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Pride and Prejudice 2005: A Return to "Desiring" Elizabeth Bennet

A week from today, Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice (2005) film turns 10 years of its UK Cinema Release (September 16th). To commemorate this film's 10th year anniversary, we here at P&P (2005) Blog is celebrating this movie's decade long milestone all month long with every blog posts here either reminiscing, revisiting, or just simply our tribute and appreciation for the 4-time Oscar Nominated P&P film. So, our P&P (2005) movie's 10th Year Anniversary event here continues...with one of this blog's long-time guest bloggers/contributors, as she talks about what she loves about the 2005 P&P movie...

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 ) all over again.

Yet, “Pride and Prejudice” is NOT Mr. Darcy’s story. It is ’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.

Casting the beautiful 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.

Knightley’s casting could have backfired. Remember that Austen describes the character as, “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…”

Obviously, the casting of the equally lovely Rosamund Pike as Jane helped to “sell” the idea that Elizabeth’s fair face was less than her elder sister’s.

In the 2005 film, Elizabeth (Knightley) is found in EVERY scene, from the opening shot of her walking home while reading her book to the final kiss in the American version.

The camera follows Elizabeth through the house. We see her world through Elizabeth’s eyes. When she walks away from Darcy at the Meryton assembly, everyone else pales, but our focus remains constant on Elizabeth. She is framed by the retreating camera lens.

When Elizabeth and Jane share secrets under the blankets, the audience is invited to join them.

When she sensually traces Darcy’s belongings with her fingertips, we feel Elizabeth’s longing for a man she allowed to slip through her fingers.

Through the camera, the viewer is always at Elizabeth’s side. We read over her shoulder in the opening scene. We enjoy the interplay between Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet regarding Mr. Collins’s pomposity. We hide behind a Netherfield column with her when her family’s actions bring humiliation. We observe Darcy’s approach through the morning mist as Elizabeth would, and we peek through the open door as she watches Darcy spin his sister around in circles.

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.

Knightley’s star power is “lessened” by her appearance in dingy, drab dresses and having her surrounded by a “working” home: animals, a barnyard swing, the kitchen, clothes lines, disarray. These techniques “muffle” Knightley’s beauty and permit the viewer to accept her as Austen’s most famous character.

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.

One part of the film that received much criticism is the way this adaptation minimizes the relationships between Elizabeth and Wickham and between Elizabeth and Colonel Fitzwilliam. Wright chose to omit Austen’s diversions because Elizabeth is the one to be desired, and Elizabeth desires Darcy. In this version, we do not consider her flirtation with either man as serious possibilities.


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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  1. Good morning, my dears. Thanks for hosting me on the P&P 2005 Celebration Blog.

  2. Good morning, Regina! 😊 You're very welcome. Thank you too for this GREAT post! πŸ˜ŽπŸ‘ I loved and enjoyed reading it. Very Insightful! This is one of the many things I love about this movie, the focus on Miss Elizabeth Bennet, in her perspective (as we see scenes/events in the movie through her eyes), as it's her story and she's the main character that Jane Austen wrote her to be on her classic Pride and Prejudice novel. Loved what Joe Wright and crew did showing us informative details we may or may not have noticed in this movie. And, of course, Miss Keira Knightley did an amazing job portraying Elizabeth Bennet, her very first leading role too. After all, she wasn't Golden Globe and Oscar nominated for Best Actress, for nothing, you know.πŸ˜‰

  3. As always, the amazing Regina Jeffers deciphers a film and the techniques used precisely and beautifully. The rest of us simply sat in the theater and FELT it (I'm sure Regina did too, LOL!) without noticing just how Joe Wright did it. Again the mark of a masterful director.

    I could say more, but guess I'll save it for my upcoming blog post!

    Thanks, Regina, and Jeane, for spotlighting a wonderful movie that touched all of us.


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