Ladies, ladies. Do you remember the smoldering look he gave Lizzie from across the room? Even atop the piano’s grate, we swooned watching his eyes betray his heart from the cold, proud edifice of his carriage. What the cleverly wrapped up ending does not let onto is that Mr. Darcy did not end up with Lizzie but instead with a woman of convenience.
I must be a glutton for punishment because I saw not one, but two movies in two days about unrequited love. This was quite unintentional I suppose since the primary force driving me to see them lay in:
— my love of historical fiction
— fantastic fashion and decor
“Becoming Jane” begins quite like “Pride + Prejudice”. Then with the omniscience of future-dwellers, we know her life will take a sharp turn. Jane Austen, as depicted in the movie has a capacity for writing and is a woman ahead of her time in an era when women depended on men for their survival. She chooses the high road of selflessness and the risky one of trying to eke out a living by her pen. Jane visits renowned author Mme. Radcliffe and remarks that though her novels are full of vivid detail, her life appears austere. Radcliffe comments and foreshadows that she writes out of what she does not have. Jane ends up taking these words literally. As they become her bread and wine, she writes out of what she knew and yet does not have currently, happy endings to stories of duress marking the way. She becomes this prolific author. Yet once aged as the Jane Austen, she sights her beloved, provoking a crack of betrayal in her carefully crafted composure. They observe each other and that is that. A list of her achievements don the screen and we learn he named his eldest daughter for her. The credits roll and it doesn’t feel like it’s enough.
“Moliere” accidentally falls for his insipid patron’s wife. He has been hired to teach his patron Msr. Jourdain how to act. Regretfully Jourdain is without talent and sense. His neglect of his wife and the caressing words Moliere has penned turn her heart toward his. But theirs is a love that is not meant to last. We know this, even as he pleads with her to leave Jourdain and join him and his troupe. It won’t happen. As he desires to involve himself in serious theatre, his aim is to write and play in tragedies. Instead he carves out a name for himself in history through the humorous plays he brings to his willing audiences. And whose advice fueled this direction, none but the now dying Mme. Jourdain. On her deathbed, he laments their final happy moments before parting. She is still goading him to invent a way to marry the tragic with the comic before the curtain closes over her eyes one final time. His eyes, we see looking behind the screen background, words mouthed over the actors reciting them to an audience. But those eyes are haunted, clouded with grief and tears. A rich legacy of drama his to bequeathe.
And so this leaves me with me. Wondering if great writers really do offer themselves up to their art, a sacrifice for the greater good. Wondering what modern day Darcy’s look like and how they are best recognized amidst all the cads roaming the streets like feral cats. I ask these questions and leave them, wandering back to the pen that waits uncapped, ready like a sentinel to the patrol the paper street upon which its lines will cut.