Pride and Prejudice
It seems quite incredible
that Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice has been filmed as many
times as it has been. There is the famous movie version in the 1940s.
In the mid-90s the BBC made it into a mini-series which is still considered
to be the high-water mark of Austen adaptations. Other TV adaptations
included miniseries in 1952 and 1980 and TV movie adaptations in 1938, 1958
and 1967. In more recent years it has been tweaked several times; as a
Bollywood musical (Bride and Prejudice), a campus love story
(Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy), even a modern workplace
romance (Bridget Jones's Diary).
Even more incredible than
the fact that the book has been filmed so often is the fact that I have
never seen any of the above versions -- unless you count the modern
variation of Bridget Jones's Diary, which is a very, very loose
adaptation. Also, in the interest of fair disclosure, I have also
never read Austen's novel.
So I come into the new
version of Pride and Prejudice with no expectations or emotional
baggage. I have a tendency to not particularly like these period
pieces of simmering but repressed longing. However, I went into it
with an open mind and was totally rewarded.
Pride and Prejudice
is, quite simply, a wonderful, lovely film.
Keira Knightley does a quite
incredible job as Lizzie Bennet, one of five daughters in a poor British
family. Her mother (Brenda Blethyn) is obsessive about marrying her
girls into good families. Her father (Donald Sutherland) simply wants
his daughters to be happy.
Lizzie was a relatively
modern woman -- she had thoughts and beliefs and stood up for herself -- in
a time when women were expected to be subservient. Because in the era
marriage was a matter of status and class rather than love, the Bennet women
seem to have little to offer other than their looks. The house is
thrown into an uproar when two
noblemen come to town, a rich playboy named Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods), and Mr. Darcy
(Matthew Macfadyen), his repressed best friend.
While Mr. Bingley courts
Lizzie's sister Jane (Rosamund Pike), Lizzie and Mr. Darcy feel an instant
dislike. However, the two meet over the years and their feelings
change, first Mr. Darcy's -- who very awkwardly proposes to Lizzy only to be
turned down flat -- then Lizzie who comes to realize that he is a good man
as he systematically sets about fixing the wrongs that he has caused her
I won't get into the
specifics of everything that happens to lead to this mutual love -- as much
because most people already know as anything. From what I hear, the
film has had to trim many of the subplots and incidents which were so
vitally important in the novel, but this streamlined version of the story
works decidedly well. There are some slow moments towards the middle,
but once the movie hits its stride it is amazingly involving.
Much more than most modern
romantic stories, when Lizzie and Mr. Darcy do finally come together it is a
striking moment of joy for the audience -- just because we know all that
they have experienced to arrive at this place. Maybe there was
something to the old-fashioned mating courtships after all.