Pride and Prejudice is my favorite story, and the only alteration that could improve it for my particular enjoyment would be the inclusion of animal antics. (This inclusion would not, of course, improve the book in general, but I really dig frolicking puppies and enjoy them wherever I find them.) I can’t always be reading the book, but I do enjoy visiting its themes, characters, and story through the relative ease of its many film adaptations. I am a fan of most Austen film adaptations, with the stunning exception of the 1986 version of Northanger Abbey.
The first adaptation of P&P that I saw was the 1995 BBC TV mini-series version starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. That version is still my favorite, but I thought it would be fun to compare trailers for some of the other versions I have seen, some more derivations than strict adaptations. I’ll start with the 1940 film production starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson.
What did she say?! This adaptation is perhaps my least favorite, but it is amusing in its own way. At any rate, if you watch it, you’ll find out what she said.
I could not easily find an official trailer for the 1995 BBC TV mini-series version, but here is a fairly decent fan-made version.
I first saw this version in 1997, very shortly after I had first read the book, and I watched it so often (and in what I consider still to be my formative years, too) that it is very difficult for me to separate the characters of the book from their adaptation counterparts. When I read Mrs. Bennet’s lines in the book (especially my favorites: “A little sea bathing would set me up for ever,” and “Tell him what a dreadful state I am in…and have such tremblings, such flutterings, all over me, such spasms in my side and pains in my head, and such beatings and my heart, that I can get no rest by night or day.”) I hear Alison Steadman’s voice in my head. My imagination’s Lydia bears a stunning resemblance to Julia Sawalha. At five hours in length, this version can easily be faithful to the book, but I wonder if it tends too strongly towards presenting caricatures rather than fleshed-out characters to be really faithful to its spirit. It is sprightly and amusing, to be sure, but it lacks a lot of the depth that I find in the book.
By way of contrast there is, of course, the 2005 film version starring Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley.
My favorite thing about this version is the music, sadly not highlighted in that trailer, but I also love its portrayal of the Bennet family in general, of Mrs. Bennet and Mary Bennet in particular, and of Charlotte Lucas, and its depiction of Longbourne (that faint shabbiness that contrasts so well with the elegance of Netherfield and Pemberley). Though I do enjoy this version, it is a teensy bit melodramatic, rather more angsty than sparkling, that melodrama perhaps best demonstrated by Darcy’s first proposal being delivered during a rainstorm… I particularly love the thunder that underscores Darcy’s comment about Elizabeth’s father.
The following adaptation, the 2003 release Bride and Prejudice, holds a special place in my heart. Over-the-top and silly though it sometimes is, it gives an excellent portrayal of the Mr. Collins and Charlotte characters, and provides a plausible, modern twist on Wickham’s infamy toward Georgiana. It is, further, an excellent antidote to the 2005 version’s angst and drama.
I imagine fans of P&P have seen all of these versions. Are there any others that you can recommend? Do you, like me, enjoy watching film adaptations of this story?