Film’s based on classic novels have high expectations. When they’ve been done before, sometimes more than once, there’s even more riding on the final film. People want to know how the new version offers anything new, makes it worth their time, and worth having been made at all.
The Focus Features film “Pride & Prejudice”, is still a beautifully constructed film that pulls you in with romance and doesn’t let go.
This romance drama stars Keira Knightley (“Everest”, “The Imitation Game”), Matthew Macfadyen (“The Enfield Haunting”, “The Last Kingdom”), Brenda Blethyn (“Vera”, “Two Men in Town”), Donald Sutherland (upcoming “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2”, “Crossing Lines”), Tom Hollander (“Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation”, “The Riot Club”), Rosamund Pike (“Return to Sender”, “Thunderbirds are Go”), Jena Malone (upcoming “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2”, “Time Out of Mind”), and Judi Dench (“Spectre”, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”).
The film was directed by Joe Wright (“Pan”, “Anna Karenina”) and written by Deborah Moggach (“The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)”, “Final Demand”). It is based on the novel of the same name by Jane Austen.
The film originally opened in limited release on Nov. 11, 2005. It would expand into wide release on Nov. 23. The film would go on to be nominated for four Academy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and six BAFTA Film Awards, winning one.
Some films I just can’t watch 15 times in a row and not grow tired of them. This one I knew was one of those films, even if it really isn’t 15 times. It’s a film that can only be enjoyed a few times, over a certain period of time, or what makes it absolutely spectacular and special will be lost. The last time I saw my copy of this film was probably when I bought this version of the DVD. If only I actually knew when that was. It was at least over three years ago, which just happened to be plenty of time for me to get excited about another viewing. Sometimes it is hard to be thrilled about a film because everything is still fresh in your mind, as if it were just yesterday that you last watched it. Fortunately for me, that was not the case. I could view everything as if I were just being exposed to it. I should say too, that this now has me wanting to reread the book. I don’t usually reread books as once is enough.
From the first shot of the film, it’s quickly established what kind of look was sought after by the director and cinematographer. A gorgeous sunrise is shown and slowly, as the sun continues to rise, we get our first glimpse of Knightley reading as she walks. This simple action is made all the more beautiful by the sun being captured behind her and giving us a yellow-orange glow. Things, fortunately, only get better from there. In all technical (the ones I’m more familiar with) departments.
The cinematography is just one aspect that allows this film to come together and do so in the most beautiful way possible. It allows this film to age with grace. At least that’s what it seems. The next biggest thing I like about the cinematography is just how it seamlessly captured the entire world I was visiting. It was constantly smooth and moved from place to place allowing me to see everything. The Bennett House is the first big set we get, and it’s amazing to see. I dare say if this had just been straightforward shooting, the house’s beauty would’ve been lost. So many other moments or locations were also captured quite well, taking full advantage of where it was that this was shot. You could definitely be transported and not want to leave.
The cinematography is important, but in this film especially, if it weren’t for the sets and locations we see, it would’ve been a little out of place. That’s really the beauty of period films, and I think, to some extent, films that start off being made by other people in other countries. They don’t have to go far, or build massive sets to create the time, atmosphere or any brief look, like a simple establishing shot. They’ve got it practically in their backyard. I don’t know where exactly they filmed, or how many individual places, but each one was more beautiful than the last. Authentic too. There was never a wasted view as the camera took full advantage of all. I know that the Bennett House was an actual house the production team found and used, but I’m not sure on the rest. Either way, whatever was real or created, was decorated so well, that even when you see something again, it’s still a wonderful sight.
Wonderful sights were not left merely to locations and sets, but with costumes. As this is essentially a period piece, or as some call them, costume drama, the costumes were a given. I can only go so far with costumes, so stick with me a moment. Whatever work went into them, it must’ve been time consuming and demanding a lot of commitment. Yes, they were vibrant in color and beautiful overall, but they do not scream amateur theater play. There’s so much detail and care put into each piece that it provides yet another reason why it’s easy to get lost in this world.
To complete this wonderful journey, is the score. I had some distinct memories of it and was surprised by how much it just fit in. There was never a moment that seemed off or out of place. The score itself was just as beautiful as anything you were seeing onscreen. Granted, that is the point of accompanying score. Simpler yet, it just fit in every way. Even now, as it plays by itself, I can’t help but get lost in what I’m hearing. It just ended, before I typed this sentence, and it was beautiful! Time for another listen.
Of course, none of this would matter if not for the acting. The acting was superb. Every actor is just wonderful as their respective characters. There’s so much going on for each character in general, but it’s truly the little things that set them all apart. It’s what also allows the many relationships to exist in whatever form they do. Take for instance, the sisters. So many, and each one is different. Collectively, individually, and one on one. They’re all so well defined, that if it were not for the period look, this could be another day at your house, or a friends house. There’s also the other relationships and characters in general. They’re all aiming for one thing, like the Bennett sisters, but manage to also stand out as their own type of person as well. With the exception of Dench’s character, whom you’re supposed to dislike and she did so as only she can, there was never a moment I was fascinated by them or wanting good things for them. Sometimes even, like the sisters, I’d be hoping that one of the men would return so that there could be happiness for at least one of them. I also should say, Dench was a fun character to hate. When she has her last scene with Knightley, I was kind of blown away by it. It was just so smart and well acted. I was in awe of Knightley. She got to share screen time with a legend such as Dench.
Watching Knightley and Macfadyen, above anyone else, was just… something else. I couldn’t look away when they had scenes. There was just something so captivating about them that I couldn’t turn away. Chemistry is truly key. They sold every aspect of their character’s relationship, and this allowed me to want them together all the more. By the end of the film, I didn’t actually want it to end. I hadn’t remembered how the film itself ended, so I was quite surprised when it ended in the beautiful way it did. I can imagine, in a happily ever after sort of way, that that’s how their life was like after they got married.
One thing I didn’t notice about this film, not really, is how much it’s about family. After the ridiculous societal demands that these women were put through, which also made me sad and annoyed for them, this is largely about family. There was seldom a time when one or more family member wasn’t present. Even if it was something as simple as visiting a sister outside of the house, there was always a family member. If there were any moments when one of the Bennet’s was by themselves, it was usually Knightley’s Elizabeth. This, of course, has to do with the rest of the story focusing on her. While it may seem odd at first, it goes back to the times and tells you a great deal about the family unit as well as the individual people. While the younger sisters were indeed irritating, it made sense. They are younger and see this whole world as nothing more than a game. They’ve got each other. Knightley and Pike are older, they know better, even when they too at times get caught up in a moment. Then, of course, there’s Sutherland and Blethyn as the parents. Blethyn, is not simply trying to get a good life set for her girls, but she cares too and it lends itself to a neurotic and funny person. The balance of humor and drama is maintained with this family unit. There is so much shown that, again, makes it appear as if this could be anyone’s family, just in a different time. I definitely found that it balanced each character and made them all the more memorable and likable.
Not every classic novel can be retold on film, again, if not many more times, and be just as beautiful as the first time you saw it. Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, or so goes the thinking. I can’t ever seem to wrap my head around why the world needs another “Alice in Wonderland” or “Wizard of Oz” retelling or adaptation, now “Peter Pan” is in there too, and yet, we do. Charles Dickens is one author that’s had his works retold many many times, usually once each decade, or so it seems. That alone should say it’s too much. Yet, it’s not, and we still get them. However, only a handful can succeed at being truly amazing and well done. This one, by Austen, is now a decade old. The previous well known version was 10 years prior (now turning 20 this year), to this version, so does that mean we’re due for another Austen novel adaptation? Probably. But hopefully it’s one that hasn’t been done two or three times in some notable way. I’d take that over anything. Oh, right. There’s the one with zombie’s coming next year. Close enough.