Last night I went over to a girlfriend's house - we were supposed to go out but she couldn't get a babysitter for one of her kids - and we went and rented a few movies instead. I got one I've been wanting to see for awhile but hadn't been in the mood for earlier - "Pride & Prejudice", the 2005 version with Keira Knightley.
I really liked her in the 2 "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies and one of my other favorite movies, "King Arthur". This movie was no exception. She is very engaging, and her beauty is not classic but more quirky and awkward, which endeared her to me right away. She is a bit thin, though in this movie it's not as evident since she is dressed in clothing from an earlier era, plus she's naturally that way, so I have to admit it suits her (it's the real life pictures on the red carpet that are rather alarming). It actually gives her an elegant quality when she is dancing with Mr. Darcy at the ball.
Speaking of which, the role of the rather arrogant but ultimately appealing Mr. Darcy is played by Matthew Macfadyen, a new-to-me actor, and at first glance he doesn't seem like he'd be very convincing, but as the movie progressed, he brought his own charm to the role, and had me wishing I was Elizabeth Bennet (instead of the lucky Keira). He has an elusive quality that he brought to Mr. Darcy, maybe it's a feeling of being utterly alone without Elizabeth, or a sadness in his heart that calls out to her. A quietness that makes you want to know what he's thinking. But he also gives a masculine strength to the character. He is no English fop. But he is a man in love.
Some of the scenes in this updated version were embellished, or made up, which doesn't really bother me but had many purists up-in-arms. I don't believe the story has to be 100% faithful to the book or even to a previous movie version. In fact, I think it's one of the reasons to do an adaptation in the first place - to bring out elements that haven't been uncovered or created before. It gave it a bit more modern feel, a bit more of an earthy quality. I enjoyed the changes made to the story.
Is it my favorite version? No.
That distinction goes to the 1995/96 version with Colin Firth. It's unfair, really, because the '95 version is considerably longer, which sadly made the '05 version feel rushed. In the A&E production, there were more lingering glances, and both characters were older, lending a more mature feel to the romance. The secondary characters were fleshed out, and the ending was more rewarding. One of my biggest regrets with the newer version is the rushed speech Mr. Darcy makes to Elizabeth when he first confesses his feelings. Granted, he was nervous, and felt awkward and overwhelmed by the emotion Elizabeth stirred in him, but I wanted to take the remote and have him repeat himself in slow-mo. I wanted to linger over his proposal - even though he didn't deserve it at the time - and savor the revelation both he and Lizzie reach as they truly do fall in love, once their true characters come to light.
Now the Colin Firth version, as it is known by many, is truly delightful. No one could pull off the initial snub of Lizzie like Firth's Mr. Darcy, but then again, no one fell harder as he did for the lovely Jennifer Ehle's Elizabeth (I believe the two were romantically linked at the time). The gazes filled with longing, the gradual change from distain to admiration, the gorgeous scene after Colin takes a swim in the pond! All very delightful. It calls out to the romantic sap that is buried under a thin layer or cynicism surrounding my heart.
Now lately I've seen several books inspired by the original story, written from various perspectives or after Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy marry. I'm not interested in reading any of them. One author is actually planning a story involving a romantic connection between Darcy and his friend Bingley. I guess I don't remember reading about that in the book, but then again, I'm not the most observant person on the planet. Whether there's any basis for such a story, I still won't be reading any book that is a take-off from another author's work. To me, that seems like cheating. Not that I am saying these authors are plagarizing, but come on, "Gone with the Wind" ended with Scarlett announcing "tomorrow is still another day". No one but Margaret Mitchell had any right to take it further. Same with Jane Austen. It's a classic, and it's her story, no one else's. Leave it be.
So....have you seen either version I've mentioned here today? If not, do you want to? I know for myself, I was resistent to seeing any movie that I had to read about in school. Fortunately I've gotten past that feeling, because otherwise I would have missed out on these two lovely gems. But do you feel a film adaptation should be true to the book, or can you live with dramatic license? Any movies you'd recommend along a similar vein? Please, feel free to share. I like to have something to watch when I'm in one of my sappy moods *g*