Friday, August 13, 2010

Day 127: Gordon Bennett

“Gordon Bennett!” is an expletive of sorts that may be peculiar to England, and might be known only to the generation I grew up with as you don’t hear it so much these days. It was used (if you’ll forgive me) in the same way that people might say “Jesus Christ!” today, or another archaic one of my childhood which was “flippin’ Henry!” I’m sure if you dip into any Carry-On film of the 1960’s, Sid James will be “Gordon Bennetting” left, right and centre.

An example of the phrase in usage: the midwife says “Your wife’s given birth to a daughter sir.....number five I think?” to which the father, exasperated at yet another woman in the family replies “Gordon Bennett!!”.

That, I was thinking, would have been Mr. Bennett’s plight in Pride & Prejudice, where Bennett women abound everywhere and at every turn. In Meriton, or wherever else it was that they lived, I don’t suppose you could so much as go to the local pub or Seven-Eleven without running into one of the Bennett girls: Elizabeth, Jane, Kitty, Mitty, Ditty, Zitty and Flitty....sorry, I get confused after one or two Bennetts.

Let me put my cards on the table: I’m not a person who queues in the rain to see a film where too many women are wearing too many bonnets for too much of the time, which isn’t too say that I’m averse to the classics of the nineteenth century, I’m not; my love of Charles Dickens is well-documented on these pages. Let’s just say that I approach the world of Jane Austen a little guardedly, and so it was when I sat down for two hours of Pride & Prejudice to prepare for this piece, not helped by the fact that the “star” of this movie version - the latest version - is KFK.

“Who” might you ask is “KFK”? “KFK” is the acronym that I invented (don't let anyone else tell you that they came up with it, such is the widespread usage that it's now finding), and should have copyrighted, for Keira Knightley. The “F” of “KFK” represents a latterday expletive that ends in “ing”; whenever a film appears with this starlet in it, I can be heard to groan “....not Keira” Knightley?!" Look, it’s probaby a personal thing and just in case Ms Knightley is an avid bloggee of this sight, I humbly and abjectly apologise and ask not to mind me nor my opinions.

I just don’t get the KFK thing?! Since I first saw her in Bend It Like Beckham, I’ve been irritated by her prescence on screen. Irritated in Atonement (a McEwan book that I love), irritated in the dubious piece of work that is Love Actually (even though Ms K has a wonderful line in that movie), I just can’t get my head around those teeth that she bares and the weird-grin thing that she does that comes with them. I will stress however, that I did actually enjoy KFK’s performance in the 2008 film The Duchess. Maybe it’s because she plays a character - 18th century aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire - who is reviled? Does that make me a cad?

I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy Pride & Prejudice, neither did I not enjoy it, but one thing that it certainly has made me do, is want to rush out and and buy a copy of the BOOK. I have Emma and Northanger Abbey, both accquired for fifty cents in garage sales that I’ve alighted upon, both never read, but I don’t have P&P, and I want to read it. One of my problems with the film (maybe it’s just this version) is that things moved too quickly; one minute Darcy is a, well, he’s a snobbish bounder and then in the blink of an eye he’s come good and it’s “on again”. And, conversely, then he is in Elizabeth’s good books, only for her to learn seconds later that he’s carried out some deplorable act and her dream (and mine) is shattered and Lizzie must change her mind back again. It’s like someone has the remote and keeps channel-surfing her emotions.

Jane Austen wrote Pride & Prejudice the year after Charles Dickens was born, but they fished the same literary pond. What my very poor figure of speech is meant to offer up, is the notion that I know, from my reading of Dickens, that pages and pages and pages and more pages must elapse between major plot points that affect things like, how I and the protagonist think of another character; that’s the whole point. I bet if I read P&P, I’ll find that for page after page I’ll be with Elizabeth Bennett and her thoughts, her loving thoughts of Darcy, only eventually to find out that we’ve both been wrong when we hear how he’s done something “dastardly”?

I want to know more of Elizabeth Bennett because I like her; I like her strength, her wit, her independence, her suredness of self, her way with words, her fearlessness and I’d like to spend more time in her company as Jane Austen wrote and saw her; not as this film saw her. Keira Knightley is by no stretch of the imagination horrible in this film, and I’m certainly not championing for “Queen” Cate in the role, but maybe I have to go back to the 1940 adaptation and Greer Garson because I’ve been trawling through cast breakdowns for every other TV and film version and I can’t find an actress in the role that makes me think “Hmm, now that’s an Elizabeth Bennett I’d like to seee?”.

Maybe it’s avery tricky casting decision? My actrines of choice: Emily Watson (Breaking The Waves), French actress Isabelle Huppert, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Australian Susie Porter, Julianne Moore, all women who I would have liked to have seen as Elizabeth Bennett, but then, I’m a writer, not a director, nor a producer, casting is not my forte, what would I know?

Day #127 Tip: The Affective Plot
“There is a change in attitude and belief here, but not of the general and philosophical thought. The problem in this type of plot is for the protagonist to come to see some other person in a different and truer light that before, which involves a change in feeling.” That’s our regular story panellist norman Friedman (‘Form and meaning in Fiction’, University Press of Georgia, 1975).

That’s Elizabeth Bennett’s journey to discover Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (a pleasant discovery) and Marlow’s odyssey to find Kurtz in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (an unpleasant discovery); put filmically, Captain Willard’s voyage into deepest Cambodia to unearth the darkness that is Colonel Kutz in Apocalypse Now .

So, I’ve now been introduced to the world of Jane Austen, I’m not sure how long I’ll loiter in her world, but it will be time enough to marvel some more at the quick-wittedness that is Elizabeth Bennett; doesn’t mean, for a second, that I’m a convert to the wiles and charms of Keira Knightley nor Bridget (“Bridge”) Jones . Though I do wish both those women well, neither has affected a change in my least not just yet anyway.

More plot tomorrow.


  1. Hating someone for their teeth seems a bit excessive?

    And the character she plays in The Duchess isn't reviled at all (quite the opposite). Except, it appears, by you. :-P

    In any case all your choices for Lizzy Bennet are quite unsuitable. She's supposed to be a twenty year old girl, you see.
    Read the book - it might clear up some other misconceptions you seem to have regarding the plot.

  2. Look no further that the 1995 BBC P&P with Jennifer Ehle as 'our Lizzy'. Superb cast, brilliant adaptation. Tx

  3. Dear "virtually anon", I never said that I "hated" anyone? "Irritated" yes, but no hatred. I take your point about the suggested actresses, what I should have added was that when they were of the appropriate age to play Elizabeth.