Being Valentines Day on Friday, we watched Pride and Prejudice, the 2005 movie. Now that I have seen both that and the TV miniseries that came out in 1995, I can say that I preferred the latter. I have no complaints about the casting for either. They both used well known skilled actors.
They are both products of their makers, which is very understandable. While the TV series is two and half times longer, both stay (mostly) true to the dialog and plot of the book. That is no mean feat, especially for the movie.
However my main complaint is that the movie characters strike me as late 20th C. personalities set into costume. Those in the TV miniseries felt like they belonged to the early 1800s. No complaint about the casting of the movie; they were all top notch actors, and I did enjoy Rosamond Pike’s portrayal of Jane Bennet. However, the veneer of civility and sophistication that was so important to early 19th C. upper classes, and which is present throughout in the book, is very rare in the movie. All the emotions, and everything else for that matter, is thrown out onto the surface.
That tension between the characters emotional desires and strictures and mentality of society plays into many of the conflicts in the book. When that tension is removed, the social underpinning for the plot is weakened. For example, despite the well-demonstrated skill of the two actresses, the scene in the movie near the end between Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Eliza falls flat. Lady Catherine should have been absolutely livid to warrant that long journey, but holding it all inside her rigid control. However, she seemed to be mildly annoyed and holding nothing back.
I will give the movie credit for some superb cinematography, and the use of Chatsworth as Pemberly. Those halls and fountains are instantly recognizable and do establish very quickly Mr. Darcy’s overwhelming wealth and importance. However, why is the Bennet house such a dump? They aren’t poor. Mr. Bennet is a gentleman, and Eliza considers herself every bit the equal in status to Mr. Darcy on that basis. When Lydia marries Mr. Collins, Mr. Bennet thinks 100 pounds a year an easy obligation. That is stated in the book and movie, and demonstrates their economic position, as do their attendance to genteel activities like balls, large social dinners, being able to call for a carriage, etc. Moreover in both the movie and the book, the house is supposed to be quite a feather in the cap for Mr. Collins. None of the Bennets, or even Mr. Collins, has any doubt that he will take possession of it. That doesn’t make any sense since the Bennet house suffers badly in comparison to Mr. Collins’.
Another item that caught my attention: Eliza’s hair. Wonderful style for Keira Knightley, the 21st C. actress. But for 19th C. Eliza Bennet?
When I watched the TV miniseries, it inspired me to read the book. I heartily recommend the miniseries. The movie, while quite enjoyable, especially on Valentine’s day, wouldn’t have done that. It’s a costume drama that doesn’t survive much beyond the costume.