Monday, April 6, 2015

The Pride and Prejudice Adaptation Showdown

Top: 1995 miniseries, bottom: 2005 movie
Picking a favorite Pride and Prejudice adaptation is often a very divisive issue for Janeites. The only thing worse is picking a favorite Darcy portrayal. Oh the horror! 

Now there are many more Pride and Prejudice adaptations, such as the 1940 and 1980 versions, but the two that I am the most familiar with are the 1995 Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle BBC miniseries, and the 2005 Keira Knightley/Matthew Macfadyen movie, so we will be sticking with those two for simplicity's sake. 
Darcy's wet shirt scene
In one corner, we have the 1995 BBC miniseries, most famous for Colin Firth's wet shirt scene (above), Jennifer Ehle's eyebrows and smirk, and the most eccentric Mrs. Bennet ever portrayed.

I LOVE this miniseries. This is about as close as you will get to the book in an adaptation, granted, it is almost 6 hours long. However, it is a lovely way to spend a weekend afternoon. The acting is fantastic, and I love the character portrayals in this series. 
The hysterical Mrs. Bennet: genius character portrayal
One of the strengths of this miniseries is that it not only shows Elizabeth's side of the story, but Darcy's as well, therefore we get to see him dealing with his feelings for Elizabeth, writing the letter, and being the "avenging angel" for Lydia. It's so well done!
Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle as Darcy and Lizzie
Probably what I love best about this movie is the delivery of some of Austen's best comic lines. This version makes me laugh out loud more than any of the others. Mr. Bennet is a sarcastic genius, Mrs. Bennet is a hysterical mess and Darcy and Elizabeth's potshots at each other round out the comedy.  
Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley as Darcy and Lizzie
In the other corner, we have the artistic, gritty masterpiece of the 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice.

What I love about this movie: 
1. The music. I can't think of a movie that has a better soundtrack than this one.
The Bennet women
2. How realistic it is. The Bennet's house is messy and dirty, and there are girls running around yelling and squealing. It feels natural. It feels like you are sitting in a chair observing a normal family of seven, with six of them being women.
3. Macfadyen's portrayal of Darcy. We see a shy and vulnerable awkwardness that many other actors haven't used for the Darcy character. He is fantastic. 
4. The cinematography. Seriously. I dare you to go find a movie that has better visuals than this one. 

With this movie being under two hours long, they obviously had to cut much of the plot in order to fit it into the two hour window. They also did take creative license with several scenes, including both proposals, but I think they were so well done that it doesn't matter. 

Final Score: It's a tie. 

(Yes I get to do that. It's MY blog.)

I can't pick one over the other, it would be like picking a favorite child, and comparing the two would be like comparing apples and oranges. They each look at the book from different perspectives, neither of which is wrong. That is the beauty of literature. There is no right answer. 

Have you watched one or both of these adaptations? What is your opinion? Do you have a particular favorite? Is there a recipe for a "perfect" movie adaptation for any book? 


  1. I haven't seen the movie at all so I don't know if I'd really be allowed to choose one over the other, but based off your descriptions... I think I would go with the newer version! As technology progresses it shows, and judging by your photos, I'd say that one is the winner.

  2. The question you post of whether or not there is a "perfect" movie adaptation recipe is such a great one! So many books are getting made into movies lately, some "upsettingly" so. I think the recipe has to be a perfect mixture of faithfulness to the book, and creative perspective (with, of course, attractive male leads and breathtaking cinematography (and sometimes both of those simultaneously)).

  3. I think the a good movie adaptation needs to be faithful to the book's core theme, to match the book's tone and style, and to have suitable actors (actresses) playing the roles.

  4. I like how that you gave a reason for each of the adaptations as to why that they were best. I also like the comment you made about how it was your blog and you could do what you wanted!

  5. I agree with your overall message in that.. You can do what you want with your blog! Anything with Keira Knightley brings sexual tension in my opinion. Just looking at how the character's hair and outfits are different, makes you realize that there are different intentions with these films.