A little while ago, I watched the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and I had some thoughts about it. I had more thoughts than would fit in a reasonably sized blog post, so here’s the second part of my ponderings on the film. In Part One I discussed the effect that adapting it into a film that would appeal to a wide audience had on the story, and for this post, I’ll be talking about the depiction of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, and what I thought of the changes that were made to the romance between them.
Fun fact: I’m currently sitting on hold, listening to The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and being told that I’m twenty-fourth in the queue by a man with a lovely velvety voice, so I’m trying to see how much of this review I can get done before I get through. I should try blogging to classical music more often. It’s both calming and empowering. The man’s just told me I’m twenty-first in the queue, so I’ll stop rambling about this, and get onto rambling about something more on-topic.
I think Mr Darcy is a good place to start. One of the most beloved romantic heroes, there’s really no need for improvement. Apparently the creators of the film thought differently though, because there were some pretty noticeable changes. Mainly in trying to make him as flawless as possible, and not holding him accountable for his fairly douchey behaviour towards pretty much everyone in Meryton (who hardly exhibit top-notch behaviour themselves, but the point remains).
In the film, all of Darcy’s behaviour is explained away by something akin to shyness, possibly a form of social anxiety. Which is not refuted by the text, given that Darcy does say to Elizabeth:
“I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”
And yet, by chalking the way that Mr Darcy acts and interacts with those around him to this one aspect of his personality means that much of the satire and social commentary that is so important to Jane Austen’s writing. In the film he’s fallible but not so flawed, which really bothered me.
Darcy’s pride is one the major parts of his personality, and also his undoing. There’s a reason the novel’s called Pride and Prejudice – his pride and Elizabeth’s prejudice are what cause so much of the conflict between them. He has, from a young age, thought highly of himself, and been told that he has a right to think that way, but the consequences of that means that he pretty much botches his chances with Elizabeth the first time around. Jane Austen takes him to account for this, but the film doesn’t.
As for whether I liked Matthew Macfadyen as Mr Darcy… I didn’t mind him. He’s no Colin Firth (but who is?), but I think he performed the role, or this script’s version of Mr Darcy, rather well.
I had similar feelings about Keira Knightley as Elizabeth. I think she suited the way that Lizzy was written in this script, and did a really good job of capturing the liveliness of the character.
I think some of Elizabeth’s archness and cleverness wasn’t done justice in this adaptation, and I wasn’t a fan of how, instead of their problems being caused by Darcy’s pride and her prejudice, it was suggested that it was all her pride and all her prejudice. In the novel, her pride does play a role, but Darcy’s just as much to blame as she is for their… miscommunication, for want of a better word.
Really, I felt about the portrayal of Elizabeth much the same way I felt about the film – enjoyable, but not on par with the novel.
From the lack of mentions of “fine eyes”, I’ll admit that I felt a sense of dubiousness about the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth from quite early on. I was surprised at the number of significant lines that really contribute to their relationship that were missing in the film – I’d been told that the “had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner” (see ALL my points re: Mr Darcy above) was missing, and I wasn’t particularly enchanted by what new dialogue was added.
I have a feeling I might have touched on this back in Part One (too tired to check), but essentially, the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth was sort of modernised and romanticised (I mean, yeah, it’s a romance, but this film makes it a bit more idealistic than the novel).
I feel like I’ve been rather successful in avoiding comparing this to the 1995 miniseries (my forever true love), but for this one last point, I’m going to have to. I’ve noticed on YouTube a lot of comments about the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth being more passionate in the film than in the miniseries, which I feel a desperate desire to respond to, although slightly more articulately than my initial mental pterodactyl screech reaction. Key word being slightly. Aside from the fact that it’s set in Regency England, and propriety and all that was a pretty major thing (I read somewhere that even laughing, laughing, was seen as being kind of crude. I’d be screwed), so it’s not like they would likely be emotional and passionate. But if you can’t see the beautiful and subtle emotion of in the 1995 miniseries you’re missing out. I mean… I’ll take the way Darcy looks at Elizabeth in this scene over that ghastly US alternate ending (which I was gladly spared until I looked it up online because I was confused by seeing gifs of this apparently non-existent scene) any day of the week. Okay, rant over. On the nose emotion and romantic-ness isn’t necessarily better than a more subtle performance.
It’s been a fair while since I watched the movie now, so I’ll try to get to part three ASAP, which will be about the things that I actually really liked about the film. Until then, I leave you with this picture that is supposedly of Elizabeth Bennet, where she looks like she’s about to kill someone (Mr Darcy? Mr Collins?) with her umbrella.
EDIT: I found the full version of the above image, and it turns out she’s directing that killer stare towards Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Mystery solved!