueber

 

Moggach condescended to respond as follows:

Dear Mike, thank you so much for your v nice email, I’m so glad you enjoyed the film. I haven’t included info on the script because so many other people were involved in it – in fact I don’t even have a copy of it! Sometimes I can’t remember what’s mine, what’s Austen, and what’s a whole raft of other people. And then, in the process of being turned into a film, all sort of other changes were made. So it’s really such a complex thing I couldn’t start to disentangle it…but thanks again and best wishes Deborah

 

I subsequently compiled the following list of significant differences between the script and the 2005 movie:

  1. The opening scene in the script shows Mr Bingley moving into Netherfield, with the following description: “A vast mansion is coming to life. Maids pull dustsheets off furniture….” The scene also includes the book’s famous opening sentence: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” The second scene in the script consists of the Bennet family at Longbourn House learning of the new tenant at Netherfield. (Incidentally, the scene also includes our heroine Elizabeth reading a book titled First Impressions, which was actually the early title given to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In the movie, the viewer can’t see the title of the book the Elizabeth is reading.) The actual movie skips the first scene and jumps immediately to Longbourn. But the script’s first scene is eventually used in a reversed way when Netherfield is shut down a few weeks later and several male servants are shown putting dustsheets on the furniture.
  2. In the script, during Elizabeth’s stay at Netherfield to nurse her ailing sister Jane, she awakes in the morning and notices Darcy appearing very manly – “Darcy gallops through the countryside. Darcy, exhausted, rides into the stable yard. In the corner is a trough and pump. He strides up to the pump, puts his head under it and douses himself with cold water. From a window Elizabeth looks out at Darcy. Darcy looks up and for a second catches Elizabeth looking down at him. She turns from the window.” This important scene is omitted from the movie.
  3. As the Bennet women leave Netherfield, the script indicates that Elizabeth and Darcy say goodbye to each other formally, but “share a look.” In the movie, they share a look, but more importantly, he surprisingly takes Elizabeth’s hand to help her into a carriage, and her look of surprise at this act is probably the movie’s most memorable image.
  4. In the script, Bingley’s decision to abandon Jane is explained in a letter from Bingley’s sister that reads as follows: “Mr Darcy is impatient to see his sister and we are scarcely less eager to meet her again. I really do not think Georgina Darcy has her equal for beauty, elegance and accomplishments, so much so I must hope to hereafter call her my sister. It is my duty to indulge you in no hope in this respect for your own self.” Inexplicably, the last sentence in this quotation, which vastly clarifies Jane’s situation, was omitted from the movie.
  5. The second most climatic scene concerns Darcy’s first offer of marriage to Elizabeth. Following Elizabeth’s harsh rejection, the script provides that “Darcy recoils, as if slapped. A terrible silence.” Then, after Darcy says, “Forgive me, madam, for taking up so much of your time,” he leaves abruptly. “Elizabeth watches him stride away, through the rain. What has she done? She bitterly bursts into tears.” By contrast, the movie has Darcy first lean in toward Elizabeth and she responds like they are going to kiss, and then after he walks away, she looks stunned but nowhere near tears. From the first time I saw the movie, I didn’t understand the movement toward a potential kiss because neither character was so inclined at that time.
  6. In the script, Elizabeth later re-read Darcy’s letter and noted a p.s. – “P.S. As we shall never meet again, I wish you all happiness in the future.” This sentence was missing from the letter in the movie.
  7. The script contains a scene for Darcy to visit Bingley and confess his wrong-headed conspiracy to separate Bingley and Jane. Although this action is subsequently inferred by Elizabeth, it would have been helpful leading up to Bingley’s proposal.
  8. The night of Jane’s engagement, the script has Mr and Mrs Bennet in bed discussing the day’s development, but the script fails describe any particular sentiments. By contrast, the movie shows the couple acting very affectionately, which is something heretofore unseen in the movie (or the book). And I wasn’t the only one to notice this affection. A P&P fanatic (Ed) with a comprehensive website (Exceedingly Jane.com) noted the following in his description of the 2005 movie – “Does Donald Sutherland lean over to kiss Brenda Blethyn when they’re in bed near the end? Very sweet.” http://www.exceedinglyjane.com/ppfav.htm#2005
  9. Other than the near kiss following Darcy’s first proposal (mentioned in #5 above), the weirdest writing and/or acting occurs during Darcy’s second proposal when, according to the script, he says, “I would have to tell you, you have bewitched me body and soul and I love and love and love you. And never wish to be parted from you from this day on.” What does “I love and love and love you” mean? In the movie, Darcy changes it to “I love, I love, I love you,” but without any sort of stuttering or stumbling that would seem appropriate to this phrasing. Who knows? The book contains none of these assertions of love, but has Darcy merely saying, “My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.”
  10. When Darcy asked Elizabeth if her “feelings are still what they were last April,” the book’s narrator simply said that Elizabeth “immediately, but not very fluently gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change… as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure, his present assurances.” In the movie, Elizabeth takes Darcy’s hand but only says, “Well, then. Your hands are cold.” Only the script provides the eloquence we have come to expect from Elizabeth – “I am very happy to inform you that not only have my sentiments changed there are no other words which could give me greater pleasure.
  11. The script provides for the engagement to be sealed with a kiss: “Darcy stares at her. They both start to cry. Darcy very, very slowly and gently touches her face. She closes her eyes. They kiss. She touches his face with her hand, the kiss becomes passionate.” By contrast, they only touch foreheads in the movie
  12. The script ends with a survey of the cast during the wedding party, during which Elizabeth and Darcy find a place to be alone, where he says that his love for her “was in the middle before I knew it had begun.” She asked if he admired her impertinence, and he said, “For the liveliness of your mind, I did.” She teasingly responded, “You may as well call it impertinence, though make a virtue of it by all means. My good qualities are under your protection, and you are to exaggerate them as much as possible. And, in return, it belongs to me to find occasions for teasing and quarrelling with you as often as maybe… and I shall begin directly.” By contrast, the movie concludes without a survey of the cast at the wedding party and the couple’s intimate conversation consists of the terms of endearment that Darcywill be permitted to use for Elizabeth:
    1. Never say, “My Dear,” because that is what Mr Bennet would call Mrs Bennet when he was cross about something;
    2. Lizzie for every day;
    3. My Pearl for Sundays;
    4. Goddess Divine on very special occasions; and
    5. Mrs Darcy when completely and perfectly and incandescently happy.At that point in the movie, Darcy asks Elizabeth, “How are you this evening, Mrs. Darcy,” and then the movie concludes similar to how the script had concluded the engagement scene – “Darcy stares at her. They both start to cry. Darcy very, very slowly and gently touches her face. She closes her eyes. They kiss. She touches his face with her hand, the kiss becomes passionate.” Go to black.

 

 

 

 

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