Have you ever watched a movie once, decided that it was mediocre, and then found yourself watching it over and over again? For me, that movie was director Joe Wright’s 2005 adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” starring Matthew Mcfadyen and Keira Knightley.
Being a great fan of Jane Austen, I had seen many film adaptations of her work, and had yet to find a version of “Pride and Prejudice” that captured the novel for me. When I watched Wright’s film, I was turned off by the long meandering shots, odd perspectives, and quiet interludes. I decided that the film style was very beautiful and artistic, but that it took too much attention away from the story that I loved.
Yet, when I next wanted my Austen fix, Wright’s “Pride and Prejudice” was the film I reached for. While I was still turned off by some of the artistic choices, the performances were so vibrant that it made up for it. Keira Knightley played Elizabeth Bennet with all the sass and snarkiness that had made me fall in love with “Pride and Prejudice” in the first place. Matthey Mcfadyen’s performance gave Mr. Darcy a certain social awkwardness that makes a great deal of sense with the character. I was especially impressed with the way Mcfadyen was able to communicate the chemistry Darcy was feeling toward Elizabeth even in the earlier moments of the movie when that awkwardness is at its highest. The rest of the cast is filled out with extremely talented actors and actresses. It is very difficult to find a character that was cast badly. My favorite performance of the entire movie, though, came from Donald Sutherland. Mr. Bennet is one of my favorite characters in all of literature, and it was refreshing to see him played with all the humor and tenderness that he shows in the book. He communicates the paternal feelings of his character so well that I have a hard time watching his final scene in the movie without tearing up.
While the film style was something that turned me off of the film initially, it really does set Wright’s “Pride and Prejudice” apart from other adaptations. There are several times throughout the film that his unique style is used perfectly to communicate the feelings of the characters and the culture of the time period in which “Pride and Prejudice” is set. While many Austen adaptations can become dry due to directors trying to keep the classical feel of the story, Wright makes the story feel lively and fun, the same way I felt when reading the book.