Lost in Austen

Lost In Austen

I confess. Since I stumbled across Lost in Austen, a Mammoth Screen/ITV television production, I have become addicted to this Pride and Prejudice inspired fantasy and been contriving to get a dose of it every day, multitasking between desktop, laptop computers and TV sets, in one way or the other. This behavior no doubt qualifies as an unprecedented “fresh lunacy”. I had never watched anything more than twice back to back, but now I I’ve been watching Lost in Austen daily for three weeks running and wanting more still…

My first experience with Pride and Prejudice was watching the 1940 movie by MGM, staring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. Despite the monochrome presentation, it is an entertaining romantic comedy and led to discovery of Jane Austen’s book be and BBC’s 1995 TV adaptation. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice had since become my favorite love story ever. I love the book; I love BBC’s 1995 TV series and 2005 major motion-picture adaptation by Working Title Films. But none of them gets me hooked the way Lost in Austen does.

As a spin-off based on Jane Austen’s impeccable premise for Pride and Prejudice, the originality of Lost in Austen is impressive and refreshing. Through cleverly swapping places between Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennet and 21 Century London girl Amanda Price who is infatuated with Pride and Prejudice, screenwriter Guy Andrews gives the well known and beloved story a modern spin and a pleasant injection of humor. Lost in Austen craftily makes over characters of Pride and Prejudice, places them in different situations, turns and twists its storyline into surprisingly unexpected outcome and ending. It is a delicious fun from beginning to end.

I can’t get enough of it and every viewing seems to only have whetted my appetite for more. “It is more than light-hearted fun. It has layers. It is rich. It is complex.” I find myself try to make sense of my craze that almost mirrors Amanda’s for Pride and Prejudice, “…The words say themselves in my head…It is like I am actually there… Whoa! Amanda.”

A twenty-something client representative with Sanditon Life of London, Amanda, played by Jemima Rooper, is worth £27,000 a year and has an unromantic boyfriend, Michael. She escapes to Pride and Prejudice for “love story, the manner, the language, the courtesy, the pace of courtship, the stately and elegant ritual”. The loveliness of Jane Austen’s world becomes her standard. Her mother reminds her, “You are what you are” and urges her to accept Michael’s marriage proposal. But she turns him down.

As soon as she is transported by chance into Jane Austen’s world of Pride and Prejudice, the clash of the two different worlds begins. Her modern ways cause stir and shock. She is deemed by Mrs. Bennet “…unkempt, indelicate and not at all couth…” She gets a cutting put down by almighty Mr. Darcy. Yet, exact same Amanda, free spirited, independent and spunky, inspires, intrigues and wins admiration.

Along with her struggle to put things afloat the way Jane Austen had ordained, she undergoes a journey of self discovery. George Wickham, “fascinated” by Amanda, flirts with her boldly and declares to her, “How very alike we are. We see the world the same way. We have the same scent. I can smell myself on you.” Ironically it is Lady Catherine de Bourgh who gets Amanda right, “What you want, my dear, frightens you to death. That is why you fail to comprehend yourself.” Oh Crickey! There are traps for the gullible. But one cannot help compare Amanda to Elizabeth and oneself to Amanda.

Inevitably, we come to face Mr. Darcy, who is morally upright and, despite a forbidding pride, kind and loyal to those he deems deserving. I will digress a bit to object the notion, like that of UK journalist, Sheryl Plant, that Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy is deeply patriarchal, dominant and controlling, possibly to the pint of violent potency, and that women are drawn to him because we are “educated to associate brutality with sexual passion and true love”. Do not presume to speak for me! Any woman with an ounce of self-respect would be instantly turned off by brutality and abuse. No, no, that is not why we love the enduring Mr. Darcy. We love Mr. Darcy for his steadfast love for the heroine, which drives him to overcome his pride and bends his principles, and for his open-mindedness and willingness to improve for better and for his love.

Also inevitably, I compare the Mr. Darcys. All of them are incredibly handsome incarnations of Mr. Darcy; it is the nuances of characters and manly appeals that set them apart. Collin Firth’s Darcy is most faithful to Jane Austen’s Darcy; he wears the arrogant mask to the point of rudeness but he lacks intensity in other departments. The lake scene, that is not in Jane Austen’s book but spearheaded by BBC’s 1995 TV series, swoons armies of women but does not float my boat. Matthew MacFadyen’s Darcy is subtly passionate and sensitive but comes through with a sort of vulnerability that makes him at once weak and adorable. Elliot Cowan’s Darcy, “looks like a Greek statue and talks like one”, is my favorite. A blend of smoldering good look, erect bearing and haughty air makes Elliot’s Darcy a mesmerizing sight to behold. It is however the intensity and diversity of emotions pulled off by Elliot Cowan that make his Darcy riveting. I am convinced Elliot is the perfect Darcy as he conveys Darcy’s hallmark pride, his pig-headedness, his struggle, humility, loyalty, tenderness, curiosity and childishness, so forth. Ultimately, with “I love you… I will harrow hell to be with you”, Elliot’s Darcy is incandescent with explosive wattage. At the lake scene, where Elliot emerges from the lake in semi-sheer white shirt, wet and clingy against his David-esque physique, Mr. Darcy is simply irresistible.

All That Aristocrat Languor…

Wickham’s here.

If You Touch Me Again, I’ll be Completely Unable to Say What I Want to Say.

There Is More to Say, If only the Same Words Over and Again.

What Jaundiced Pertinence is this?

What is this Dreadful Place?

Maybe that is the thing; I am gaga about Elliot Cowan’s Darcy. Pathetic, I know. He is after all a “pretend person”, a joint creation of Jane Austen, Guy Andrews and Elliot Cowan. What is the use of creating or hankering for something that would not materialize?

Nevertheless, I am seriously charmed; many thanks to the brilliant folks who made it happen. The entire cast is fabulous and its performance vital to success of the production; among the shining stars, Gemma Arteron’s rendition of Elizabeth is impressive for brief appearances that spans two centuries, as the tallest person of the group, Guy Henry successfully turns out the most comical and as ridiculous as ever Mr. Collins. Christian Henson’s music does well setting the moods; it zings through seamlessly and ends at a beautiful love theme. I congratulate the location team on pegging down at Harewood House; every Pemberley is stately and breathtaking but the lake and garden terrace at this Pemberly is unsurpassed in its romantic ambience. Credit is also due to costume and make up whose magic brings about incredible transformation.

In light of fashion, I am reminded of this particular scene. Amanda’s boyfriend Michael challenges Darcy in a fit of jealousy. The mannerism between the two couldn’t be starker. As Elizabeth Bennet acknowledges to Darcy, “The world is greatly changed”. Jane Austen would be very surprised to find romanticism has gone a very long way, be it fashion of wear or fashion of expression.

For the helplessly romantic, “Love conquers all” is a heartening and happy message. Our heroes and heroines seal their love with passionate kisses. Lost in Austen however leaves room for one to question if happily-ever-after are secured for all our beloved heroines. This could be by design but nonetheless less satisfying than Pride and Prejudice.

Contemplates Life without the Woman He Loves.

Miss Price.

I purchased the Region I DVD for Lost in Austen. It is much better watching it on the 60inch. But I was disappointed to find a couple of alterations. An important scene where Amanda sings for the Bingleys and Darcy is deleted and Amanda’s original cell phone ring tone, theme from BBC’s 1995 TV series, was replaced by some nondescript, generic sound. It is a shameful compromise to the quality of the work for the petty intent of avoiding to pay for the musical pieces involved. Luckily, there is no other spoil found.

I will grimace when it comes to the singing scene but I’d still be lost to Lost in Austen over and over again.

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