Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I walked upstairs tonight after "House," fully intending to put on the new Jackson Browne CD. When I opened the CD player, I saw that Debra, my wife, had been listening to music today while she worked: Sarah Vaughan, George Winston, the soundtrack to the 2005 film version of Pride & Prejudice. I put the Jackson Browne into the player, but instead played the soundtrack.

This is not the kind of music that I normally listen to. Pride & Prejudice is not the kind of movie I normally watch, nor is it the kind I book I normally read. But there is something about Pride & Prejudice - both book and movie - that pulls me in every time. And while the 1995 Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth version is no doubt definitive (and yes, we own that one too), I confess to a fondness for the 2005 film version, starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy. The purists said that Knightley was too beautiful to play Elizabeth, and while from a literary standpoint that might be true, from a cinematic view it's hard to imagine a better match between character and actor. In a previous post I called her performance "luminous," and that still sounds right today. Macfadyen is also very good, although he will never, no doubt, replace Colin Firth in the hearts and minds of the many Jane Austen fans who rightly praise that performance as a great one.

In a great movie, all the components combine to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. And for me, the soundtrack of this film is the part which pushes the film beyond the very good into the realm of greatness. Composed by Dario Marianelli, it is the most memorable soundtrack since the great John Barry's magnificent soundtrack for Out of Africa. I cannot think of another film score which meshes so well with each scene, which is so evocative of the emotions of the film that with each listen, the sounds of the each track immediately conjure in my mind the scene for which it served as background. I hear "Your Hands Are Cold," and the scene where Elizabeth looks out on the field, and sees Darcy walking to her, his coat billowing in the breeze, is plain as day. Marianelli's score throughout the film has been building up to this moment, using similar themes in different pieces which never quite reach a climax. But when Elizabeth sees Darcy walking towards her, and they come together, and become one, the music reaches a crescendo which the composer has saved for just this moment. Perfect is the only way to describe it.

And "Mrs. Darcy," the final and somewhat controversial scene in the movie - the music fills the heart, and leaves the listener with no doubt that the life ahead for Mr. and Mrs. Darcy is going to be quite happy indeed.

Sometimes, music is just a happy accident. A soundtrack for your life.

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