I'm an unusual man, at least in one sense: I love movies adapted from Jane Austen novels.
Note, I've never actually read a Jane Austen novel.
I just like the movies...Well, most of them.
Just watched about the best of the bunch, director Joe Wright's 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice. It's brilliant on so many levels: cinematography, acting, directing, writing, production design, costume design. The amazing cast includes such greats as Donald Sutherland (playing Mr. Bennet) and Dame Judi Dench (playing Lady Catherine de Burgh).
Keira Knightley & Matthew Macfadyen
And Keira Knightley...WOW! This lass deserved her Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Lizzie. Awesome job. And Matthew Macfadyen's approach to Mr. Darcy was absolutely fascinating--perfect! How did he manage to offer such emotional depth to that role with so little screen time? He and Keira both communicated so much with a look, a subtle facial expression--and then add Austen's words...Wow. Just WOW! They KNEW their characters, loved their characters, lived their characters. The delivery was subtle, full of nuance, variation, emotion, wit. I loved it!
All in the Family Cast
Similar accolades can be said for the cast as a whole. They looked so wonderfully comfortable with each other, like family. Indeed, from the DVD mini-docs, it sounds like director Joe Wright paid great attention to fostering that familial feeling between the actors playing the Bennets. As an example, he took the cast (Bennet players only?) to visit the house that would be the Bennet's family "estate" -- no crew, just the cast. He encouraged his players to make it their own, saying "This is your home. The crew and the rest of us are only visitors." They spent an entire day just exploring that estate, playing "Sardines" (Hide and seek?) and other games. Brilliant.
Brenda Blethyn delivered a refreshingly respectful portrayal of the often comical Mrs. Bennet. Blethyn offered respect for her character's challenge as a mother of five daughters in Victorian England. I was touched by the way Blethyn portrayed Mrs. Bennet as, yes, an embarrassment, but also as a mother with an urgent cause, who loved her children and wanted what was best for them. Though the comedy diluted that theme, it still came through in one or two key scenes. This woman was not a twit...or maybe she was, but she was also a woman with a mission who loved her children.
And the younger sisters, Lydia (Jena Malone) and Kitty (Carey Mulligan) -- what a joyous, exuberant, teasing pair; full of life and silliness. Absolutely loved their portrayal. And Talulah Riley played the serious and ignored Mary Bennet wonderfully. Again, they didn't have that many scenes....In fact, the scenes they appeared in often had other characters as the focus; they played "backgound." But they added such spice to the scenes. The director's careful touch in coaxing what he wanted out of his young (inexperienced?) actors was admirable.
And Jane, another touching portrayal. Rosamund Pike kept it real. I loved her gentle touch to Jane. Pike played her emotions so well and convincingly. Again, she had only a few keys scenes, but she's played them just right.
Cinematography & Set Design
Cinematography combined with set design was glorious. (I just don't have enough superlatives for this film). Each scene, each frame added texture to the story and its characters, yet still with amazing economy and efficiency.
Set/production design, wow! I don't know why it wasn't nominated for an Oscar (or was it?). And the director made beautiful use of the set and it's many props. Unlike Tristan and Isolde (which overlooked it's marvelous set and props), here the set and locations were featured prominently and played a huge part in communicating the story. I truly love this director's eye and sensitivity. From interview, it sounds like he's done a bit of television work and appreciated the space a theatrical feature afforded him. I'd say he took great advantage of the opportunity.
Pride and Prejudice, Old and New
Don't get me wrong, I will always love the BBC Price and Prejudice miniseries and, frankly, I was not looking forward to this theatrical release. As a big fan of the BBC miniseries, I didn't really want to spoil the images and associations I had with the story. I absolutely adored Jennifer Ehle's portrayal of Lizzie, and didn't want that tainted.
But, literally, within minutes of watching Joe Wrights version of the story, I was hooked. This was not another BBC adaptation. It took chances, tried new approached, interpreted the characters in a new way. In the miniseries adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, all but Lizzie's character were treated as caricatures to a large degree. In this 2005 adaptation, director Joe Wright handled the characters differently. They felt more real to me, an American in the 21st century, which may reveal a cultural in-authenticity of the film, but it sure felt much more approachable than any other portrayal I've seen. I would have loved for the film to go on a few more hours, to have this cast and crew flesh out "Mr. Wickham's" character and his impact on the story...they only touched on his connection with Mr. Darcy and the deflowering of Lydia. But it was a necessary choice. Only so much time, and this way the focus was clear and a bit more direct: the romance between Lizzie and Mr. Darcy.
Second View of Pride and Prejudice
Just watched Joe Wright's version of Pride and Prejudice for the second time...and it remains mesmerizing. So many layers. So full of texture. The story is told with such elegant economy. Key scenes still inspire anticipation and genuine emotion. Incredible ensemble effort. Can't sing this film's praises loud enough.
Cast of Pride and Prejudice 2005
- Keira Knightley as Elizabeth "Lizzy" Bennet
- Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy
- Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennet
- Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet
- Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennet
- Jena Malone as Lydia Bennet
- Carey Mulligan as Catherine "Kitty" Bennet
- Talulah Riley as Mary Bennet
- Dame Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Burgh
- Simon Woods as Mr. Bingley
- Kelly Reilly as Caroline Bingley
- Claudie Blakley as Charlotte Lucas
- Rupert Friend as Mr. Wickham
- Tom Hollander as Mr. Collins
- Penelope Wilton as Mrs. Gardiner
- Peter Wright as Mr. Gardiner
- Tamzin Merchant as Georgiana Darcy
- Charlie Drysdale as The Gentleman Farmer
|Pride & Prejudice (Widescreen Edition)
|Pride and Prejudice - BBC Mini-series [DVD]
|Pride and Prejudice [Novel]