Jane Austen’s novels have suffered some tepid and subdued film production. Yes, I have to say, the BBC’s earlier versions were done with the usual British restraint and, well, boring.
Jane Austen has written six of the most widely read novels of all time. This is impressive as women of the time were considered somewhat scandalous to pursue writing careers. Jane was a prolific writer of the time. Producing six classic novels by the age of 42 would be a feat for any writer. Unfortunately, her death at this early age deprived us of more of her insightful novels.
All of her novels have been filmed in varying degrees of quality. The films are:
1. Pride and Prejudice
2. Sense and Sensibility
4. Mansfield Park
5. Northanger Abbey
The two best films by far are Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. The Pride and Prejudice (2005) version has an excellent cast with dynamic scenes as well as truly inspired performances. Deborah Moggach’s script has more depth than previous versions and Joe Wright’s directing is top-notch.
The plot revolves around the Bennets, a family of modest means with five daughters. Set in Victorian England, it chronicles the existence of women of the era, fathers and suitors who were in control of the female population. The story revolves around the intricate courtship of Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy and the mistakes they both make when evaluating each other’s characters.
The second story arc is Jane Bennet’s seemingly unrequited love for Mr. Bingley. They are both shy and their affection for each other endures through their trials and tribulations.
What makes this version of Pride and Prejudice stand out is Keira Knightley’s erratic performance as Lizzie Bennet. She is a true gem to make. Her scenes with Judi Dench (Lady De Bourg) are mesmerizing in their ferocity and intensity. That alone makes this film a must see.
Donald Sutherland (Mr. Bennet), who portrays Lizzie’s father, delivers one of the best performances of his career. His nuanced scenes with Lizzie are unforgettable.
Mr. Darcy, (Matthew Macfadyen) Lizzie’s tormented lover, is equally captivating. He portrays a social bungler with true awkwardness. His scenes with Lizzie are a testament to his talent. He loses his shyness when Lizzie tweaks his temper as she usually manages. He then comes across with a controlled rage that makes for an intense performance.
Yes, the supporting cast pulls their weight with fine performances. They actually offer layered and richly balanced performances to make the film even more memorable as a classic.
Pride and Prejudice is an absolutely captivating film. You will greatly admire Lizzie’s courage and independence and Mr. Darcy’s pursuit of the one who has won his heart. The captivating ending is a Jane Austen masterpiece. Even the stubborn man will shed a tear or two, and women will dream of their Mr. Darcy. You might even fall in love.