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Feelings That Can’t Be Contained – Why I Still Love the Pride & Prejudice 2005 Adaptation

Our P&P (2005) movie's 10th Year Anniversary event here continues...
In my previous guest posts, I’ve referenced the artistry of the 2005 Pride & Prejudice adaptation: the cinematography, the lush colors and amazingly beautiful locations, the exquisite musical score, symbolic clues and the emphasis on the differences of the various social classes. I appreciate all of those things because they only add to this film’s distinction, but what I love and appreciate the most is its liveliness, animation and the spontaneous feelings that manners cannot contain.  It appeals to me visually, audibly and emotionally.

The 1995 BBC/A&E Andrew Davies’ mini-series and Working Title/Focus Features’ 2005 Joe Wright film; are arguably the two most popular versions of Pride and Prejudice that also spark the most debate.  I should point out that I enjoy both versions but not for the same reasons, because after all they are different perspectives and two separate mediums.  It really depends on what I'm in the mood for and which aspect of the story that I want to focus.  The former is truer to the original, but the latter gets the edge as my all-time favorite.  The feature film is a glorious, shorter alternative!  It’s plain and simple; you can LOVE one without HATING the other.  I would recommend them both!

While I appreciate the intricate story and characterization of the mini-series, it is sometimes too unfailingly polite and lacks intense emotion.  The perfect adaptation would strike the balance between propriety and passion.  The mini-series closely mirrors the events in the book, but the feature film brings the book to life with spirit and resonance! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there is simply more realism, sincerity, and feeling in the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice than in any other adaptation that I've seen.  Joe Wright’s presentation is more natural and unpretentious. While it is a more contemporary version, there is still wit, social commentary, and undeniable romance!

This movie not only preserves but embodies the feeling and atmosphere that one gets when reading the book.  As the second daughter of a country gentleman who can't leave his estate to a female (and wasn’t financially prudent) Elizabeth has a small dowry and no influential social connections.  She is headed straight for poverty if she doesn't marry a man who can provide for her.  Now imagine that she lives in a world where there are very few eligible men, and see her tempted by a marriage that would sacrifice her best qualities, but allow her mother and four sisters to live a comfortable life.  She handles and rejects the notion of marrying only for security.  Defying convention she holds on to her ideals for a union based on love and mutual respect and eventually marries the right man.

As for Darcy, for one he’s wealthy but he’s fighting his own battle, it’s how to be the right kind of man.  Just as Elizabeth gives us cues into new beliefs about marriage, Darcy lets us into new ideas about just what constitutes a gentleman in a time when the class system is becoming just a little less rigid.  As long as Darcy is around the right company (family and friends), he has the part of a gentleman down pat.  But in public…please…boy bye! The "I'm not good with strangers" just isn't enough of an excuse.  After the disastrous first proposal he takes Elizabeth’s words to heart when she tells him that he hasn't behaved in a "gentlemanlike manner".  Although we later discover that he really is a good and kind man, Darcy is humbled and learns to be a gentleman to everyone.  When Elizabeth is ready for the right marriage choice, Darcy becomes the right marriage partner.

People are people, they always have been, and always will be.  These characters are not stuffy recreations, but real individuals to whom we can relate.   Austen’s characters are young people and the activities surrounding them make it all the more believable.  Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen play the star-crossed lovers and were the right ages of the characters in the novel. Elizabeth and Darcy's actions make much more sense when you imagine them being 20 and 28. The emotions they experience are those of young people falling in love for the first time.  Their obvious attraction to one another is tactile and fertile.  Their combined energy makes the movie convincing, and they are ultimately what makes this film so irresistible.  You can clearly see how and why they fell in love.

The emphasis in this adaptation is unequivocally given to Elizabeth, which is exactly what Austen would have intended. We see everything from her perspective; which is evident from the film’s opening scene onward. Like other actresses who have portrayed Elizabeth, Keira conveyed the character's fierce and independent nature. Thanks to the screenplay, Knightley was given a chance to put a new spin on the character.  Due to the Bennet’s behavior and harboring secrets and feelings her own, she was able to convey Elizabeth's increasing emotional distance from her family, particularly with Jane.  Some criticize this aspect of the adaptation as it’s not precisely true to the novel, but it was done to give the narrative more depth and weight, which I found interesting.  Keira was luminous, bubbly, bright, sharp with wit, defiant and vulnerable with adolescence.  Her youthful vitality works in this movie's context.  You see her character mature, and her opinions rendered incorrect.  Her eventual understanding is reflected in the mirror as the hands on the clock turned at the Hunsford parsonage.

In this symbolic scene Lizzy looks at herself and realizes her deficiencies. In the book, after she reads the letter in which Darcy explains the Wickham situation, she says,Till this moment I never knew myself.”  The mirror represents self-introspection and discovering her own prejudices, which begins her gradual appreciation of Darcy.  As Elizabeth discovers Darcy’s true character, so does the audience. In the pivotal scene while touring the Pemberley sculpture gallery with the Gardiners we see Elizabeth’s awakening sensuality, and by the time that she reaches the marble bust of Darcy the dawning of her obvious love and respect is perfectly displayed.

In my opinion, Matthew Macfadyen is the best Darcy on film--as far as the script and his limited screen time allowed.  He transformed himself in the movie from one type of character to another. Macfadyen embodies a Darcy that I can actually imagine falling in love with a girl, well below his and his family’s expectations.  One of the things that this version chose to highlight is how startled and enthralled Darcy is by his attraction to Elizabeth; and how he struggles against it.

I found Darcy quite believable in his reserve and his almost painful discomfort in the rambunctious social milieu of Meryton. Darcy has to be remote, haughty, warm, shy and sexy. He is smart, brooding, very proud but caring and generous. He doesn't need made-up fencing, bathtub and wet lawn shirt scenes to show us his intensity and his sensuality.


From the very first meeting, when their eyes meet and he looks hurriedly away as if burned, that was it for me!  The vanity in his early denials is just a mask. His sense of propriety doesn't allow the connection especially in light of the disastrous impressions he gets from the rest of the Bennet’s, but his emotions are too strong to ignore. Matthew showed a balance of both faults and vulnerabilities; exhibiting the perfect blend of superiority and sensitivity. His performance sold me on Darcy’s internal journey.  His growth throughout the narrative; enables him to right wrongs.  Through good and anonymous deeds the true nature of the man can prevail.  His changed views about the social expectations are clear from the encouragement and assistance he provides Bingley in proposing to Jane.

The most popular scenes in this adaptation are the two scenes that are the most essential to Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship.  Call me romantic but the near kiss after Darcy's unsuccessful proposal is about as good as it gets. Although it’s his walk before dawn across the fog-misted moors to make an hopeful quest for  his love’s hand that provides the much-needed pay-off!  For those who point to inaccurate text mirroring or differences in location, I see exact replicas of the human spirit. The emotion of both these climatic events is conveyed, not unlike the unmistakable passion that makes the novel so entrapping. You know that feeling that you get when scenes are so awesomely played by the characters that your heart flutters?  Well the 2005 adaptation does that for me!  I practically melt every time I view it, I’ve watched it too many times to count and it never gets old! It’s been nearly ten years since its US theatrical release, and I’m still not over it!!! I love, love, love this movie!

I see film adaptations of books for what they are - individual creations based on a common plot line; they aren’t supposed to be exact retellings.  As far as I'm concerned, quality matters more to me than a carbon copy of a novel.  If you don't like it because it lacks complete authenticity, DON'T WATCH IT....just read the book.  As I’ve written before, the 2005 adaptation isn't for the less educated among us, it's meant for entertainment!  This film is cinematic art and this adaptation is one of the most romantic films of all time. My paramount concern is not Austen purity, as much as a well told story that sweeps you in and leaves you wanting...No one can tell me that Keira is not Lizzy and that Matthew isn't Darcy, or that there is such a man and such a love somewhere out in the world. This duo was amazing and I imagine that they are still basking in their love at Pemberley.  So grab a glass of something, order your favorite take out meal, find your coziest blanket, maybe a few tissues, and enjoy the flick!!!

© Natasha Shubrick is P&P Blog guest blogger/contributor. She loves all things Jane and is a devoted fan of the 2005 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice.


  1. Excellent post, Natasha! I really loved and enjoyed reading this. I couldn't agree with you more in everything you said about our favorite P&P movie. Thank you, once again, for your contribution and for taking part in our P&P 10th Year Anniversary Event here last September. I's very much appreciated. I look forward to reading more of your upcoming blog posts here. :)


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