4 August 2006 | Flagrant-Baronessa
A timeless adaptation of a timeless Jane Austen novel.
The fantastic romantic world of Jane Austen again makes its way to the silver screen in Joe Wright's new adaptation of the classic novel Pride and Prejudice. It is the first feature film to be adapted from it in 65 years, and believe me when I say it does not disappoint. This adaptation is, for lack of a better word, a BRILLIANT achievement that keeps you actively involved from the first scene to the very last scene, just about consuming you with aching romance and it is sprinkled with humour and intelligence.
Still taking place in the late 1700s and still interweaving its story with timeless emotion, pride, narrow-mindedness and love, Pride and Prejudice (2005) zooms in on the Bennet household in class-conscious, stuck-up England. In this household, we follow five spirited sisters under the idealism of their overbearing mother (a superbly neurotic Brenda Blethlyn providing for the comic relief) who desperately wants them all to marry and thereby secure the future of the family estate. But the standout sister and protagonist in the film, Lizzie (Keira Knightley) is clever enough to have other ideas, but alas too romantic to carry them out... *sigh*
When reviewing period films such as this one, one often focuses on the setting and costume design. I believe this is done because they are often better crafted than the actual story. But in Pride and Prejudice (2005), the stormy emotions of its charactersbottled up but bubbling to get outcompletely consume the entire film and places understated set designs in the backseat. Only when it was consciously put forward, like when Lizzie Bennet was admiring the beautiful architecture and Greek statues of Mr. Darcy's estate, did I ever notice the background and it was, of course, extraordinary. A similar state displaying the dynamics of its central cast should be attributed to the grand dancing scene between Lizzie and Mr. Darcy the two are so absorbing that when Wright purposely fades out the the rest of the dancing crowd, you do not notice a change. Your eyes are still solely Knightley and Macfadyen. It took me three viewings to realise this.
As for acting performances then, the unspeakably lovely Keira Knightley has finally done it. She has proved me wrong with a truly Oscar-worthy performance and she does it without crying, worrying, moping and sighing like the other nominees that year. Knightley is in fact all about sweet subtlety here, bringing a fantastic presence to her high-spirited character Lizzie. She is the type of character that every girl and woman in the world can identify with and with Knightley behind her to give her oomph, you will not find a more likable creature in films this year. MacFayden is completely satisfactory as Lizzie's love interest Mr. Darcy, but he is no Colin Firth lacking in charm and is a bit too wooden. But no matter, because these two have the best on-screen chemistry I have ever seen. I'm not kidding, this was sensational. Such magnetism. It is highlighted from scene 1, playfully touching upon their sexual tension and gradually turning it into feverish love that sends chills down your spine.
Every last actor in the cast of Pride and Prejudice (2005) gets to shine in their characterfrom Dame Judi Dench as a cold rich lady to Donald Sutherland as caring Mr Bennet, all except Jena Malone whose all too Valley-girl American attitude was distracting and annoyingly anachronistic. But it is Knightley who is in focus and who propels the film with her warm charisma. It is impossible not to fall in love with the main characters, and I say this as someone who avoids romance-themed films and who does not care for period films.
This is a truly timeless story and this film will hopefully be remembered, celebrated and praised for breathing life into it with such passion.
10/10 (which is a rare grade for me)