8 July 2013

Mr Darcy Emerges from a Lake: Again

It wasn’t quite how Jane Austen had originally intended. In fact she never wrote the passage at all.  Yet a certain scene from the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice caused so many hearts to flutter that it has gone down as one of the fondest remembered moments of British TV of all time. And now it’s happening again, albeit in London’s Hyde Park and courtesy of a trio of artists.

The scene (above) which raised the blood pressure of (at least half of) a nation saw an amorously frustrated Mr Darcy take a dip in the lake of his country pile, Pemberley.  His ardour somewhat cooled, he stalks to his house in sodden but still smouldering condition. He then bumps in to the object of his thwarted desires, Elizabeth Bennett and Georgian embarrassment ensues.  What was intended to be a rather comedic scene lit a million candles: it is said that Colin Firth became a movie star on the basis of his wet linen shirt and breeches.

While Mr Firth has had to live with this mixed blessing on his career, life went on.  The long deceased Miss Austen no doubt turned in her grave when the scene was interpolated in to her masterpiece and became the subject of countless viewer reminiscences, all as moist as Mr Darcy’s flannel.  Right now the poor dear is probably spinning faster than Linda Blair’s head in The Exorcist.

Why? Mr Darcy is, as you can see, once more emerging from a lake but this time he is a sculpture the size of a double decker bus.  Moreover, these are not the grounds of Pemberley where at least he could high tail it to the house.  On this occasion the famously proud Fitzwilliam Darcy must confront the population of London while he tries to control his passions. This is the Serpentine, smack bang in the middle of the English capital’s Hyde Park.

The sculptors, Toby Crowther and Andy Billett, maintain that theirs is an amalgam of the many actors who have played the part over the decades and they drew inspiration from the book too.  Yet to the casual onlooker the twelve foot sculpture does look quite a lot like Colin Firth. Plus, remember, this features Mr Darcy in a scene which was only ever shown in that BBC adaptation. Mmm.

Yet as a homage to one of literature’s great male protagonists it would be churlish to disapprove simply because of that.  One can only imagine, however, what Lady Catherine de Bourgh might exclaim were she to set eyes on this giant representation of her nephew, let alone the author! Now, Bridget Jones - that's another matter but the words drink, jump, splash and grope do come immediately to mind.

If you are scratching your head and whispering why (any additional rocking might be considered inappropriate) then here is your answer.  It isn’t because the British are mad (mostly of the eccentric rather than the barking variety), though no doubt that helped. The work was commissioned to celebrate the launch of a new TV channel which is simply called Drama (a modest and utilitarian name of which Miss Austen may well have approved).

If you can’t make it to the Serpentine, then you might be pleased to known that the giant Mr Darcy will be conducting not the grand but a short tour around the island nation until coming to rest in the lake at Lyme Park in early 2014. Lyme Park is, incidentally, where the scenes set at the Darcy domicile in the Firth version of Pride and Prejudice were filmed.  One can hear the disapproving tuts emanating from Cheshire already.

All Images - Flickr User Taylor Herring