The International Writers Magazine: Film Review
review by Sam North
Directed by Joe Wright
Based upon the novel by Jane Austen
Screenplay by Deborah Moggach
Keira Knightley .... Elizabeth Bennet
Matthew MacFadyen .... Mr. Darcy
Brenda Blethyn .... Mrs. Bennet
Donald Sutherland .... Mr. Bennet
Tom Hollander .... Mr. Collins
Rosamund Pike .... Jane Bennet
Jena Malone .... Lydia Bennet
Judi Dench .... Lady Catherine De Bourg
have bewitched me - body and soul Miss Elizabeth'
I'd like to think that if Jane Austen could ever go to the movies, she'd
be delighted and amazed about how close in spirit this 2005 version
of her novel Pride and Prejudice written in 1813 actually is.
Director Joe Wright in his first feature by his own admission is not
a classics fan and indeed had never read the book until after seeing
Deborah Maggach's screenplay (commissioned before he came on board by
Working Title). Nevertheless Working Title chose the right man for the
job. He saw right through the text and discovered it to be a slice of
early social realism and tackled it accordingly. The result, incombination
with Deborah Moggach's witty script is fresh, often exhilerating and
with a saucy, waspish, bright Keira Knightley playing Lizzie, funny
It has a brisk pace and is not tempted to stray from the countryside
for the delights of London and society. We stay rooted with Lizzie in
her smaller world and let the outside world come to her.
One must quickly point out that the original music by Dario Marianelli
and muted cinematography by Roman Osin (who has the eye of a painter)
in combination with skilful editing by Paul Tothill have really recreated
a vanished England and given us the perfect combination of mood and
Joe Wright unusally gave the actors three weeks to rehearse to learn
the dances and the Bennet family really got to inhabit their home, each
getting their own rooms and were thrown together before the movie to
make them feel at ease and be family with each other. It is great to
see Donald Sutherland with more to do than utter a few words and he
lends credibility and intellect to the role of Mr Bennet, whilst Brenda
Blethyn as the mother is unrestrained in her blathering silliness, much
to the elder girls obvious embarassment. (Just like a real family).
The house, complete with pigs that wander in and out, is wonderfully
observed and lived in, this is in total opposition to the sterility
of the rich men's houses in the shape of the Bingley and Darcy mansions.
The contrast to those who live and those who wish to set an example
to others on how to live could not be more marked.
Making Austen revelant
to the Britney and Paris Hilton generation is tough but Joe Wright has
taken the book at face value and seen that women without means are incredibly
vulnerable and marriage to man with income (gentlemen do not work in
Austen novels) is essential. To live in a family with five marriageble
daughters is ruinous. A mother might do anything to be shot of them.
A father might do nothing to prevent it.
Keira's Lizzie Bennet
is mocking, often silly, equally often serious and possessed of great
insights and definitely does not wish to be married off to just 'anyone'.
Especially the odious bore Mr Collins (played with hilarious, sweaty
unctuousness by Tom Hollander) who is indeed looking for a wife and
has been promised the very home the Bennet's live in.
Lizzie prides herself
and her freedom above family need and it is her pride that is the crux
of this story. She is consdered 'plain' and should be grateful for any
attention whilst her pretty sister Jane is the one that her mother thinks
will get the best 'price'. She is played by Rosamund Pike (who it could
be said is a very mature 24 in this role and fairly vapid).
Enter into their
closeted world the new rich landowner next door, Mr Bingley, played
by Simon Woods, who is, from the start quite besotted by Jane and one
would have thought this was their story. But no, enter Mr Darcy, Mr
Bingley's best friend and even richer landowner from the Peake district.
He is played rather too stiffly by Mahew MacFayden - filled with glowering
disdain for those who are beneath him. Lizzie Bennet would beneath him
too, unworthy of his attention but not for her coyness, her beauty and
intelligence that capitivate him. But naturally he cannot bring himself
to even think these things when they first meet at the dance in the
assembly hall. (The dances are quite invigorating and the lives of these
19th century simple country people is shown as unrestrained and highly
natural as they enjoy themselves with gusto, something Mr Darcy is quite
unable to do).
Many millions have
read Jane Austen and many will know the story from TV or the books,
but in this version, the first filmed for the big screen since 1940,
(saving Bride and Prejudice last year) it quite captures the
heart in a way that 'Tess' did twenty odd years ago in Roman
Polanski's version of the Hardy tale.
Of course England's finest country houses are on show (Chatsworth in
particular) and look great, but not long after Lizzie has finally spurned
Mr Darcy (having discovered he ruined her sister Jane's one chance of
happiness with Mr Bingley) she is visiting with her Aunt and Uncle in
Derbyshire and comes across Mr Darcy's grand home. It is at once impressive
and aloof and in a trice she understand Mr Darcy and why he cannot ever
fit in elsewhere. She lets loose a laugh and right at this moment is
her flash of understanding. The sculpture gallery with it's sensuous
figures in marble hint at hidden passionate depths in the Darcy family
and the stage is set for act three.
But of course nothing
ever runs smoothly. Other members of the family must live their dreams
too and young Lydia (Jena malone) elopes with a rogue Mr Wickham whch
could bring the whole family into ruin. Mr Darcy and her father leave
to try to resolve the issue and Lizzie is about to learn the truth about
Judi Dench appears (it is a requirement for all period films these days)
as the embittered Lady Catherine De Bourgh and fills the screen with
her fire and brimstone but it is merely a 'turn' and we quickly run
back to the kitchen for safety.
course if you have read the book you know how it turns out but go
see this film and be prepared to fall in love with Jane Austen all
over again. Keira's Lizzie Bennet is a revelation and she is captivating
for every second she is on screen, her prescence felt when she is
A total delight.
On general release from September 16th 2005
© Sam North
Sept 15th 2005
the author of The Curse of the
Nibelung - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
Lulu Press ISBN: 1-4116-3748-8
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