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November 14, 2005

First Impressions: Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

The UA Tara on Cheshire Bridge Road is now screening P&P here in Atlanta, which I went to see on Friday night.

If this version introduces people to reading the novel, that's fine by me. I certainly hope people will read the novel, which will be a much richer experience.

Being faithful to the novel does not require an exacting, literal following of the narrative. However, being true to the spirit of the novel is important.

With that in mind, I really don't think that BIG, DANGLING PIG BALLS are ever appropriate in an Austen adaptation.

Spoilers, such as they are, after the jump.

Overall it's a nice adaptation. I enjoyed it, I liked it, but I didn't love it. But it's definitely worth seeing on the big screen. There's a shot of Keira Knightley standing on a cliff in Derbyshire that's just stunning. And the first sight of Pemberley (Chatsworth) is truly stunning for both the characters and the viewers.

We're given an earthier, more Gothic version of Pride & Prejudice. The Bennet country home is more of a bohemian enclave, with mud puddles and geese flocking around and the aforementioned pig and grubby workers in the background. Knightley is a very dark Elizabeth - dark hair, dark eye makeup, dark clothing, perhaps to play up the contrast with her very fair sister Jane (Rosamund Pike). A bit too dark, but there it is.

Mr. Bennet (Donald Sutherland) is a more genial patriarch than in the novel. His teasing of Mrs. Bennet is not quite so barbed in sarcasm, and he is affectionate towards his family. Brenda Blethyn is quite good as Mrs. Bennet - although not quite the complete silly, insensible woman. You realize that her goal of seeing her daughters married isn't just a matter of idle matchmaking, but that she does care for the happiness and security of her children. The other daughters are foolish and flighty in their own ways.

Matthew MacFadyen plays Mr. Darcy as stiff and awkward, but in a way that persuades you that while Darcy is indeed proud at first, he is also ill at ease in the company of strangers. He adores his sister and smiles warmly when at ease. There are definite sparks between the characters as played by MacFadyen and Knightley. You're reminded that Darcy and Elizabeth are young people, who are truly falling in love for the first time.

Other fine turns include Tom Hollander as Mr. Collins - who is not so much smarmy as puffed-up and foolish, Simon Woods as Mr. Bingley, who is charming and awkward but endearingly earnest. And there is Judi Dench, who is suitably imperious as Lady Catherine, big hair and all.

The characters do seem like real people - they interrupt each other, talk over one another. They way they speak does seem like real conversation. Some of the language did trouble me, in the sense that some of it was too modern, or too clear-cut. For example, when Lizzie defends her sister Jane's apparent lack of expressive feeling, she exclaims to Darcy that "She's shy! She doesn't talk about her feelings to anyone, not even to me!" This is a rough paraphrase, but close enough.

Earlier I described the film as having a more Gothic quality than other adaptations. When Elizabeth and Darcy finally reach their mutual understanding, it involves Darcy striding out of the fog in his greatcoat, his hair all amuss, his eyes blazing with passion. Both have been unable to sleep and are just out walking the moors apparently. But really, I didn't mind this. ;)

The following may be what has apparently been added to the American version of the film. At the end we're brought to Pemberley once more. Lizzie and Darcy are now married, and are out of doors once again in the middle of night in their bedclothes. Darcy tells Elizabeth "You have bewitched me, body and soul" and there is the great, soulful Kiss.

One last bit: IMDB notes that Emma Thompson did an uncredited, unpaid rewrite of the script. If only she'd gotten to write the screenplay! However, she is given a special thanks at the end of the credits (which I missed, since I didn't stay for those).

Yours, &c., LC | 12:17 PM | Film/TV , Jane | TrackBack (1)

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he Professor gives it an A-.... A brief review for this one: What I liked: * Cinematography; it really looked like a glimpse... What I didn't like: * Yeah, I agree with Lady Crumpet: .... [Read More]

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