The Definitive Guide to Pride and Prejudice on Film (2005 Focus Features Edition)

The Definitive Guide to Pride and Prejudice on Film

The Modern Mrs. Darcy is not a Jane Austen blog. But since the Modern Mrs. Darcy takes its title and byline from Jane Austen’s most famous work, I thought it would be fun to examine the many different versions of Pride and Prejudice on film.  I’m sticking to straight adaptations, and skipping Bride and Prejudice, Bollywood, the Mormon adaptation, and–heaven help us–Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Today we’re going to start with the 2005 version, starring Keira Knighley and Matthew Macfadyen as Elizabeth and Darcy, and clocking in at 2:09.

What’s this version like?

P&P 2005 was produced by Focus Features, the art house films division of Universal.  It shows.  I enjoyed 2005 for its art-house features:  its beauty, vivid imagery and the heavy use of symbolism.  Blackbirds are heard singing in many of Elizabeth’s scenes.  Claps of thunder punctuate the heated conversation following Darcy’s first proposal.  Light and color are used to great effect.

Who is Elizabeth in 2005?

Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth is young–she was 20 years old at the time of filming, nearly matching Jane Austen’s description of Lizzie as 21. Knightley’s Lizzy embodies the “mixture of archness and sweetness” attributed to her by Jane Austen. Lizzie is quick-witted and lively, and wears her heart on her sleeve (at least for 1797, when the film is set).  She’s authentic–and often dressed in earth tones for emphasis.  She doesn’t give much thought to her appearance, but cares greatly about conduct.

 

This Elizabeth would never be mistaken for the accomplished woman as described by Mr. Darcy.

Who is Darcy in 2005?

Matthew Macfadyen plays Darcy very charitably: his “pride” is due to shyness and social awkwardness, not snobbishness or superiority.  But his Darcy is a static character:  he gets nicer, but he doesn’t fundamentally change.  I felt this was the biggest disappointment in this adaptation.

What’s to Love in the 2005 Version

Elizabeth and Darcy have great chemistry: Knightley and Macfadyen do a great job of firing off at each other, as evidenced in one of my favorite scenes:

Rosamund Pike plays an excellent–and believable–Jane.  Director Joe Wright says the film is “an expression of how difficult it is to fall in love–how difficult, how terrifying to let yourself go.”  Jane’s character conveys this message well.  I love her small touches–the way she cranes her neck to check out the men at the ball, and the casual small talk she makes with Bingley upon being introduced.  (“I wish I had more time for reading–there’s always so much else to do!”)

The movie’s realism makes it easy for the 21st century viewer to empathize with these 18th century characters.

What’s Not as Lovable in the 2005 Version

The film moves at a blistering pace, and the plot has been simplified and streamlined.  Some characters were dropped altogether.  The dialogue has been condensed, making some lines seem trite, and lessening the suspense (like when Lydia is missing).

2005 also has some clunky dialogue.  Like Charlotte declaring to Lizzy her intention to marry Mr. Collins, and storming off with “Don’t you dare judge me!”  Or when Lizzy tells her parents she won’t marry Mr. Collins, and runs out of the scene yelling “You can’t make me!” And I have a hard time believing any Mr. Darcy would tell Elizabeth he had “scruples about our relationship.”

Clumsy dialogue takes away from some scenes, but Bingley especially is often hitting the wrong notes.  The way Simon Woods plays him, he comes off as a doofus.  (The accomplished woman scene is the worst!)

Favorite Original Scene:

The director made up this scene to hurry the plot along, but I love it.  Bingley and Darcy leave the Bennet home after a visit, and Bingley is frustrated that he didn’t get an opportunity to propose to Jane.  Darcy and Bingley are shown on the lawn, rehearsing how Bingley’s proposal should have gone.

Scene That Makes You Cringe:

Mr. Collins’s proposal to Lizzy is painful to watch–for all the right reasons.  He gets her alone in the dining room after breakfast:  the room’s a mess, there are dirty dishes everywhere, and a giant ham sits right in front of Lizzy on the table–signifying quite well what Mr. Collins thinks of marriage.  Then the bumbling, insulting speech, and her insistence that no means no?  It’s painful to watch!  (Poor Charlotte!)

Fun Facts

  • Bingley and Jane used to date in real life.  So in the film he got to court and later propose to his ex-girlfriend–who then accepted her ex-boyfriend.
  • The British and American versions have different endings, because the final scene of Lizzy and Darcy talking in the moonlight at Pemberley didn’t test well with British focus groups, and was cut from the European release.

The Final Word

If you’re a Jane Austen fan, by all means, see this version!  It doesn’t mirror the book, but it’s not intending to (nor should it).  But it’s a lovely film, and even die-hard Pride and Prejudice fans will enjoy the fresh perspectives brought to the characters by the talented cast.  (Well, except for Mr. Bingley.)

Comments

  1. says

    I love the music in this film. It really draws you in…and Mr. Darcy’s sister was in it, which I thought was a neat part of the book. Keira Knightley looks skinnier than my imaginary Elizabeth, though. Beauty was very different then.

  2. says

    Great rundown on that version. Another fun fact: Jane and the director began dating and became engaged. Alas, they never got married. :(

    That scene in the rain is my favorite to show their chemistry as well.

  3. Laura says

    I saw this version when it was first released. I later bought the DVD when it came out as well. For some reason, it is *still* in the packaging, never opened.
    This was not my favorite version of Pride and Prejudice but I did enjoy it. I just always seem to go back and watch the Colin Firth Jennifer Ehle one. To me, Colin Firth IS Mr. Darcy. :)

    Great rundown of this version! I think that I will go back and re-watch it. It’s been too long. :)

    ((Hugs))
    laura

  4. Liz says

    “Knightley’s Lizzy embodies the “combination of archness and sweetness” attributed to her by Jane Austen”. I have to disagree. She was on the verge of rudeness in a few scenes and the real Lizzy would never have screamed to her family, “For once in your life, would you leave me alone!”

    I’m not totally disregarding her performance, it was very good in places. I think her acting is more suited to action films, than drama. She’s a little too brash and slightly unfeminine in attitude.

    Too bad you’re not giving Bride and Prejudice a go. I thoroughly enjoy Bollywood and this production is lively and colorful, with an excellent score. I have similar criticizms of Aishwarya Rai’s depiction of “Lalita” – outright rude instead of “arch”, but it’s still worth seeing.

    For me, there will never be another definative Pride and Prejudice like the A&E version though!!!

  5. Brenda says

    Some stories just need to be told the loooonng way! Pride & Prejudice is one of those stories! Trying to work within a 2 to 2-1/2 hour framework is no doubt difficult. But that’s why we have mini-series.

    My favorite film version of Pride & Prejudice is the 1985 work starring Elizabeth Garvey & David Rintoul. It’s 265 minutes long, & I treat myself to it when I can watch it on 2 consecutive nights. My girls prefer the Jennifer Ehle & Colin Firth one. And they’re just smitten with Bingley in that one! :o)

    • Anne says

      I’m working my way through the Elizabeth Garvey/David Rintoul version now for the first time. I’ll be posting on that version in a few weeks, stay tuned….

  6. says

    I just love this version. I agree with your quibbles for sure, but I just find it so sweet and pretty. I love the music, too, as your other commenter pointed out. And a little cheesy though it may be, I LOVE the “Mrs. Darcy” end at Pemberley. Can’t wait to read your thoughts on the other versions!

  7. says

    I love this movie, as well as the A&E version (which is definitely my measuring stick for any Pride and Prejudice versions that I see). But I am in agreement about the pitfalls of this particular version – it just doesn’t have the depth that a 6 hour version has, but it’s enjoyable all the same (and I’m pretty sure Lizzie would never have gone running up the stairs saying “just leave me alone” to her family). Funny that the UK version deleted the very last scene because I thought it was very sweet, even if it was a little cheesy!!

  8. says

    I quite agree with everything you said here. This is the version I own, and I do love it, especially the music, and the relationship between Jane and Elizabeth as portrayed by these actors. But I still prefer the 1995 version–when I have four hours to sit down and watch a movie!! I like this one for a “quick” P&P fix. :)

    Would you please do a review of the 1995 version? I do love Colin Firth… :)

  9. Malka Herman says

    Not to nit pick but Elizabeth is 20 in Pride and Prejudice, not 21. She tells Lady Catherine that she is “not one and twenty” although she may have turned 21 later in the book.

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