Favorite Romances: Film versions of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

Jaz on the film versions of Pride and Prejudice:

The latest film adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” (2005) has a lovely soundtrack and … hmmm… let me think what else … Oh, yes. Beautiful scenery.

There. My positive comments have ended.

In this film,Elizabethalways appears slightly disheveled, hair carelessly pulled up into a loose bun. She walks barefoot among the chickens, gazes earnestly at Darcy from the start and almost kisses him in the first proposal scene. Darcy isn’t any better. He wanders around wet fields at ungodly hours with his shirt half open and – what’s worse – doesn’t appear proud at all. He just looks perpetually sad, confused and awkward. Bingley is a buffoon, and Jane appears completely one-dimensional. Ms. Bingley is too modern. I liked Mr. Bennet, but then again, who wouldn’t like Donald Sutherland in that role?

The Bennets are poor country bumpkins. They live in a creaky, dark home and walk pigs through the hallways (for what reason, I never quite figured out). They attend country dances in barn-like edifices, and apparently can’t afford more than one dress forElizabeth.

This film may be romantic, but is entirely inaccurate. If they had released this film under another name with different characters, I might have possibly maybe perhaps liked it.

And speaking of inaccuracy, we know come to the 1940 adaptation.

The costumes are off by several decades, Elizabeth and Darcy fall for each other almost from the start, and Elizabeth doesn’t visit Pemberly with her aunt and uncle.

I love this film anyway; I’m overcome by nostalgia every time I watch it.

The actors play their roles beautifully – especially Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins. Mr. Darcy looks exactly as he should. It’s the only adaptation where he actually lives up to the book’s description.Elizabeth’s character has been changed, but Garson is so likeable it doesn’t grate on the nerves like Kiera Knightley’s interpretation. Wickham “simpers, and smiles, and makes love to us all,” and Bingley is also attractive (why do the subsequent adaptations always have particularly plain Bingleys?). Humorous and a delight to watch, this film should not be taken too seriously.

On the other hand, the 1995 miniseries can be taken seriously and doesn’t suffer from it in the least. Five hours long and detailed to perfection, it’s evident the creators knew their Jane Austen literature. The sets are lovely and elaborate, and the actors play their parts well. I just wish it had a handsomer Darcy, a more genuine Mrs. Bennet, and a little bit more spirit in the Darcy/Elizabeth scenes; they seemed rather cold to me.

And on the subject of cold … Darcy must have had a wet shirt/bath clause in his contract, I think. Twice they show him bathing, and as for the pond scene… I’m sorry, but I just don’t find Colin Firth that attractive. Very few people agree with me on this, though.

Also, if a man in a clean white shirt dives into a cow pond full of algae and debris (you can see it in the shot), he would NOT emerge with the shirt in the same condition.

Minor quibbles, of course. This miniseries is by far the best adaptation out there. So go watch it now – and do tell me what you think of Colin Firth’s wet shirt.

Liz the film versions of Pride and Prejudice:

I think Jaz does an excellent job of critiquing the three most well-known film versions Pride and Prejudice, but I’ll add a few comments of my own.

The 2005 version: Charlotte, instead of being plain and sensible, seems ugly and coarse. She tells Lizzy she will marry Mr. Collins and then yells “Don’t you judge me, Lizzy. Don’t you judge me.” All Lizzy does is swing over a mud hole in the farmyard. And do Aunt and Uncle Gardener really leave Lizzy at Pemberely? First, Lizzy presumptuously spies on Darcy and a not very shy Georgiana, then we see her walking across the moors—back to the inn where she’s staying with her aunt and  uncle? Let’s not even talk about the cold hands scene.

The 1940 adaptation: It was my introduction to the story and so is my favorite version. The characters are delightful. Mrs. Bennet is amusing instead of annoying to watch. Mr. Darcy is proud, but we quickly realize he’s not bad at heart when he takes his “lessons with the darts” so well. The party at Netherfield was completely made up but was true to the characters and very enjoyable. I rather like Aunt Katherine’s character change at the end of the movie. I wish the version included Aunt and Uncle Gardener and the visit to Pemberley. No version has portrayed Aunt and Uncle Gardener quite right. I think of them as looking like Mr. and Mrs. Westing from the 1996 Emma.

The 1995 miniseries is the most accurate, and I love it for that reason. I do have a few minor quarrels with it though. Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy is rather too quiet. For instance, when he sees Lizzie as she is walking down the lane at Hunsford, he merely stares at her and gallops off. The real Mr. Darcy stops and walks with her. He doesn’t say much, but he does stay with her (of course, the real Mr. Darcy is on foot, not on horseback). And then there’s Mr.Darcy’s portrait at Pemberley—he’s not smiling in it! It’s a small detail, but it’s a romantic one. When the portrait was painted Darcy’s father was still alive, so Darcy was happy, life was good. Now he only smiles that way when he looks at Lizzy. Why alter the scene to make him frown?

What are your opinions on the film versions of Pride and Prejudice?


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