In an effort to avoid alienating the few readers I have, I try not to take controversial positions in this blog. You’ll notice that I never mentioned where I stood during the recent elections, although I had very strong opinions thereon.
That prohibition ends today. I’m tired of being wishy-washy. It’s time to take a stand on one of the most pressing issues of the day: Which version of “Pride and Prejudice” is superior?
While it’s true that there have been several filmed versions of the book – IMDb lists more than a dozen, including the oh-so-trendy “P&P and Zombies” – only two of these count: The 2005 cinematic version with Kiera Knightley, a.k.a. the movie, and the 1995 A&E TV mini-series, a.k.a. the “Colin Firth” version.
Not only do I take the minority position that the movie is superior on all counts – it is a great movie in fact – I don’t even consider the CF version passable. I’ve watched it (or rather endured it) twice and have yet to understand the attraction.
Perhaps “attraction” is the operative word here because the CF version always wins hands down with women. And the one scene that is consistently mentioned in conversation is Colin Firth’s wet T-shirt scene, i.e. the scene where he jumps in a pond fully clothed and emerges with said clothes clinging to him. Sorry, but that’s lost on me, especially with all its other flaws:
- Mr. Firth’s expression and tone never change through the whole movie. He’s a stuck-up twit at the start and remains so through the end. I kept wondering, “What does this girl see in this guy?” Must have been the wet clothes.
- I despise every scene with the Bennett parents. She’s a shrew and he’s a hateful jerk. They repel me.
- It’s a very important part of the story that Jane Bennett is more attractive than Lizzie. To be kind, the girl in the CF version doesn’t come anywhere near meeting that criterion. (Again, I suppose a woman is less likely to notice that than a man would.)
- Mr. Collins is played as a sniveling creep resembling a child molester.
That’s just a taste. The movie version (note that I don’t call it the Keira Knightley version – no hormones involved here) corrects all these problems:
- Matthew Macfadyen looks like he is going through the emotional turmoil that Darcy experiences. He grows and changes.
- The Bennett parents have their differences, but there is never a moment when I don’t believe they love each other. Their scenes are touching and playful, never hateful.
- Rosamund Pike holds up very well next to Keira Knightley (no small feat).
- Tom Hollander creates a magnificently funny and almost sympathetic Mr. Collins, not an Olde English version of Aqualung.
- It has a great sense of humor.
- The development of the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy is perfect. The change in her feelings toward him are realistic, logical, and believable.
- Judi Dench. Need I say more?
- Everyone in the cast is perfect.
- The script is perfect. It’s hard to make a Jane Austen novel into a two hour film, but this screenplay does it. In the director’s commentary on the DVD, Joe Wright credits Emma Thompson with help on the script. She gets a little “thank you” at the end of the credits, but it would surprise me if she didn’t have a lot to do with the successful product.
- Gorgeous music.
- Gorgeous photography.
- Some of the camera work – with long segments of uncut shots – is amazing.
Some of these are attributable to the higher budget available to the movie. Most, however, come down to script and cast. The movie has it all over the CF version on both counts and a lot more.
Lest I’m accused of having a bias (dare I say, a prejudice) toward films or against the longer mini-series format, be aware that I far prefer the 2008 PBS version of “Sense and Sensibility” to the star-studded 1995 movie version of same.*
There it is, my first controversial statement on a religious argument. Where do you stand?
* There are interesting connections between these films. Andrew Davies wrote the screenplays for both mini-series, while Emma Thompson wrote the cinematic version of S&S and helped write the 2005 P&P. For the record, I strongly dislike the CF P&P, but the cinematic S&S is fairly good. It just doesn’t measure up (in my opinion) to the recent wonderful PBS version.