The 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice is available on NetFlix and I’ve been watching it, a lot. Sure, I like Jane Austen enough, along with most early 19th Century what-have-you, but this movie in particular is one I just seem to return to again and again, and again.
The obvious reason is that the film was done very well. Unlike the recent Far From the Madding Crowd, which wasn’t so good, they really did a good job on everything about the film – music, casting, screenplay, setting, etc. Music is especially important to me in film; I would say Amelie, BladeRunner, The Piano, and this Pride and Prejudice are in my top 10.
However, that is only part of what captivates me about this film; that which prompts me to write about it. Now that I’ve watched the film about a dozen times I think I have figured it out. Looking past the characters and the action, to the Bennet house itself, is what I like most about the film. If I could just remove everyone from Longbourne and walk around for a bit, I would be very happy indeed!
To understand the rest of this post, you’ll need to watch the movie or none of it will make any sense. OK? OK, so onward then.
It’s hard to articulate, but it’s the realness about Longbourne (played by Groombridge Place) that I really enjoy seeing. The masonry is worn. The floorboards are dirty. The wainscoting and paint is weathered throughout the house. They clearly do not have enough household help to keep up with the daughters who have no idea how to keep things neat and tidy. Mr. Bennet’s study has so many piles of books and what-have-you that you expect an avalanche at any moment. It’s a well-used house that one might be tempted to recommend for a HGTV make-over.
The contrast between Longbourne and Netherfield or Pemberly is clear. Pemberly is practically presented as a museum, intended to inspire awe. It is remarked on several times how well-appointed Netherfield is. Even the Collin’s parsonage “of no mean size” is neat and tidy, no doubt well-kept by Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte, who quite “enjoys managing her own home.”
Clearly, Netherfield and Pemberly are the ideal; that to which we are meant to hope to inhabit. Perhaps, in my youth I might have agreed and desired to live in a museum. However, in my slightly-older age, I find myself drawn to the parsonage and Longbourne much more. In particular, as perfection in domestic appearance eludes me, I find myself looking forward to every scuff mark, worn thin painted surface, deteriorated masonry, and general mess to show how living in history doesn’t have to be pristine luxury or filthy destitution but rather a happy, well-loved middle ground. This is likely an obvious statement but the way the idea of home and cozy are presented in the movie just makes me wish I could be invited over for tea.
Of course, I can’t go to 1813 for tea. Instead, I have Bartram’s Garden, which is as close as one can get to Longbourne without leaving Philadelphia or the 21st Century. It’s a great deal smaller but the gardens and grounds are lovely and it’s a 10 minute drive from my house.
The idea of well-loved, cozy home is most apparent inside the home. Below are a few stills from the film with particulars noted.
It’s this realness that inspires me to take a moment and enjoy my little house even if it’s not perfect.