This past weekend was the annual meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) in Fort Worth, TX. It was a chance to meet people who before this have only been a photo and an email address. The breakout sessions were great but the highlight for me had to be hearing Andrew Davies talk about adapting Jane Austen for the screen. He wrote the 1995 Pride and Prejudice, Emma (1996 with Kate Beckinsale), and Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility (2008). He spoke about his own insights into Austen’s work — some that made it into the screen plays and some that did not. We also got to view some film clips along with his talk. Of course, we couldn’t miss the two scenes from P&P – the one in which Darcy and Elizabeth look longingly across the room at each other and Darcy’s wet shirt scene. Davies intentionally added several scenes to this movie to emphasize Darcy’s physicality including the opening scene of him and Bingley riding, Darcy fencing, and Darcy diving into the water.
He also pointed out something I hadn’t consciously noticed about the scene in which Darcy writes his letter to Elizabeth. He starts out fully dressed and over the course of the letter removes layers of clothing until he’s in his shirt sleeves almost as if writing the letter caused him to shed layers of formality he wore to keep himself safe from his feelings.
Another point Davies made was that it’s always good to go back to the original source! I think it’s time to reread P&P to look for insights. There’s always something new to discover!
After the conference formally closed, I was fortunate enough to join some other authors at an open book signing for fans in the Fort Worth area. Meeting people who love Austen as much as I do was great, and I was inspired by their dedication. Several drove some distance to be there that day and meet their favorite authors. I was touched when they promised to check out my book, too. I hope to hear more from these folks in the future.