What do I love about the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice?
In the 1995 series, Andrew Davies created the image of virile, masculine Fitzwilliam Darcy. Davies was smart enough to realize the viewing audience would be predominantly females. Davies created scenes (Darcy’s dip in the lake, his fencing, his rising from his bath, etc.) to draw attention to Darcy. I enjoyed the experience as much as the next woman. A warmth claimed my heart on a regular basis. I fell in love with Darcy (and Colin Firth) all over again.
Yet, “Pride and Prejudice” is NOT Mr. Darcy’s story. It is Elizabeth Bennet’s tale. I often described Darcy as a MAJOR minor character. Joe Wright brings the emphasis back to Elizabeth Bennet with the visual shift of “desire” to Elizabeth Bennet in the 2005 film.
Keira Knightley in the lead role changed the focus. Choosing Ms. Knightley, who established herself in Bend It Like Beckham, King Arthur, Love Actually, and The Pirates of the Caribbean, prior to this film was designed to appeal to a younger and wider audience. Add Joe Wright’s emphasis on social realism to Knightley’s casting, and we have a film that grossed over $121 million worldwide.
“She (Elizabeth) is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me.” and “But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face ….” and “Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form…”
Rosamund Pike as Jane helped to “sell” the idea that Elizabeth’s fair face was less than her elder sister’s.
Even when we have the occasional film seconds when Knightley is not in the framing, the scene pans to Elizabeth’s presence. It’s as if the camera leads us back to her.
The maid carries items through the Bennet household and ends up in Elizabeth and Jane’s shared room. The intimate scene of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s bedroom guides us to another meeting between Jane and Elizabeth. Darcy’s appreciation of Georgiana’s pianoforte skills lead the viewer to Elizabeth’s accepting his invitation to Pemberley.
In contrast to the 1995 film, Matthew Macfadyen’s Darcy is often shot from a distance and always fully clothed (minus the American ending’s staging).
Even his open-shirt appearance in the pre-dawn hours is viewed from Elizabeth’s point of view. He’s coming to her. She waits for him. Therefore, she remains the center of attention.
Wright’s “extra” scenes direct the desire to Elizabeth. Davies’s film showed Darcy in his bath and diving into a pond to increase Colin Firth’s role. Wright uses the near kiss from Darcy’s first proposal, the caress of his hand as Darcy assists the ungloved Elizabeth to the carriage, and the seductive circling of Darcy and Elizabeth at the Netherfield Ball as part of the film’s sexual subtext. These and several other scenes amplify the desire for Elizabeth.
Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque fiction, Regency romance, historical fiction, and contemporary romance. Visit her website at Regina Jeffers or her Every Woman Dreams Blog...
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