Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Many [Movie] Versions of Pride & Prejudice

So. I wish I could say that I'm totally awesome and have seen every Pride & Prejudice movie ever, but admittedly I haven't seen the 1940 version with Laurence Olivier or the 1980 made-for-TV version. However, for some time I have wanted to talk about how frustrating it is that everyone rants and raves about the 2005 movie version starring Keira Knightley when honestly as adaptations go it was just...okay.

I mean first of all...I do like Keira Knightley and all, she's a beautiful girl, but she is just too skinny to be playing Elizabeth Bennett. In fact most actresses nowadays would be too skinny for a part like this, but Knightley is a stick. She has the body of a 12 year old. It's just not right. And of course it was a movie-theater version and that means they had to cut a lot out. Including certain characters. Call me silly, but you just don't do that with Austen. Her characters are a huge part of her genius; even the minor ones.


Now...the perfection that is the 5-hour-long BBC miniseries from 1995. Everything about this is amazing, and if you watched and loved the 2005 movie you really need to give this one a try. It's long, but it's worth every moment you spend watching it. Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth are impeccable as Elizabeth and Darcy and I think the fact that I saw this so many times and loved it so much is what turned me off from the newer movie version. Seriously though, this miniseries does more justice to Austen's masterpiece than anything else ever has and holds a special place in my heart for that :)


I caught Bride & Prejudice on...I don't know, Showtime or HBO, something of the sort. I watched it because there was nothing else to do and nothing else on, but honestly it was really cute. The musical bits (yes, there's more than one) were beyond cheesy, and of course it being a Bollywood production with Indian characters there were quite a few things that they changed up...but if anything it's good entertainment and if you've never seen a Bollywood film and like Pride & Prejudice, it's worth checking out :)


And that brings us to the last version I've seen...Pride & Prejudice: A Latter Day Comedy. This is another one that I saw by chance, also on either Showtime or HBO from what I remember. It is almost...well, almost similar to how the modern-day Clueless compares to Austen's novel Emma...though it is an independent film with a Mormon theme and therefore Mormon characters. The fact that it is as cheesy as it is merely served to endear it to me, though after I saw it all those years ago I never could find it again...until I chanced upon the DVD on Amazon and asked for it for Christmas! In watching it a second time I definitely picked up on even more of it's amazing saccharine qualities, but to be completely honest I think they did a pretty darn decent job of making a modern adaptation of such a classic novel, and if you're a big Austen fan you should probably watch it. No, scratch that, you should watch it. Period.


By way of honorable mention, I bring you Lost in Austen, a miniseries about Amanda Price - an alcohol-shooting, chain-smoking Brit who finds herself, well, "lost" in the early 1800s...more specifically, in the story of her favorite novel, Pride & Prejudice. Even worse, she has somewhat switched places with Elizabeth Bennett, who is at the same time stuck in modern-day England. And while it pretty much is as silly as it sounds, the delivery in this miniseries is better than one would expect and like the Mormon version of Pride & Prejudice, it's worth a watch for any big P & P fan :) I've heard that some hate it and some love it...I liked it and I think that's good enough :)

I hope you've enjoyed my P & P movie suggestions! I've also read numerous sequels/modern-day novels based on it so maybe I'll eventually do a post about those as well :) Pin It


  1. The idea that thin people didn't exist two hundred years ago is simply wrong.
    And while Jane Austen doesn't describe Lizzy's appearance in much detail, the bits we do get fit Keira Knightley perfectly well. We're told by Lady Catherine that she's not "large" and by the narrator that Jane is "not so light" as Lizzy. Why then would a slender person be unable to portray her?

  2. Colin Firth. Be still my beating heart.

    That was the best Pride and Prejudice in my own opinion. I think he did a great job.

    But still.... Colin Firth. Yum.

  3. @Anonymous - I'm not saying that thin people did not exist two hundred years ago. What I *am* saying is that though there is no exact description of Lizzy's looks, the idea of her having the body of a twelve year old is just silly. Lizzy was generally perceived as attractive, not just by Darcy, and two hundred years ago a woman with Keira Knightley's body would have been looked at as sickly and likely unable to bear children and therefore not attractive. That's just how it was.

    Plus I just think Knightley played a weak Elizabeth Bennett, period.

    @Nicole - I concur! Wholeheartedly! :D

  4. You've got some very peculiar ideas about human physiology.
    People came in all shapes and sizes 200 years ago just as they do today. The idea that a thin woman is sickly or unable to bear children is a stragnge one indeed. My own mother was thinner than Knightley before both her pregnancies and I'm very happy to be able to report that this did not cause any problems whatsoever.

    In any case, your contention that a thin person would automatically have been thought of as repulsive back then is simply wrong.
    Just one example:

  5. @Still Anonymous - Yet again, I am not saying that thin people did not exist two hundred years ago. How many times do I have to repeat myself? Also, you apparently completely ignored my comment that Knightley simply played a weak Elizabeth Bennett in general, but I suppose maybe that's besides the point in your mind?

    Quoted directly from "Our Bodies, Ourselves": "During the 1800s, women were expected to be slightly plump." Also, in the 1800s overly skinny women were associated with poverty. Men, especially men of the ton, nearly always looked for a woman with round/full breasts and hips because it was absolutely assumed that such body types were made for bearing children...and they all needed children.

    Look at some of the famous paintings of nude women from that era; how many of them were of women who had the bodies of 12 year olds? The answer is probably none, or at least none that I have personally seen.

    Also, it's not just that Knightley is "thin". My sister is thin. But she has ships and breasts and a butt...Knightley is a beautiful woman in her own right but she has the body of a 12 year old girl. To the point where they had to airbrush makeup on her chest in the Pirates movies to make it look that she had cleavage. I never said that people in the 1800s would automatically find Knightley repulsive; I said that she would not have been thought generally ATTRACTIVE because of her figure (or lack of it).

  6. OMG, the BBC tv series version is the BEST. Colin Firth is the best Darcy by far. I saw it a couple years after it came out and fell in love with it. That's when I became a Colin Firth fan. I still haven't seen the Kings speech but I want to and I'm glad he won an oscar for it.

    I finally bought the DVD a few months ago and it's funny because I just watched the whole thing last week- It took like 6 hours (I would take mini breaks every other episode so it's not really that long lol).

    Anyway, I love pride and prejudice. I'm not a huge Jane Austin fan but this is my favorite of her books and the BBC movie is so great. I refused to watch the one with Kiera Knightley (sp?) because though I liked her in the Pirates films I just couldn't imagine a better Lizzy than the one in the BBC version.

    @Anonymous- back in that time period women with curves were encouraged (though not overweight) because it was a status thing. Being light skinned and slightly curvy showed that they did not have to do manual labor. It was a status thing.

  7. @Caity - I meant to say thanks for your comment earlier, but I've been super busy and then out of town so I didn't get to it until now. So since you said you're not a huge Jane Austen fan, do you mind if I ask which of her books you've read, or which film adaptations you've seen? I actually prefer Sense & Sensibility to Pride & Prejudice; I like Persuasion a lot but not as much as S&S or P&P. I'm not a *huge* Emma fan, didn't really care for Mansfield Park and have yet to read Northanger Abbey...

    Also I wanted to warn you, I'm having trouble viewing your blog :-/ I was trying to read some of your recent entries today but every time I go to your link it starts loading and then switches to a white screen with just a gif in the top left corner that says something like "learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow"...I've tried to go back and stop it from loading like that but it does it too quickly for me to be able to stop it or see your blog :(