Times and Periods

I’m a big fan of period films. What that entails is the genre of movies that have their setting is a specific time period, one that is unlike our modern day society. It can range from the early 1900’s with an emerging society, the 18th/19th century with aristocratic tones, to the days of empires and rulers and conquests that once dominated Europe. There’s just so much rich history and different culture that is impossible to find nowadays, as we’re all to engrossed in our quick busy lives to really grasp and understand how things once were. So these little ~2hr snippets, if done properly, can really help immerse one into a time away from now and a place away from here.

In my ever present journey to read and consume new compositions of literature, I find myself currently  making my way through Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (it’s funny how this never made it’s way onto our canon of HS literature, at least at my HS). This masterpiece recently celebrated its 200th year of being a couple weeks ago, which is something extraordinary, as that holds as a testament to both the author’s writing ability and the subject material to pass through so many years but still be interesting and relevant to such a wide number and generation of readers. I do suppose I had come upon this sooner, as I’ve thus far been quite entertained through the various back and forths Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet have endured. My kindle says I’m only 44% of the way through, so I’ve still the majority of the story to unravel.

This novel and the characters are often cited as being one of the favorites of many young ladies. As I do not fall into that demographic, I cannot venture to say as to why.  On the other hand, I personally find the verbal sparring intriguing because it shows a semblance of life between the two characters and not just some idyllic puppy love that has no foundation of substance supporting such a relationship. Forgive me as I’m going to merely glance over the other very important themes that can be found in Austen’s writing, as they pertain to class and societal rankings, the art of courtship, individuality and not minding the remarks of others, and  so forth. As millions of others have critiqued upon over the years, the strong female lead in Elizabeth Bennet, even with her virtues (which may or may not be taken as vices), portrays a spirit such as that embodies a lot of the undertones we still have today in an independent woman that isn’t clingy or needy but rather knows what she wants and won’t settle for anything less. I guess on the female side of the spectrum, having a character that they love to hate and hate to love can be pretty analogous to some modern day relationships; Mr. Darcy’s wealth and ranking not withstanding.

There are times when we become impatient in life and are unable to bear the torture that comes with the agony of waiting. And so, I decided to watch the 2005 movie adaptation of the novel (directed by Joe Wright) starring Keira Knightley as the spirited Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen as the somewhat awkward Mr. Darcy (at least as portrayed here). I get that this wasn’t the most brilliant retelling of the story, but it was simple enough to get the plot across while detailed enough to at least bring the witty Miss Bennet to screen. (Mr. Darcy, as directed, seemed more of an socially awkward school boy than an aristocratically distant superior.) That aside, the Romantic inside of me still swooned a bit as [spoiler alert, for a nearly 10yr old movie and 200yr old book] the two managed to see past their differences and see how truly alike they are in the end. (And I couldn’t help but think about how another stunning headstrong female lead in another period genre caught my attention; that of Michelle Dockery as the Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey.. Maybe I’ll return to that series sometime after.) Such female leads/characters, placed in the right setting, can sometimes just be so downright attractive.

I also had the liberty of time today to watch another movie set before our time, in the recently released Anna Karenina, a film directed once again by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley. While the the period of this film is of Imperial Russia circa 1874, a curious thing about this movie is how the entire film is more or less set within the confines of a theater, which both adds and takes away from the overall narrative of the story (I still can’t decide what my overall opinion of this film is) . One thing’s for sure, the costumery of this film is more than exquisite; the abundance of shine and glamour really serve to drive in the feeling of illusion this film gives off. While it may seem as if the entire story is but a dream that is caught in passing, the entirety of the movie feels really slowly drawn out. Despite that, I enjoyed it because, again, it’s a period film, and it seems Keira Knightley is typecasted as a actor who often stars in such works. [Spoiler] The plot in summary really is just that girl leaves home, encounters a dalliance that which she knows she should not entertain, but against all wisdom, decides to anyway, with the sole reason being that she’s bored with her lot in life and is chasing after love, and casts all her wealth and status away for it, and eventually the judging condemning eyes of society drive her to commit suicide.

While I often enjoy immersing myself in these works that give me an escape from the here and now into a world of there and then, and sometimes even wonder if I’ve been placed into the wrong “when” of life, I’m reminded of a movie I sorta stumbled into, not knowing anything about other than the title and the lead actors in it. Starring Owen Wilson and Marion Cotilliard, the plot is that of a writer who, after a drunker stupor, ends up getting picked up by a vehicle and somehow magically transported back to the 1920’s, an era that he idolizes, where he encounters a number of famous people from then and has the chance to interact with them all. He chances to bump into a woman (mistress of Pablo Picasso, according to the movie), and he and her hit it off. He continually spends more and more nights in this period, and his absence is noted back in the present day with his fiance becoming more than a little upset at his late night wanderings. One night, while he’s in the 1920’s period, a horse-drawn carriage arrives and transports the writer and his lover to the 1890s, which was a time period that this mistress was in love with. As he sees how greatly she loved the time period before hers, he comes to the realization that “despite the allure of nostalgia, it is better to accept the present for what it is.” And as I was watching this film with others who ended up falling asleep during the movie, I myself came to a realization of how the entire movie seemed to capture some of my thoughts in a microcosm of time, and had taken me on a vicarious journey only to bring me to the conclusion that, while it can be good and fun to visit the past, the present is where we are, and where we’re meant to be.

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