Pride of the Land

Pride of the Land

Despite Changes, New Pride and Prejudice Remains Faithful

By Alexa DeGennaro

November 12, 2005

 This P&P is the first feature film version of the story since Laurence Olivier's 1940 version.
 Mr. Darcy star Matthew MacFadyen has never seen Colin Firth's performance as Mr. Darcy.
 The film was number 1 in the UK for over a month.
Throw away your notions of wet shirts and men jumping into lakes, ladies. The new Pride and Prejudice is having none of it, and it is, hands down, the best adaptation of Jane Austen's novel, to date. Although this version includes dozens of changes to the story, it remains faithful enough for die-hard fans, especially of the Colin Firth incarnation, to be won over by the end of the sweeping, romantic film.

Director Joe Wright takes the themes and characters in Austen's novel and expands upon them in an ode to nature, idealism and emotion. Wright's direction is refreshingly artful - he takes Austen's story out of the parlor and into nature, making the rural English countryside a character unto itself.

This Pride and Prejudice proves a brave break from the traditionalist sensibilities of previous adaptations. The screenplay, written by Deborah Moggach, with supplemental, but un-credited, work by Emma Thompson, diverts from Austen's prose in places, giving heretofore undeveloped characters greater depth (especially Charlotte Lucas, played with real heart by Claudie Blakley) and making each line feel fresh and natural.

Now what you're really wondering is: how does it measure up to the BBC version? The new Pride and Prejudice is a separate cinematic entity, but in some ways trumps the comical mini-series. For the first time, all the actors are the proper age for their parts, so while Keira Knightly is overly flirtatious in earlier scenes (and a bit too thin in most), she is twenty just as her character should be and grows into the emotional scenes, making for a well-rounded turn as Elizabeth Bennett. Matthew MacFadyen is the perfect Mr. Darcy, bar none. He masters the brooding Brit with puppy dog eyes, while giving the character an unspoken back story and character that seems perfectly in step with Austen's romantic hero.

The rest of the veteran cast, including Judy Dench, Donald Sutherland, Brenda Blethyn and Tom Hollander, take chances with their character's portrayal - a mullet-haired Hollander plays Mr. Collins not as the simpering fool, but as a calculated creep, just as Blethyn tones down Mrs. Bennett's ridiculousness, molding a woman who is believably the mother of both level-headed Lizzy and silly flirt Lydia.

Along with a simple piano score, scenes beautifully lit with flickering candlelight and dramatic set-ups in which Wright masters the art of the loaded pause, Pride succeeds as the ultimate ode to Austenian romance. It is beautiful in every sense of the word, and after seeing Pride and Prejudice, you'll wonder how you ever saw it any other way.