Macfadyen VS Firth

Okay…okay…I’m just going to come out and say it because there is no easy way to build up to this.

I believe Matthew Macfadyen (henceforth to be known as MM) was a better Darcy than Colin Firth.

*shields self from inevitable barrage of pointy objects*

Look, I’ve had this argument many a time with fellow P & P enthusiasts whose line of Firth defense is more or less to stick their fingers in their ears and go ‘LA LA LA LA LA LA’ very loudly until I stop poisoning the air with my crazy talk.

The more articulate amongst them are blinded by the brilliance of the 1995 adaptation in which Mr Firth so brilliantly starred. Notice I said brilliantly? He was brilliant. There is no question about it – Colin Firth is an excellent Darcy.

However.

MM’s portrayal was mired in the less successful 2005 adaptation and it seems his performance is tainted by association (at least, in the eyes of many Firthians).

While the 1995 miniseries clocked in at nearly six hours, Joe Wright attempted to squash the story into barely 120 minutes. Things were going to be altered, excluded, changed, as is the case with pretty much any film adaptation of a text of its size. No one complains nearly as vocally about Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility and this is because there was no miniseries of the 1995 P&P calibre to compare it to. Poor MM never stood a chance. No one was able to appreciate his performance because they were too busy comparing the production as a whole to the vastly more detailed 1995 one.

There is no question that Colin Firth was an inspired choice for the portrayal of Jane Austen’s most famous gentleman character.

Exhibit A

 

But here are my main three reasons for thinking MM did it better:
1. He is closer in age to the character as he was written.
Boom. Colin Firth was in the longer adaptation and could speak more of the dialogue, but MM was THE RIGHT AGE. And as for attractiveness, well that’s perhaps the most subjective factor of all. I think both men were aesthetically appropriate for the romantic lead in a Regency era film. They are both tall, dark and handsome and to say one is better-looking than the other is a wee bit too shallow for me to endeavour.
2. He is vulnerable, and you can see it.
Upon beginning the text, one would be forgiven for thinking Mr Darcy was a stuffy, snobby douchebag with a pole up his arse. As the story unravels, we witness his shyness, and the fact that he is somewhat socially inept becomes endearing. What Elizabeth perceives as his ‘pride’ comes less from self-absorption and more from self-preservation. His arrogance is a mask, and one he uses to protect what he is feeling from anyone who may not be suitably intimidated. I like MM’s depiction of this because he let’s the audience glimpse it, just momentarily, before the mask comes back up and he goes on the defensive. This is probably best displayed in the proposal scene in the rain (and YES, I know they took poetic license with the rain, I’ll talk about that in a sec).

3. The scene at Pemberley with Georgiana.

I think when Elizabeth observes him with Georgiana, and the effect she has on him, this is the moment her feelings change for real. I know it’s hard to argue with the lake scene from 1995 (and THAT is why you cannot complain about the rain scene in the 2005 version), but MM at Pemberley showed Lizzie his most human side, even after she had rejected him. And that, more than anything, proves to her that she was wrong about his pride.

From the way I’ve been describing him, it sort of sounds like MM has been dropping his guard all over the joint, but rest assured this is not the case. He is still quintessentially Darcy, using his moments of vulnerability to provide the audience with a glimpse into his psyche, in an adaptation that isn’t long enough to include telling lines of his appreciation for ‘fine eyes’. The whole world is perfectly at liberty to prefer Colin Firth, but these are the iron clad reasons for my own opinion.

Isn’t it amazing that I procrastinate SO HARD on my assignments and manage to come up with this instead of doing any work? I really need to get a life.

Oh. And, um…

PS. Another reason to hush up about the rain scene…

So there.
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