“He’s been most inconvenient since I swore to loathe him for eternity.”
I love period movies—movies that take us out of the present day and transport us through the years into a world that acts, talks and dresses differently from the way we do today. And period movies usually tell stories that just couldn’t work in our time, whether it’s because of governments, or ideologies, or mores, I feel that characters seem to be a bit more limited in what they can do, just because I am living in the same world they are and as such I feel a bit more informed in the directions the story can go.
You might think that in bringing this up, that I’m talking about movies set in Victorian England, or the Old West America, but this also very much relates to science fiction movies. Star Wars is one of the greatest period films ever, as are all of the Star Trek TV Shows and movies. It’s the removal of the story from modern sensibilities that allow the storytellers to introduce concepts and ideas that are foreign to us.
In the case of a futuristic period film, the filmmakers have limitless possibilities. They are able to make up separate histories and cultures. As is seen in Joss Whedon’s masterful series Firefly and the feature film Serenity where he jumped 500 years into the future and created a universe where civilization lived and spoke much as they did in the wild west, with a fusion of the Chinese culture and sayings.
So where is this rant coming from? Well, I just recently watched Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. I don’t know why I didn’t make more of an effort to watch it in the theater, but I thought it was a real treat.
Pride and Prejudice is based on a novel by Jane Austen and is about a girl named Elizabeth Bennet who meets a grumpy Mr. Darcy and vows to hate him for all eternity because of his rudeness. As the story progresses, Elizabeth learns details about Mr. Darcy that… well, that would be telling, now, wouldn’t it?
Of all the stories I’ve read and all of the movie versions of these kinds of films, for some reason I’ve missed this one, so as my first exposure to this story, it was a good experience. Though I will admit that there were parts of it that seemed rushed, or that made me feel like we just missed something that would have explained the situation better, but was cut because of time. Maybe people who are more familiar with the story can fill in the blanks and don’t miss it, but it really made me want to either read the book or watch a more complete version of it, like the BBC Miniseries.
As a period film, this movie didn’t fail to please me, the costumes were beautiful, the cinematography stunning, and the language was elegant—though as always, I needed a warm up time to tune my ear to it before I felt like I was catching all that they were saying.
It was during Pride and Prejudice that I realized what it is about movies that I like the most—their ability totally remove me from the modern world into a time and place completely foreign and fanciful. Whether it’s 150 years ago or 200 years into the future.
One more thought about Keira Knightley: I don’t know if everyone is aware of this, but she played the queen’s decoy in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (pictured above in the foreground, Keira Knightley is on the left and Natalie Portman is on the right). Anytime you can see Natalie Portman as Padme, the handmaiden, that’s Keira in the royal dress and makeup. So I just have one question—which of the two now is the bigger star? It sure seems that you see Keira Knightley a whole lot more nowadays than Natalie. Is there a stigma associated with the Star Wars Prequels? Maybe she’s so unrecognizable in the makeup that people just haven’t made the connection to Star Wars.