It is a truth universally acknowledged, that this writer when in possession of free time, must be in need to vent about Pride and Prejudice. The beautiful story that was penned by Jane Austen is a classic for a reason. While it is taking everything in me to not just write Mr. Darcy and walk away, there are so many elements in this book that make it a true masterpiece. Austen was part of the elite. She did not have a rags to fame story like her contemporary, Louisa May Alcott. Unlike the latter, Austen was also not averse to the idea of her protagonists to find love and marriage in her books. In fact, that is a driving factor in her stories.
I can make a strong case about Austen being only genius to have cracked the enemies to lovers trope too but let’s leave that for later. In almost all her story lines, the characters’ chemistry stems from their heated banters. This is why the adaptation of this classic tends to be more commercially friendly than those based on others. Pride and Prejudice is one of the easiest classics to consume. Be it to read or to watch. The two most famous adaptations of the book are the Pride and Prejudice (1995) and Pride and Prejudice (2005) ones.
The 1995 one is a series produced by BBC which starred Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. One of the first adaptations and was made painstakingly accurate to the book. As each episode was made in a way where the team could give enough time and attention to every detail of the book, it is one of the most on point adaptations I have ever watched. The casting too was remarkable. Colin would get letters written with the blood of fans to show their love for his Mr. Darcy. Speechless.
Next came the most famous adaptation. The 2005 one made by Joe Wright, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden. It is a movie that got the accuracy of the book to a concise 2 hours run time and a cast that definitely gave the production a run for their money. They made several artistic changes which only amplified the tension Austen had provided between Darcy and Elizabeth. Macfayden may not have received any letters inscribed with blood but his brooding and mysterious Darcy was closer to the vision of Austen.
Apart from these, there are many movies and series that have based their stories of this masterpiece like Bridget Jones Diary, Bride and Prejudice and Death Comes to Pemberly. To make anything based off Pride and Prejudice is easy. It boils down to them making two parties completely loathe each other till one confesses their love, only to be rejected. They then work on themselves, help the person out of dire situations and months later confess their love again. This time around, they get married. But what is the major difference between this sad plot and the genius of Austen is that concealed behind romance is many pertinent social themes.
The book was a success because Austen gripped the audience by the chemical bursts of Darcy and Elizabeth while at the same time tackling issues of woman’s requirements in the society, age of marriage, property troubles and financial glorification of selected few. She was criticised for not voicing the troubles of the middle or lower class people of the time but her documentation of the upper class through the sarcastic and witty lens has been revered by all. The adaptations discussed above too reached their success because of similar reasons.
Apart from casting the stars of the time, the projects made sure to conceal their social situation well in the background of the passionate story. The 2005 one showed more emphasis on the financial situation of the Bennets. It had scenes dedicated to illustrate how upon the death of Mr. Bennet, none of the daughters would inherit the house. Mrs. Bennet getting frenzied over their marriages had a lot to do with the fact that if their father died prematurely, they would have to house under a random male relative. The movie in its limited time made sure to dedicate scenes to Mr. Collins, the cousin who would inherit all. He was a smart use of comic relief too. Another key thing of this movie was the societal accuracy to Austen’s time. Men could not touch women who weren’t their relations. Thus when Darcy helped Elizabeth up the carriage, him holding her hand would have been a big thing. This scene gave rise to the famous, hand flex. Is the writer swooning over Macfayden’s hand while writing this? Of course not.
The 1995 one relied a lot on the class difference between the Darcy and Bennet family. A barrier between the two relations was their financial condition. They were not of the same status and even if money did not play a major factor, the way the family presented themselves did. Austen had written about mannerisms, conversation and the kind of etiquette that different classes of family had and though it was mentioned only a couple of times, upon a deep analysis it is pretty apparent how it affects the marriage. Darcy too mentions how he had his qualms about the Bennet family and it was his main reason for moving away and advising his friend against proposing to Jane. In 1995, the societal differences were still pertinent and the small reminders as well as the fight against it in the series showed the contrast. It was also the scene of Colin Firth stepping out the water drenched that sold the series.
Firth has played the role of Darcy twice. He even played a character based on Darcy in Bridget Jones Diary. He has really nailed the role both the times. A big part of Pride and Prejudice is the chemistry and banter between Elizabeth and Darcy. There is a respectful but disapproving edge to their banter which takes its sweet time to change.
The Movie Culture Synopsis
While I can’t really pick between the Darcy’s (Macfayden) I do argue that Keira’s portrayal of Elizabeth was mesmerizing. She is the queen of Victorian adaptations. Anna Karenina, Atonement, and Pride and Prejudice (2005) are such great adaptations and they all have her in common. All these movies are available to stream on Netflix and Prime and are definite must watch.