Saturday, November 3, 2007

Comparing three film versions of Pride & Prejudice

Many years ago, in Stowe, Vermont, I watched a documentary film about the real Maria Von Trapp. We were visiting Trapp Family Lodge with its Alpine European flavor and Sound of Music history permeating everywhere.

The most surprising to me was Maria's opinion on the film. I had always wondered what she thought about the movie, especially since reading her autobiography. She liked it and said the film kept all of the main important things.

I would venture to say, I am sure to the surprise of many, that Jane Austen would say something quite similar of the newest (2005) version of Pride & Prejudice. Is it perfect? Heavens, no. But I would propose here that it does indeed keep the main elements of this best known of Jane Austen's stories: that intelligent, educated girls are much more sensible than superfluous, silly ones, and that love, true love, has the power of transforming people.

I have recently led a discussion of this age-old favorite in class with 12-14 year olds, and one of the students remarked yesterday that Pride & Prejudice will never seem the same again after our discussion. I, of course, believe that discussing good books is truly rewarding! It brings joy, it challenges the mind, and most of all it brings discoveries that shed light on our reading!

I should add here that it is a known fact that the BBC production under the same title is the most faithful to the novel, of course. It is indeed, and Colin Firth is a very believable Darcy! But, alas, it is made for TV with its obvious limitations.

Pride & Prejudice is a most beloved book for me and I was very pleased with the interest and enthusiasm the kids showed for this classic. Some of them were simply astounded to discover so much in there-- and how it is ultimately a story of how love can transform us and push us toward letting go of our vices and faults and become better Christians.

My favorable opinion on the 2005 Pride & Prejudice version was crystallized recently when I watched the 1940 version with Lawrence Olivier and Greer Garson. Oh, my-- if you think the newest one detracted from the book, you'll be mortified with the 1940 one! As if the novel didn't offer enough, the scriptwriter decided on adding more! Darcy teaching Elizabeth to shoot bow and arrows? Lady Catherine De Burgh telling Darcy her interview with Lizzy was a set up to test her a suitable wife for him? Nah, no wonder you had never heard of that version.

The 2005 Pride and Prejudice, as I stated before, is obviously not perfect: I don't like the way they make Mr. Collins' stature something to be laughed at. His affected and self-centered behavior is what Austen ridiculed. And the gratuitous scene in the church is predictable in this anti-religion age, albeit very well done in the movie. Lady Catherine looked like she had just arrived from a tanning salon, and Miss Bingley's dresses were a bit too modern. But Charlotte was perfect, and so was Col. Fitzwilliam. Mrs. Bennett was impeccable, and her human, good side well explored, as when Lizzy is lovingly consoling her when Lydia departs with Wickman. So were the younger Bennetts. And Darcy... I dare to say he is the best Darcy ever.

The newest version brings Jane Austen again with her main elements, and I for one rejoice in being able to watch a movie with girlfriends and teens/kids that portrays appropriate courtship!


Matilda said...

Oh my, I expected hate mail when I said that I thought the new Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) was the best I had ever seen! Glad to know I am in good company. I did not care for Kiera Knightley as much although I thought she did a fine job. Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennet stole the show. And Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennet was perfection!

I completely agree with you about the newer version...well done but not perfect and the BBC is the most faithful. I see the 2005 version as my go to movie when I want a quick Jane fix. The other one is for when I want full Jane immersion.

And thank you for the heads up on the Olivier/Garson fiasco.

electroblogster said...

Ana - on your recommendation I suppose I will have to watch more than the 10 minutes I had previously thought sufficient.

I like the BBC one - in part for it's pace but more for the wonderful language and believable characters. When I peeked in on the new version I saw elaborate sets and costumes - and people speaking VERY fast to try to get all the dialogue in! My impression was that they couldn't be doing it justice.

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

Electroblogster, my husband says, "Goodness, guy, I took my wife to the movies to watch it and endured the whole thing. Give it a chance. The dance hall scene is great with its crowded, noisy, sweaty authenticity"

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

Matilda, the Olivier/Garson fiasco is still capable of entertaining provided you make a good bowl of popcorn! Watch for the very displaced women's fashions!

let mercy lead said...

We got the Olivier/Garson version from Netflix in the last year and also thought the story was way, way off. And my daughters, who have seen the two other versions, immediately proclaimed, "The dresses are all wrong!" but my 9-year-old sighed, "But they are so pretty.."

I wrote briefly about the movie versions of P & P on a Jane Austen blog that I started a few weeks before I gave a Jane Austen & chocolate talk last month.

One I really enjoyed (and ranked more highly than the 1940s version) was Bride & Prejudice, the Indian retelling of the story. Lots of big production numbers. I would recommend it for teens and above (though it has been awhile, and I can't remember the specifics of why, I just remember not showing it to my young children.

Thanks for this great resource blog to keep our neflix queue well-stocked!