I've seen a fair number of book adaptations over the years. But very few give me the enjoyment I receive from watching Austen's books adapted to film! I wouldn't say I became a real Janeite until I was in high school, but I've always had a dear love for Jennifer Ehle's 1995 Pride and Prejudice. A good chunk of my childhood features this series at one point or another. So when I came across the 2005 Kiera Knightley adaptation, I was skeptical that it would live up to the original. Much to my surprise however, I found it extremely compelling.
I noticed a number of differences between these two films, and I've narrowed them down. Not to say which is superior, but to compare and contrast the different styles and themes throughout each film, and appreciate the different approaches to the story.
Day to Day Life vs Whimsical and Artistic
I'd say the glaring difference between these two films, are the contrasting film styles.
The mini series is filmed very by the book, so to speak. It follows the story practically page by page, including every important story detail and telling it from everyone's perspective. The simple musical score and banter-filled script gives the series a very day to day life and natural feel. I've always appreciated this about this version, because it gives one a better idea of the everyday rituals of Regency life.
The 2005 adaptation however has a more artistic approach. One of my favorite scenes is when Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are dancing. Once they begin their conversation, the camera focuses on them alone and suddenly they are the only two people in the room. The single instrument music in the background adds to the intensity and immersion of this scene, enabling us to better understand it's context, and see it better from Lizzy and Darcy's point of view. The approach overall is very different, being a bit more romantic and whimsical.
Kiera Knightley VS Jennifer Ehle
One of the more controversial topics when discussing these two films, are the very different ways Kiera Knightley and Jennifer Ehle portray Elizabeth Bennett.
Lizzy in the mini series is definitely more soft spoken and gentle. She's very lovely in her manner, and politely speaks her mind. She laughs a lot during her conversations with Mr. Darcy, catching him out in his arrogant manner yet still retaining a polite air. She's also very mindful of her dress (minus the mud-soaked petticoats), always appearing very ladylike and clean.
Kiera Knightley's portrayal however is much more emotional. In her conversations with and about Mr. Darcy she makes her feelings very clear by the expressive way she speaks. We as the audience see Lizzy' s character and actions more from her perspective, and we get a better understanding of how deeply she is affected by the events of the story. The way she's dressed is also different than the mini series. Lizzy's hair is more loose and her dress more active. I personally prefer this style- it does a good job of being historically accurate while being better for Lizzy's daily activities, and I personally feel that it suits her personality better than tight corkscrew curls perfectly placed by her temples.
Proper Proposals VS Romantic Confessions
Finally, one of the biggest differences in this film is the way Mr. Darcy confesses his love for Elizabeth, both the first time and the second (when she finally accepts him).
In the mini series, Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy is very awkward and factual about his proposal. He walks through it almost like a business meeting and, even though he lays everything on the line, comes across as cold and indifferent. I loved the way this particular scene was filmed, because it made Lizzy's disinterest and disgust very believable.
By the time he proposes for real he goes about it the same proper way, but that coldness is dissolved and replaced with endearment. Both of them are smiling and awkward which I love, because as I stated in my previous article, that's generally how proposals are. You don't see them confess love or even kiss each other until the final scene, but I believe it works quite well in that it relates a very realistic proposal for that time period.
In the 2005 film, each proposal scene with Elizabeth and Darcy is very dramatic. The failed proposal occurs in a rainstorm, and Darcy is much more emotional, he's almost wretched. When I watched this scene I actually felt more pity for Mr. Darcy due to how genuine he was. Elizabeth has every right to be horrified by his choice of wording, but his reaction when she shoots back at him with her rejection is completely heartbreaking.
The scene where they confess mutual feelings for each other however, is very sweet. Both are out for a walk and just happen to run into each other. When they begin talking there's maybe a bit of nervousness, but I'd say overall both looked relatively calm and comfortable with what was being said, and the replies they gave. I loved how they kissed each others hands, which sometimes I find more compelling than on the lips. It displays an innocence in their romance, while still coming across as satisfyingly romantic.
I wouldn't say I like one of these films over the other, they're pretty equal to me. I thoroughly appreciate the differentiation in film style, acting, musical score and general feeling each film gives off, and highly recommend both versions to my fellow Janeites!
What do you think? Do you prefer one version over the other, or is it equal? Let me know in the comments below!