“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Jane Austen’s first line in her novel Pride and Prejudice is undoubtedly the most famous opening in English literature. The line tells us that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife, and by the end of the novel, a single man in possession of a good fortune does indeed find himself a wife! In fact, all the men in possession of fortunes end up with wives. Our opening line divulges a lot more truth than we agree to undertake at first glance. Not only does it introduce us to the novel, but it tells us precisely where the narrative ends. And for this reason, Pride and Prejudice, apart from being the greatest narrative of all time, is also a circular one. A novel that begins at the end, and ends at the beginning.
As an avid Austen fan I am aware that the novel, originally titled First Impressions, has mounted the horse of adaptation, and gone to work several times in the field of film. In direct contrast to the popular opinion, I believe the 2005 film directed by Joe Wright to be the most superior adaptation of the novel to date. My reason being, that this adaptation strives the most to be an adaptation. That is to say, it is a product that utilises the medium to convey the story in a unique way. Listening to the director’s commentary is like listening to a love story between art and artist. Every detail is thought about with great care; the symmetry shots expose the symmetry of our circular narrative, the colour variation of clothing from dark to light are mimicking the theme of failings of perception and then revelation of character through the windows of one’s own eyes. The intricacy of the storytelling goes down so deep so as to care for the position of the two girls in bed, Lizzie and Jane, first facing each other and then growing increasingly separate until they eventually, at novel’s end, do not share any bed but that of their husband. The ambitiously long, un-cropped takes are a tribute to the novel’s perfect pacing and place an emphasis on time and season.
There are significantly more of these details than one could ever put to page. Luckily, the film speaks entirely for itself; every watching creates a new fold, a new delicate layer of meaning. What fascinates me most however, is how the film treats and adapts that very first famous line of Austen’s novel, the way it is achieved and adapted will be discussed in this essay. First of all, I will say that it is achieved in a way that contributes not only to the film but the perception it gives back to the original novel. As stated above, when a story is told in a unique way, it becomes a good adaptation– it provides us with a unique outlook. Secondly, the first scene in question, that addresses the famous line of the novel, also speaks a resounding truth. In this essay we will also discuss the function that Mrs Bennet plays as a narrator, as the voice of truth and providence and why she is connected to that very first line of the novel.
We will define a circular narrative to be one that ends in the same place as it began. As touched on above, the novel Pride and Prejudice is circular or cyclical because the first line speaks the exact truth about where the novel ends. In order to discover how this cyclical function of the first line is adapted to film, we need not look any further than the opening scene. The film begins at a sunrise, we are in the country, a black bird is chirping and the director informs us that this bird is Elizabeth’s sound. To complete the circular form, the film must end in this very same manner, that is, it must end at sunrise. Shown below are the opening and ending scenes of the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film.
The Austenite will point out that the ‘ending’ scene I have given is not the final picture of the film, indeed it is not. The final picture of the film is of Mr Bennet, sitting in his study, appearing both jovial and sad that he has agreed to let his favourite go. The scene that I have shown then, is at the end of the story. Joe Wright tells us that, “This is basically the end of the film what follows is a coda,” and I would have to agree. Our promise outlined at the start of the novel is fulfilled in the scene above. Here we are shown the ending of our story, and it takes place at sunrise. “The sun began to rise, and we realised the sun was coming up just exactly between the two actors… and so the film is completely circular- that you start with the sunrise and end with a sunrise.” Our very first shot is being made equivalent to the very last. The sunrise is the definite tell, not only does it mean that this is the end of the story, that we have gone full circle, but the use of the sun is heavily indicative of time. The film places a huge emphasis on the theme of time and season. This fact will become more useful to us in the following paragraphs, but it is beneficial to take note of it here. The sun is used in the film to comment on the idea that, whilst the novel in it’s opening line is providing us with a truth, this truth will take time to come to fruition. Indeed, there is going to be time in which the story is told. The sun is representative of this time, is used throughout the film in this way, whilst still enabling the symmetrical framing of start and end. So far we have focussed on the techniques of film rooted in subject matter. Another vital addition to this very first scene is the choice of music, and so we must look to the soundtrack composed by Dario Marianelli and performed by Jean-Yves Thibaudet. The piece that appears in the first scene is aptly titled “Dawn.” Not only that, but “Dawn” reappears in the film when Georgiana Darcy is playing the piece, Lizzie is on the maid’s tour of Mr Darcy’s home, and she stumbles in on them both. The music is telling the viewer that Lizzie has come home (Pemberley), it exposes to us exactly where the wish-fulfilment will take place. Again, here we are seeing the symmetry and cyclical structure of the novel, the music therefore is also a definite tell as to the ending of the novel. To Lizzie and the viewer, it is throwing light on the promise the novel makes in its first line. “Dawn” is also played again at the end of the ‘coda’. I will begin to note here, that “Dawn” in its composition begins in a way that can be dictated by the person who plays it. Written into the sheet music is three distinct notes, these are the three first notes that appear at the beginning of the film. The performer is allowed to dictate how long the note is held before the main body of the music is played. To me it acts as a prelude, the performer has the choice to hold off as long as they wish, in effect they are given the choice to hold off from embarking on the story that is about to take place. This concept will become more useful when we come to discuss the next scene in which Lizzie is shown reading a novel. For now, we will use its significance to comment on the matter of the opening and closing scenes. If what follows from the ending scene shown above is the ‘coda’, then the music almost certainly acts as the ‘prelude’. It allows us circularity in that way, by functioning as the framing device of the story and hinting to us where the fulfilment of that first truth will take place. The story is being made to sit between the beginning and end, where we know the beginning and end to be the same.
Now, let us talk more specifically about this ‘prelude’ and what it signifies in the very next scene after the opening. The film introduces our heroine, a picture of the scene is shown below. The screenplay introduces Elizabeth like this, “Elizabeth Bennet, 20, good humoured, attractive and clearly nobody’s fool, walks through a field of tall meadow grass. She is reading a novel entitled ‘First Impressions’.”
An early draft of the novel published as Pride and Prejudice, was written under the title First Impressions. This title would have been a good fit, but the later one, Pride and Prejudice, a term coined by Austen’s contemporary Fanny Burney, seems to hold a lot more appeal. Most probably because everyone in the last two hundred years has heard of it at some point. None-the-less, we are provided with this wonderful detail in the 2005 film. Elizabeth is introduced to us as she is reading her own story. Joe Wright tells us that, “In a way what she is doing there is reading the story that’s about to happen to her.” Not only this, but as we look closely, we see that she has reached the end of this story. With an expert eye one can in fact see the last sentences of the novel Pride and Prejudice: “With the Gardiners, they were always on the most intimate terms…bringing her into Derbyshire had been the means of uniting them.” I am absolutely amazed by this detail and because of it, we notice something important; like the first line of the novel, by introducing Elizabeth as someone who has just read her own novel, the film is depicting the circular narrative to come. I also believe it a great tribute to how Austen, who wrote her novels in third person omniscient, dictates the relationship between narrator and character. The film has just handed the story to the character, like Austen seems to do after those few opening sentences of Pride and Prejudice. As touched on before, the opening sentence is circular, but I also seek to describe it as a time travelling one. Elizabeth has not only read the end of her story, but I believe it to signify that Elizabeth is literally at the end of the film when we first see her. The film asks the viewer to travel in time to the very end of the book. We are in a different time. Later we will discuss the significance of the moat in transporting Elizabeth back to the beginning of her own story, when she herself is ignorant of the events that are about to occur. For now, I will mention that because we are at the end, Elizabeth gets to choose when to start her story again. This is represented through the musical ‘prelude’ we discussed earlier. Elizabeth is fixed in this meadow, in this time and world, and she dictates how long before she returns from this world, how long to hold off before she begins her story anew, as if she is holding off from diving down the rabbit hole. When we see her close the book in this take of the film, she is accepting that she must return to it, just like Jane Austen first provides us with a truth, which at first glance is only a premise to the reader, and the author must seek to fulfil that truth throughout the course of the novel. If we move further along into the film and take note of the scene in which Lizzie is again seen reading a novel, it would not be a huge leap of faith to suggest that she is reading First Impressions. Only this time she is part way through, just as the character herself is part way through her story. In fact, I would not put it past the director for the book to be open at the exact page of the meeting that is occurring about them. Elizabeth is seen to close this book forcefully on account of something Mr Darcy has said.
When she closes the book this time, she is again asked to return to her own story. It is closed out of stubbornness, a moment of conflict in the film. Something that explicitly prevents the film from ending. We will discuss the relevance of symmetry further on, and how when we are presented in the film with any break of symmetry, the story must continue to take place. The narrative would not yet be circular and so it cannot end. Let us note here that by closing the novel forcefully, Elizabeth is agreeing to continue to live her own story. By including First Impressions, the film does a masterful job at adapting Austen’s circular narrative. It serves to remind the viewer that this is already a story, one that, like Elizabeth, we have probably read but seek to undertake again.
We have just shown that Elizabeth, when we first see her in the film, is at the end of her ‘prelude’. She has just read the last page of First Impressions, now we will look at the next scene and how the ‘moat’ provides us as means of transportation, for when she crosses it, she agrees to begin the story anew. The screenplay tells us that, “[Elizabeth] approaches Longbourn, a fairly run down 17th Century house with a small moat around it. Elizabeth jumps up onto a wall and crosses the moat by walking a wooden plank duck board…she walks passed the back of the house where, through an open window to the library, we see her mother and father, Mr and Mrs Bennet.” A picture of Elizabeth crossing the moat is provided below.
The director tells us that he “like[s] the idea of 5 virgins living on an island, surrounded by a moat.” Indeed this is the case, in the land over the moat, there exists five Bennet sisters that are about to be delivered into the world, and the vehicle to deliver them is the moat, or rather, the wooden plank that Lizzie walks back across. Further, I would like to suggest that the moat is responsible for ‘world-jumping’ or ‘time-travelling’ which, if we take what we said before about Elizabeth reaching the end of her story by reading First Impressions, she must in effect ‘time-travel’ or, as we will see shortly, she must jump into a new ‘world’ perhaps a parallel one. The evidence for the film trying to achieve this relies more in a happy accident but an accident that is a result of how the filming takes place only. The singularity I speak of is that the film provided ‘two suns’, this could not be a detail provided in the novel for instance. It is purely a result of film and so, to a degree, is providing us with something new to look at, some unique form of meaning as a result of making the adaptation. The ‘two suns’ arise because the director wanted the light to be at the back of the house in the scene in which she walks across the moat, and then at the front of the house when Elizabeth walks there. The director tells us, “so there are two suns. A bit cheeky but I don’t think anyone really notices. We wanted to create an atmosphere where you got led into the environment with Elizabeth.” The director cuts Elizabeth’s walk from outside to inside the house in two to take advantage of the lighting, and this makes for the happy circumstance of having ‘two suns’. By cutting the scene there is a discontinuity in the timing, and I believe it to be representative of two things: the first is that Elizabeth (as well as the viewer) has distinctly travelled in time. The second is that, because the cut provides us with ‘two suns’ we have performed a ‘world jump’, a new sun for a new world in which the Bennet sisters are now all placed on the island, that the story wedged between the ‘prelude’ and the ‘coda’ has now begun. The meaning that we can take from it might have been accidental, but the fact that there are two suns is no accident to the director, because as said previously, the product has arisen entirely due to the form of the adaptation. It is no small accident then, that we should again be influenced by the sun, as the film starts with the sunrise and ends with the sunrise. We have talked of the moat as the ‘vehicle’ that provides the means of time travel, and how as we cross the moat we are crossing onto the world or the ‘island of five virgins’. So we must look to it throughout the film as having this function. The next time we see Elizabeth walking by herself (and presumably over the moat) is to walk to Netherfield park to see her sister. Mr Collins also crosses the moat to call on the Bennets. When Lizzie rejects Mr Collins she is seen running over the moat to escape him and her mother. It is again crossed by Bingley and Darcy towards the end and, more than once, on account of Mr Bingley being insecure of himself. The moat continues to act as the draw bridge to the world of the Bennets and to the world in which the events must take place; the world beyond. Each crossing of the moat corresponds to a new conflict that must arise until the film ends in the ‘world beyond’ (where we are introduced to Elizabeth). In this way, the moat is responsible for passing time. We see again its ability to act as a ‘time-travelling’ device, as each crossing is representative of a conflict and allows the story to continue to progress.
Until this point we have looked at only the beginning and ending scenes to investigate how the film adapts the circular narrative of Pride and Prejudice. It begins at sunrise, we are introduced to Elizabeth as she reaches the end of the novel First Impressions. She then chooses when to cross the moat, which is indicative of her travelling back in time to begin the story anew. The ‘moat’ and the ‘two suns’ are evidence that she has indeed travelled back in time. The film has thus adapted the first famous line of Pride and Prejudice, responsible for providing the circular narrative, in a unique way. We will now go on to look at how the film continues this circular narrative through the continual use of symmetry. We have looked at one such example already, the musical piece “Dawn” is played once at the beginning, again when Elizabeth visits Pemberley, and once in the coda. This is a musical example, but there are many others not like it. We begin to look at symmetry in frame, both left and right symmetry and foreground and background, also symmetry of scene and the mirroring effect of odd numbers. We will also discuss how when symmetry is broken in the film we are witnessing the equivalent of someone crossing the moat; that is, we are witnessing conflict that progresses the story but prevents the story from ending.
It is quite easy to take note of the use of symmetry in the film because examples of them are provided in abundance. Below are four examples of left-right symmetry and one example of foreground-background symmetry of frame.
To understand the continual use of symmetry we must understand the circular aspect of the novel. We will come to discuss ‘mirroring’ and ‘fails of perception’ a little further on but for now, let us understand these pictures above as having importance to the cyclical nature of the beginning and end of the novel Pride and Prejudice. Very simply, we recognise a circle as being symmetric about any angle that crosses it in half. Would it be too much to suggest then, that the symmetry we constantly see appearing throughout the film is a take on the symmetry of the circular narrative? In my eyes it is not an overbearing assumption. For further evidence of this symmetry playing out, we move away from static frames and into the symmetry of scene. Look below at beginning and end of the ball in which Mr Darcy is introduced to the viewer.
Mr Darcy enters the scene with Mr Bingley and Caroline Bingley. We are made to hold off from seeing Mr Darcy’s face and then he is seen walking the entire length of the dance floor. At the end of this scene, Lizzie rebuttals a comment of Mr Darcy’s and leaves the scene by walking the entire length of the ballroom, her face out of view of Mr Darcy’s. This is the first example of the symmetry of scene in which the scene begins exactly how it ends, the story of the scene becomes housed in the middle. Another example of symmetry of scene exists on a broader scale within the film. The scene in question is shown below. Somewhere close to the beginning of the film we see a wide shot of Lizzie, she is walking from Longbourn to Netherfield Park to visit her sister Jane who is held up there with illness. This scene is framed by one at the end of the film in which Mr Darcy walks from Netherfield to Longbourn to propose again.
Just like our previous example, the scene begins and ends in the same way, in emphasising the walking to and from, only this time the symmetry is left with a broader amount of story to house in between. Not only is the film adapting the narrative structure in this new way, but we are seeing the film adapting its own techniques and applying them with micro or macro scale. In effect, we are shown that the circular narrative does not just take part at the very beginning and end but that it exists throughout the story in smaller and larger degrees. That the symmetries are held both long and short. Indeed, in the novel itself we are very much aware of timing and how the conflict is housed by symmetries. The most obvious one being the symmetry of character between Darcy and Wickham. When Lizzie sheds light on one, the other is held in darkness, when Lizzie holds Wickham in high esteem, Darcy is held in low esteem, when Lizzie overcomes her pride and prejudice, she holds Darcy in high esteem and Wickham in low esteem. The conflict of the novel is pivoted on the symmetry binding Darcy and Wickham together. Lizzie must uncover which of these men “has got all the goodness, and the other all the appearance of it.” Another obvious example of these symmetries found within the novel is the subplot of Mr Collins. We are informed at the beginning that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife, Mr Collins is evidence of just that. The subplot ends with Mr Collins being wed to Charlotte Lucas. Therefore, the narrative of the broader story, that of Lizzie and Darcy, is provided on a smaller scale in the characters of Mr Collins and Charlotte Lucas. Returning to the example above of scene symmetry in the film, we are able to take the framing of this ‘held’ scene, in which Lizzie and Darcy walk to and from Netherfield, to house most of the conflict within the film and form a large scale symmetry, in fact, these scenes act in a circular nature, they begin and end in the same way. My third and final example of scene symmetry functions to remark on the circularity of the theme in the novel. Before the Netherfield ball, we are presented with a scene in which Lizzie is placed before a mirror, she is preparing for the Netherfield ball with Jane. We are confronted again with Lizzie appearing before the mirror when she has just rejected Mr Darcy’s first proposal. The scene is shown below.
The ‘mirror’ is quite an obvious choice to adapt the theme of ‘fails of perception’ and is a symmetry in itself, but I have not picked it entirely for this reason; that it is easy to procure meaning from. I will prove this further by saying that the film also uses ‘windows’ to comment on the matter of ‘fails of perception’. When we see a character looking through a window in the film, they are looking through the ‘windows of one’s own eyes’, with a preconceived filter. I have picked the ‘mirror’ as an example because it functions as two things, first, the theme of pride and prejudice and second, it is an example of scene symmetry. Before the Netherfield ball Lizzie sees herself as knowing all, she is sure of herself, firmly believes that Wickham is in the right, and this image of Lizzie is reflected back in the mirror. After Darcy proposes we see a different Lizzie in the mirror, one that knows she has been stubborn and proud, that knows her preconceived ideas have hindered her judgement. As with the other scenes of symmetry, some story or conflict is housed by the beginning and end of the example and it provides circularity in this way. Let us think back to our static frames as acting as the ‘mirror’ and emphasising ‘fails of perception’. The foreground-background symmetry of Mrs Bennet chasing after her daughter represents the possibility of the narrative wanting Lizzie to conform, not only to listen to her mother but to be her mother; Lizzie could well have been the lady at Longbourn one day. The frame shows how they reflect each other in this manner. More specifically, let us extrapolate the meaning behind the frame in which the company is sitting down to dinner at Rosings. Draw a line down the middle of the scene and we can understand the perceptions the characters have of one another.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh is seen to act as the moderator, the filter, the pane of the mirror. First, Darcy is seated facing Anne, this is because in the eyes of society (and thus Lady Catherine) they are bound to one another. Mr Collins seats himself not in front of his wife but in front of Colonel Fitzwilliam, he thus sees himself as someone superior in rank and class than he actually is and is therefore asked to move by Lady Catherine. Lizzie seats herself in front of Charlotte (presumably because Mr Collins does not want to) but also because the stories of these two ladies run in parallel paths; Lizzie could have married Mr Collins. When Elizabeth moves she is asked to sit on the same side as Mr Darcy, she is asked to look at the world from his point of view and the film is thus hinting to us where the story must end. The underpinnings of the ‘perception’ is conceived by Lady Catherine, the symmetrical couplet of the dinner scene is when she storms into Longbourn and accuses Lizzie of being engaged to Darcy. She is allowed to enter this home by right because she is the aristocracy so she represents the ideals of society. It is for Lizzie to overthrow this ruling of the ‘moderator’ and dictate where she places herself at the table, in effect, it is her role to break the symmetry as Mr Collins does but, unlike Mr Collins, she should not return to it when she is threatened by the preconceived idea. To understand this concept a little more, let us look for breaks in symmetry. Mr Collins is a frequent contributor. At the Netherfield ball he steps forward to declare that he will be remaining close to Lizzie for the remainder of the evening. The scene is shown below.
By stepping forward he is literally breaking the symmetry of the dancers on both sides. He does this because he has sensed that he is not receiving the attention that he is due, that something is standing in his way. The scene that this is symmetrical to is Darcy’s first proposal. Lizzie and Darcy stand a fixed distance apart but the director informs us that “the mention of Wickham makes him step forward.” The break in symmetry then, represents a conflict, if when the dust settles and they remain on the same side, the story can end, if they are on opposing sides the story is prevented from ending. We are witnessing conflict that progresses the story but prevents the story from ending.
We will now move entirely away from the idea of scene symmetry but, we must still hold on to this concept of ‘mirroring’. This time, we will extrapolate on the idea of mirroring characters. We have already discussed the mirroring of quite of few character arcs, namely that of Wickham and Darcy, Charlotte and Lizzie, Mr Collins and Darcy and Lizzie and Mrs Bennet, there are of course other examples in the story. Among them are the five bennet sisters and how they exist as a unit. In the film, the director informs us that “[they] almost cut Mary out”, this would only be reasonable in the circumstances of film, for instance, because of the form of the adaptation this is a reasonable decision they could choose to make. A probable reason for cutting out Mary would be to let the other characters have more screen time, in fact, the film makers chose to cut Louisa Hurst. They did however, make the choice to keep Mary, so there must be some importance for doing so, and indeed, this is very much answered in the film. Like the novel, the film represents Jane and Elizabeth as a close pairing, Kitty and Lydia as another close pairing, and Mary sort of exists between these two pairs. Mary is logical and unfeeling towards attempts to thwart society and because of this she can be seen as the ‘mirror’ or ‘filter’ between the pairs. The director tells us that they chose to keep Mary because “the balance of having four rather than five would have been wrong…I quite like odd numbers especially in compositions.” At the end of the film, when Lydia has left the family, we see Mary reading aloud to Kitty. Joe Wright tells us that “Kitty has to find a new friend in Mary.. and they’ll grow closer.” As the story has gone along, there has been a transition of the mirror, just as Elizabeth has a transition of perception. These sisters once mirrored by Mary, disfigure and reassemble.
Through the continual use of symmetry, through mirroring, and through breaks of symmetry, the film attempts to set up, hint at, and resolve the circular narrative of the novel Pride and Prejudice. The symmetries exist in static frame, in the framing of scenes and in the mirroring of characters. In static frame, the film attempts to visualise the theme of ‘perception’ throughout the novel. In framing scenes symmetrically, we are made aware of the circular narrative by beginning and ending a scene in the same manner. Not only this, but the symmetry of scenes exist on micro and macro scales, mimicking reflections in the novel and placing an emphasis on time and season. The film is abundant with shots of symmetry and uses these techniques to represent the circular aspect of the novel.
We have indirectly discussed how the film tackles the role of the narrator through the novel Lizzie is seen reading in the opening of the film. We therefore believe that the story she has just read is about to take place; that the book is essentially dictating providence. The novel Pride and Prejudice begins with a truth given to us by the author or more specifically the voice of the narrator. The narrator very quickly passes over the reins to the characters that make up the novel, specifically, we are first introduced to Mrs Bennet, then later on, the heroine Elizabeth. But, the first line of the novel, given to us by the narrator sounds very much like something Mrs Bennet would say. In fact, the first line is almost immediately recounted to us again by Mrs Bennet, she says, “four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!.. You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.” In this way, Mrs Bennet becomes the narrator of the entire novel, she becomes the dictator of providence, the fashioner of destiny; her job within the novel is to bring about the truth of that very first sentence. There are many examples of her going about achieving this; the first truly active example of her dictating providence is when she sends Jane to Netherfield on horseback instead of the carriage, “No, my dear, you had better go on horseback, because it seems likely to rain; and then you must stay all night.” The outcome Mrs Bennet requires is explicitly stated and furthers her goal for Jane to marry Bingley who is a single man in possession of a good fortune. Another example is Mrs Bennet’s nerves throughout the novel; a physical response to the outcome in which her daughter’s do not end up with rich husbands. She is locked up in bed with nerves when Lydia has not been found, but when it is clear that she has become married to Wickham; a single man in possession of a fortune (thanks to Darcy), these nerves do not then persevere. It is crucial then that we take note of how the film adapts Mrs Bennet, as she is also responsible for bringing about the circular narrative that has been so emphasised. First, we have said that the novel ends as having satisfied the truth that it first undertakes, we must also agree here that although the omniscient narrator is responsible for providing us with that truth, the novel does not end in this same manner; with the (totally) omniscient narrator. The novel ends with the narrator kindly passing the story into the hands of the character of Elizabeth and this is where we see Elizabeth at the beginning of the film; with her own novel. In the film, when Mrs Bennet is bringing about the union of a rich man with one of her daughters or when they are at last becoming united, we primarily see Mrs Bennet through a window. Some examples are shown below. When it does indeed rain after Jane is sent to Netherfield she is seen looking out of the window. When Lydia leaves Longbourn a married woman, as Mr Bingley returns to Longbourn to ask for Jane’s hand and as she looks out upon Mr Darcy when he has come to ask permission for Lizzie’s hand, she is seen to be looking out of the window.
The film returns then to this idea of a ‘filter’ when we are being presented with the character of Mrs Bennet; the character who represents Providence. Instead of the film including the voice of the narrator as a voiceover (like the BBC adaptation of Emma, for instance), the story is being played out through Mrs Bennet’s ‘filter’ and thus her motives are actively ‘willed’ to take place. The film seeks to account for the voice of the narrator in the novel, by portraying her in this way. We also recognise that because she is looking through a window, the narrator herself seems to have a failed perception, for instance, Mrs Bennet is seen to pair Lizzie with Mr Collins with all her might, in the film she is seen physically chasing after Lizzie for this outcome. This event would provide truth to the first line; if Lizzie takes Mr Collins as a husband, she ends up with the man who is to be responsible for the fortune of Longbourn. The ‘filter’ that Mrs Bennet looks out from is hindered by this scheme, she is constantly working toward it and does not recognise that Elizabeth will only marry for love. At the end of the story Mrs Bennet is surprised but never against Elizabeth’s marriage to Darcy. The ‘filter’ that she works by, her motive and drive to provide the truth, is also the object that blinds the narrators voice from the story. In the end, Elizabeth must be responsible for creating her own destiny, and as we have pointed out previously, the novel ends up being given more kindly (by Austen) into the hands of the characters. The novel ends with the truth acknowledged, that is, circularly, but the tool for fashioning providence hangs more loosely in the author’s hands, and more generously into those of Elizabeth.
The film Pride and Prejudice directed by Joe Wright utilises the techniques of the medium to represent the circular narrative of the novel by Jane Austen. The novel begins and ends in the same manner; the first line dictates a truth; that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. To be truly circular, the object of the novel must be to bring about the pairing of as many single men with fortune with wives as humanly possible. By my count, all the single men in the novel end up with wives. The film seeks to undertake the medium of film and adapt this circularity in unique and effective ways. Namely, the film begins at sunrise and ends at sunrise, we see Lizzie reading the story that is about to take place, she then chooses when to embark anew on the narrative by crossing the moat, indeed we have found this crossing to be symbolic of ‘time travel’ through the happy occurrence of there being ‘two suns’. The pervasive use of symmetry in the film, both left-right and foreground-background symmetry of frame, the symmetry of scene, and the ‘mirroring’ of characters, all play their role in forming the circular narrative. These symmetries emphasise not only time and season, but fails of perception. Lastly, we were able to recognise the importance of Mrs Bennet’s character in representing the voice of the novel; she is the force of providence that seems to act only to bring about the first truth provided to us. The film attempts to teach us that providence, as an omnipresent force, is blinded by her motive. The author is left to place the narrative back into Elizabeth’s hands.