Film: Pride and Prejudice - Livre d'Or








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livredor
Film: Pride and Prejudice
Saturday, 24 September 2005 at 10:41 pm
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Reasons for watching it: I'd seen the media hype and I was interested to see how it was going to work. And generally curious about how there could ever be a followup to the seminal Colin-Firth-in-a-wet-shirt BBC version.

Circumstances of watching it: I'd planned to go with my mother to see it at the Cambridge arts cinema this afternoon. And our plans got muddled up by various things so I ended up seeing a later showing with my cousin H, and my Dad saw it at the original time, and my Mum didn't see it at all, and everybody got cross and stressed about logistics and argh. Anyway, I got to see it in the end!

Verdict: The 2005 Pride and Prejudice does novel things with the story but isn't much more than a standard Hollywood rom-com.

In some ways, this version of P&P is true to the spirit of the original, whereas the BBC version was a lot closer to the letter. Yes, Jane Austen wrote in the early nineteenth century, and she wrote fairly light comedies about middle class people's love lives. But she's often read as if she was writing escapist fantasies about some idyllic and mythical golden age, and I don't think that's fair. Conversely, where the new P&P really succeeds is in taking the parts seriously that ought to be taken seriously. It's serious about the very real consequences of being poor (ish) and female and unmarried. It's serious about the real nastiness of Lydia's seduction by Wickham. Actually, that whole arc is really rather sinister, to the extent of hinting at violence.

Oh, and it handles sex very well. The film has a U certificate, and there really is absolutely no onscreen sex, not even the standard Hollywood clinch to mark the happy ending. But there is a lot of hinted sexuality in the body language of the actors. It's really nice, actually; not the usual convention that sex was invented in the 1960s, but also not blatant in a way that would look anachronistic for a period film.

This P&P is also really interestingly sympathetic to Mr Darcy. Even in the book itself it's rather hard to see what Elizabeth sees in him, but MacFadyen's Darcy is clearly shy and socially inept, and comes across as arrogant because he's awkward, particularly around Elizabeth. And the film achieves this effect without completely rewriting the character; it's recognizable as an unusual interpretation on the original Mr Darcy.

Other things I liked: the fact that the characters seem genuninely young. Portraying Mary, Kitty and Lydia as actual children works really well. Some of the visuals are very nice, particularly the way the film conveys the Bennets' small-town existence. Pemberley and other posh country houses may be impeccably elegant, but the rest of the scenery isn't pretty-pretty, but noisy and dirty and solid-seeming. And having opted to include animals and dirt and so on, they are used effectively. I also enjoyed seeing a mixture of stately and energetic dancing.

What's bad about this version is a) the dialogue, and b) Keira Knightley. There are a few lines from the book, which none of the actors (other than Judi Dench, bless her) can deliver with any sort of naturalness. And the rest of the dialogue is bland Hollywood mush that nods to being period but doesn't really get there. I'm not objecting to the rewriting of the story as a modern film script per se (in fact, I think it would have been better to have replaced all Austen's original lines, frankly), but I do object to the fact that it's done badly. And Knightley simply can't act. She sighs too much, and recites her lines like lines, not as if she's actually speaking. She's trying to be Tautou and making a hash of it in every possible way. There's never going to be a really good P&P with a crap Elizabeth, so that flaw eclipses a lot of the other things that are good about the film.

The humour is a mixed bag. The film does capture some of the humour of Austen's comedy of manners, and the awfulness of Mrs Bennett and Mr Collins. I was impressed by the way this stuff works without (for the most part) relying on Austen's actual jokes. However, there's also rather a lot of cruder humour, such as silly Freudian slips and really obvious innuendo.

Oh, and what the film does with Mr Bennet is just odd. Connected with this, the final scene is pointlessly sentimental, and even if it had been done well it doesn't have much reason to be there at all.


Moooood: okayokay
Tuuuuune: Joy Division: She's lost control
Discussion: 5 contributions | Contribute something
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ioevri1: default
From:ioevri1
Date:September 25th, 2005 12:38 am (UTC)
1 hours after journal entry, 01:38 am (ioevri1's time)
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Thanks for the heads up.

:)
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shreena: default
From:shreena
Date:September 25th, 2005 09:45 am (UTC)
10 hours after journal entry, 10:45 am (shreena's time)
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I hear such conflicting reports of this film as to puzzle me entirely. I think I might have to go and see it just because I'm now very, very, curious. For example, I was told by (I think) thalassius that the scenery was very Romantic and Brontesque and you describe it as realistic. Various reviews think that it doesn't at all take seriously the consequences of being poor, female and single but you think it does. Ho hum.

On a sympathetic portrayal of Darcy - actually, I think that's done in all of the modern adaptations I've seen (the '80s BBC, the '90s BBC, Bridget Jones & Bride and Prejudice) to the point of making Elizabeth incomprehensible. Darcy is supposed to be conceited and just plain rude at the beginning and, particularly, during the proposal scene but every adaptation I've ever seen has it coming across as you say this one does, as awkwardness. Rather like Georgiana is described in the book, in fact, and Elizabeth sees through that one instantly. The more like that Darcy becomes, the more petulant and irrational Elizabeth seems (this particularly true of Bride and Prejudice) for taking against him - it destroys the balance of both Elizabeth and Darcy having to realise their faults.
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livredor: likeness
From:livredor
Date:September 25th, 2005 10:02 am (UTC)
11 hours after journal entry, 11:02 am (livredor's time)
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The scenery thing is really interesting, actually: they've set up a deliberate contrast, with Mr Darcy living in an ultra-Romantic, Hollywood idea of rural England kind of setting, whereas the Bennets live somewhere that is much more realist, that has actual dirt and disorder and signs of wear (and rather a lot of farm animals, but never mind that). I don't know where the film was actually shot, but it's true that parts of the Peak District really are that breathtakingly gorgeous in real life; it's making the point very clearly that Darcy is not just rich in financial terms, but can afford to live somewhere truly beautiful.

Interesting point about the character of Mr Darcy. I did feel that the film was quite balanced, both he and Elizabeth have their faults but they are both nice people. It is true that the kinder you are to Mr Darcy, the worse Elizabeth is going to appear, but I think the film was reasonably successful in not making her look irrationally and gratuitously bitchy. I agree with you about Bridget Jones; my main emotional response to that was to wonder what on earth someone as obviously wonderful as Mark Darcy saw in that dreadful woman! I didn't get that impression with the BBC version; the balance there seemed to be much closer to that in the book, where you had to be paying attention to see Mr Darcy's good points. (I've not seen Bride and Prejudice, though I'd like to at some point.)
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shreena: default
From:shreena
Date:September 25th, 2005 10:13 am (UTC)
11 hours after journal entry, 11:13 am (shreena's time)
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Ah, yes, the scenery stuff sounds like it could be interesting. Mr Darcy's taste is important, I think, to Elizabeth's change of heart particularly the bit (I just reread it yesterday, I don't usually have this good a memory) where she comments on how well integrated the house is to the landscape - she'd not previously realised that Darcy likes the outdoors, something that is constantly associated with Elizabeth in the book.

I think in the book, we aren't meant to see the "nice" side of Darcy until fairly late on though, I think we're meant to make the same journey as Elizabeth and that's what I think is generally lacking from adaptations that make Darcy obviously nice all along. Perhaps it wouldn't work so well in a film as a novel but it nevertheless tends to irritate me. As long as the balance is there, I guess that's all that matters.

Bridget Jones is somewhat redeemed in the book at least because it's her diary. She's obviously not seeing herself accurately as we can tell from the fact that she thinks she's fat at 9st-10st which isn't overweight for someone my height (5 foot 2) and so almost certainly is fine for her unless she's a midget. Therefore, I tend to assume that she must be correspondingly much more interesting and entertaining in conversation than she comes across from her entries - i.e. all we're seeing are her insecurities - but none of this works well in the films. I find the films fun but the relationship doesn't convince because it's not got the Bridget's point of view thing going on.

Bride and Prejudice is quite fun, also, but is somewhat ruined by the lack of acting skills of Aiswariya (sp?) Rai and the same sort of Darcy being obviously lovely all along thing. Worth seeing though, I'd say.
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elemy: default
From:elemy
Date:September 26th, 2005 11:06 am (UTC)
1 days after journal entry
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Yes, I think it would be incredibly difficult to portray both sides of Mr Darcy as distinctly as they're done in the book; especially in a two hour film. Awkwardness is just easier to act consistently. On the other hand, it does kind of make nonsense of the title if Mr Darcy isn't at all proud.

Do you think that kind of social pride is maybe a less comprehensible emotion these days? I certainly can't imagine anyone coming out with the "I love you but I deplore your social connections" type of line; but maybe that's because I'm lucky enough to associate with such nice people ;)

As to Bridget Jones, I do think the books are excellent adaptations of Jane Austen, and I don't think making Mark Darcy nice is a fault at all. Surely being one's pushy mother's idea of a perfect match is just as objectionable as being supercilious and proud?
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