If you are as big a fan of the 1995 BBC film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice as I am, you probably know which scene I’m thinking of when I talk about “the look.” It takes place when Elizabeth comes to Pemberley the second time, when her eyes meet and lock with Darcy’s across the music room, as Georgiana plays at the pianoforte. In that moment, volumes of non-verbal communication fly between the two, saying that they finally understand each other, forgive all past offences, and acknowledge what is now their mutual love and admiration. Wonderful!
While [Elizabeth] spoke, an involuntary glance shewed her Darcy with an heightened complexion, earnestly looking at her, and his sister overcome with confusion and unable to lift up her eyes… The very circumstance which had been designed to turn his thoughts from Elizabeth, seemed to have fixed them on her more, and more cheerfully. (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 45)
This is as close as that comparable scene in the book comes. The first part depicts reaction to Miss Bingley’s malicious illusions to Wickham (whom she doesn’t actually mention by name) and the Bennet family’s partiality to him. The second part reflects Darcy’s approval of how deftly Elizabeth handles the situation, sparing his sister more pain. So it’s reasonable, from the fact that his thoughts were fixed on Elizabeth, to extrapolate that his eyes were also. That’s probably the source of ”the look” shown in the film.
I love that scene so much that each time I watch the movie, which I do every few months, I always have to rewind and watch that part twice. Anybody else? Maybe it’s because as Colin Firth gazes adoringly at Jennifer Ehle (or into the camera), it almost seems like he’s looking at me. And I find myself exhaling contentedly, along with him, in perfect cadence with the music Georgiana is playing. Have you noticed that they match up? I’m sure it’s no accident – very effective.
I’m currently working on Return to Longbourn, the next installment of my P&P saga. Although Darcy and Elizabeth have supporting roles in this book (rather than the leads, as in The Darcys of Pemberley), they do have a moment toward the beginning that hearkens back to “the look.” See what you think. We’ve now jumped ahead about 7 years from when Pride and Prejudice leaves off.
Mary drew her sister aside. “I regret that my obligations have left us with so little time to talk whilst you were here,” she said. “I trust your children are well and strong.”
“I thank you, yes!” said Elizabeth, her countenance noticeably brightening. “They are, all three of them, fine, healthy boys,” Elizabeth continued. “Bennet, who was five in October, is quite the apple of his father’s eye. And it is much the same with Edward and James. You see, Mary, I live in a household of men, and I must make the best of it. Fortunately, I would as soon sit atop a horse these days as any other place, so I shall stand some chance of keeping up with them as they grow older.” She turned her address to her husband, who had that moment entered the parlor. “There is nothing – or almost nothing – like the thrill of a good ride. Is not that your opinion as well, Mr. Darcy?”
“So I believe I have said on more than one occasion, my dear. Now, if you will make your good-byes, we can be on our way.”
A lingering look passed between the two, and Elizabeth reached up to briefly rest a hand against the side of her husband’s face. Then, seeming to remember herself, she withdrew it again, embraced her sister, and said farewell.
Mary watched them go from the porch, conscious for the first time of a twinge of envy surfacing from somewhere deep within her soul. Never had she craved great wealth and its comfortable trappings; these things did not tempt her to covet her sister’s situation. No, it was that stolen glimpse of tenderness she had seen upon Mr. Darcy’s face when his usual mask of reserve dropped for a moment as he regarded his wife. What must it be like to be looked at in such a way by such a man? Mary could not help but wonder. She could only suppose that it was a thing very much to be prized.
I don’t think it’s just Mary. What woman wouldn’t give her all “to be looked at in such a way by such a man?” *sigh*