Jane Austen January – Pride and Prejudice – Film Adaptations

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?

8 thoughts on “Jane Austen January – Pride and Prejudice – Film Adaptations

  1. The 2005 version is way overdramatic. Like when he walks out of the mist. RME My favorite is the 1995 one, but I think I’ve watched it way too much. I can still quote half it from memory.

    Did you ever see Lost In Austen? I really enjoyed it!

    • Yes – I loved Lost in Austen, especially its take on Wickham (and Caroline Bingley… ha!). While it was occasionally a bit silly, on the whole I enjoyed that it used Austen’s world as a kind of mythology while playing with some of the cultural differences that exist between the present day and Austen’s time. Also absolutely loved that all Bingley needed to fall in love was an immoderate show of cleavage. 😛

      I’m with you on having spent a wee bit too much time watching the 1995 version, but it’s still my happy-time movie. I just can’t be unhappy while I’m watching it. These days, however, LOLcats serve a similar purpose. 🙂

  2. I like them all for different reasons. The 1940 was my favorite when I was a kid, but now it seems truncated and Greer Garson entirely too old to play Elizabeth.

    The 1995 is so good in many ways, but it’s also the least like an adaptation, by which I mean that it doesn’t really take advantage of the things that film can do differently than a book. It doesn’t really seem filmic. The best sequence in it is Darcy and Elizabeth’s meeting at Pemberley, which in addition to giving us wet Collin Firth — thank you very much! — is also the perfect combination of music, editing, deviation/adaptation, and acting. That scene takes advantage of the medium in way most of the rest doesn’t. Darcy and Elizabeth’s dance at Netherfield also has the perfect music and choreography.

    The 2005 is too Bronte-eseque, but I share your admiration for the portrayal for the Bennets, the music, the delineation of everyone’s relative wealth in visual form, and everyone being the right age for the characters they play. (Every time I re-read the book, I can’t get over how young they all are.)

    I too liked Bride and Prejudice, but I wish the music were as good as most of the other Bollywood films I’ve seen. “No Life Without Wife” is no “Radha Kaise Na Jale.” ; ) I’d add Bridget Jones’s Diary and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries as two modern versions that are fun.

    • I probably would have enjoyed the 1940 version had I seen it in my early-to-mid teens, but I saw it in my mid-twenties and thought it (a) a rather strange display of the fashions of 1830, (b) far too lighthearted in tone, and (c) concurrently an exaggeration of Mr. Bennet’s failures as a father and a tacit acceptance of those failures as not only par for the course but as rational.
      I completely agree with you on the 1995 version, especially as it takes the characters, which are, in some cases, mere caricatures in the book, and exaggerates them further. Much as I love the wild flutterings of Mrs. Bennet and the servile pompousness of Mr. Collins, they aren’t convincing as real people.
      I know! I especially gawk at Lydia and Georgiana running away or nearly running away with someone more than ten years their senior.
      I’ve never seen (nor ever heard of, if I’m being honest) The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, but Bridget Jones’s Diary was cute.

      In general, I tend to think that the film adaptations of P&P are better than the film adaptations of Austen’s other works, but I have a hefty bias, here. P&P as a story does translate fairly well to film, I think, as it is active, involves several locations, enough travel to keep things interesting, some drama, a good deal of comedy, and a doubly happy ending.

  3. So having studied media production in college I have a great appreciation for the 2005 version for it’s beautiful cinematography. Wright did a PHENOMENAL job directing that film. It’s not my favorite of the adaptations, but it’s good for when you need a quick P&P fix now and again.

    The 95 version remains my absolute favorite of the adaptations. I think they did a great job with the script and casting choices.

    When I watched the 1940’s version I remember being so confused. At first I was like huh? Is this P&P? Like I get that the 40’s were a different time, but I still don’t know what necessitated that change.

    Bride and Prejudice was so funny. No Life Without Wife was a hysterical number.

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