Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pride and Prejudice 2005

Today I am going to discuss some of the things that I found to be terribly wrong with the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightly. I will be nice, I promise. I understand the attraction of the movie, and I am sort of (kind of) close to liking it, if only it were completely different. : )

Note: This blog post is just my honest opinion. If you disagree, I respect that completely and I want to hear what you like about this movie! I would love to hear everyone's opinions on it, please comment. : )

History

Historically speaking, I don't believe it would have been proper for Mr. Bingley to go into Jane's room when she was in bed sick. If she were dressed and sitting up in a chair, maybe, especially with Elizabeth in the room, but I will not believe that it would have been remotely acceptable for him to go in there while she was in bed and in her nightclothes. That is barely proper in modern times. At least, I know I wouldn't allow it.

Also, Elizabeth never would have worn her hair down to visit her sister at Netherfield Park. Yes, she did decide that she wasn't going to be silly and order the carriage when she could walk. That doesn't mean she didn't care about the social proprieties of her time. Elizabeth in the book was always aware of social rules and she always kept within them.
Deciding to wear her hair completely down would have been "conceited independence" as Caroline Bingley put it, and I never ever want to agree with Caroline Bingley.

I am not for certain about this one, because I have heard arguments on both sides of the equation, but I just don't think that the Bennets would have had their barnyard right there with the house. It would be dirty, and it would smell. As local gentry, I am fairly sure that the workings of the farm would have been at least some distance away from the house.
In Emma, also by Jane Austen, the Martins modest little farm is described as having a broad, neat gravel-walk leading between apple trees to the front door, with a white gate at the end. Plus, "two parlours, two very good parlours indeed; ...and of their having a very handsome summer-house in their garden, where some day next year they were all to drink tea: -- a very handsome summer-house, large enough to hold a dozen people."
This is a picture of a working farm run by a farmer, not a 'gentleman' as Mr. Bennet is. I just can't imagine the Bennets allowing pigs to wallow right next to the house and having a muddy courtyard with cows in it when the Martins, who are not very wealthy, have their farm so neatly laid out.

Please correct me on any one of these if you have historical evidence. I am not a history expert, I am just going by what I believe to be true and I could always be wrong.

Acting

I could almost forgive the historical inaccuracies if I had actually enjoyed the acting in this movie.
Keira Knightly seemed to believe that in order to be historically accurate, she had only to speak as fast as humanly possible. Half of the time I couldn't understand what she was saying. She also tended to act like she was laughing at everything, whether it was laughable or not. I guess this was Keira Knightly's way of acting like she is witty and all-knowing.

Not only did Keira Knightly talk faster than should be possible, everybody said their lines before the other person was finished speaking. The conversation in the parlor at Netherfield is preposterous, because it is not possible that Mr. Darcy could have heard Elizabeth's weighty question about whether or not he had any faults, comprehended the question, considered the question and answered with clarity about one of his faults in that micro-second of time unless he already knew what she was going to say and had his answer rehearsed. Some people speak more quickly than others, but the capacity of the human brain has limitations. I would venture to say that people in those times may have spoken with a better vocabulary, but that doesn't mean that their brains were not in use in the conversation process.
That is why most of the conversations on this movie are not only hard to listen to and keep track of, they are also ridiculous and unrealistic.

Matthew Mcfayden is a very good looking young man, and he plays the brooding silent type very well, almost too well. My problem with him is that good looks are not enough. I found that he talks not only very quickly, as seems to be the pattern, but also in a monotone voice that is not very romantic. Possibly the worst line in the movie is when he declares his love with a fake stutter. His voice has no emotion in it as he says,
"I love- I love- I love you."
It just sounds so rehearsed. If you stutter during a proposal it is because you are so overcome with emotion that you can't get the words out. He doesn't seem overcome to me.

Elizabeth

Elizabeth in this movie is not Elizabeth. She is Lydia in disguise. The changes to Elizabeth's character is what I hate the most about this movie. It seems disrespectful to the character Jane Austen wrote to even think of them as being the same person. I almost laughed in bitter disbelief when Mr. Darcy says his line about Elizabeth being excluded from the blame of bad behavior in the family.

In this version she openly and sarcastically mocks Mr. Collins at the dinner table. Everybody else in the room knows that she is teasing him, but he is unaware, which makes it even worse. Even by secular modern standards this is just plain mean and rude and impolite. That is the type of joke the villain usually makes at the hero's expense.

"You can't make me!" This Elizabeth yells at her mother about marrying Mr. Collins.
"For once in your life, leave me alone!" She screams at her family after they ask an innocent question about why they were dragged out of their beds in the middle of the night.
"Oh, give it to me!" She declares impatiently as she snatches her father's letter out of his hands as he tries to read it. (This action specifically is reminiscent of Mrs. Bennet snatching Jane's letter in the 1995 version.)

In the book, Elizabeth is secretly ashamed of the way her family behaves but always respectful and openly supportive of them. She tries to stop them from acting foolishly, but never steps out of her role as a dependent daughter. She is unselfish, and that is what makes her different from Lydia.

In this movie, I have trouble picking out what makes her different from Lydia. She traipses through the ballroom laughing loudly and stops abruptly and awkwardly when she nearly runs headlong into Mr. Darcy. She doesn't apologize for nearly running into him. She just looks at him disgustedly for a minute and stiffly replies to his question. The Elizabeth Bennet I know is not awkward. The reason Mr. Darcy likes her in the first place is because of her easy grace and wit and social skills.

Mr. Bingley

This movie makes poor Mr. Bingley look like a bumbling fool. This is not true in the book. Mr. Darcy would never be friends with a bumbling fool. Mr. Bingley is a friendly, easy going young man who likes everyone he meets. He doesn't judge people. He likes to make new friends and have a good time with them. Unlike Mr. Darcy, he has good social skills and is polite and good natured and humble in whatever situation he is in.  He cares about his sisters. (He has two sisters in the book.) Really his only fault is that he is so good natured that he will believe what he is told by his closest friend. That, in my opinion, is not a fault at all. Why do the movies make him look foolish just because he is not the main character? Can't there be two male leads that we can admire?

Other little things that bother me but aren't too important

Everyone I have talked to loves the cinematography on this movie. Some of the shots were really cool, mainly the one where Elizabeth is standing on the cliff with that gorgeous view in the background, but I disliked a lot of the camera work. In my opinion, it just tries too hard, and draws too much attention to itself. If you are watching a movie and the camera movements pull you out of believing that you are really there with the characters, than something is wrong with it. The camera is the viewpoint you are watching the story from, so it is a lot like the neutral narrator voice in a book. It is telling the story, but you are usually not supposed to notice the voice itself, just the story it is telling. There are exceptions to this rule, and that is a stylistic choice in writing a book, but I still prefer not to notice camera work when I am watching a movie.

The actor who plays Mr. Wickham looks exactly like Orlando Bloom to me. I know, this one is really not a reason to dislike a movie, it's just one of the silly things that bug me about it. : )
One of the few things I do like is that Mr. Wickham is actually handsome and charming in this version, as he is in the book.

Another thing I don't like is that I just can't believe that they are in love. It seems to come about inexplicably. They barely talk throughout the whole movie. She hates him, he proposes, she yells at him, they are apart for awhile, she sees him hug his sister once and all of a sudden she is in love with him. I am not sure why he falls in love with her. She is rude to him and then ignores him the rest of the time. There were other small interactions in the 1995 version that made the falling in love more believable. This movie seems to take place over such a short period of time too, when the book takes place over more than a year.

They also changed small, random things that had no bearing on the story. I know every adaption is going to be different from the book, but when they change things that don't need to be changed, it shows me that the filmmakers did not have enough respect for the original author to trust the decisions she made about her characters. For example, in the book Mr. Bennet doesn't go to the first ball. In the movie he does. It's not a huge change, but it makes his character different than Jane Austen intended.
Another example is the fact that they gave one of Elizabeth's lines to her sister, Mary.
"What are men to rocks and mountains?" This is something that Elizabeth says in the book, and I don't quite understand the purpose of giving it to another character.

When I watch this movie, I have the feeling that the makers of the movie did not have any respect for Jane Austen, her characters, or the way she told her story. That is really what it boils down to. I am not a purist in the sense that I dislike anything that is different from the book. I only wish that anybody who undertakes adapting a novel would read it carefully, try to understand the author's intentions, and adapt the book in a way that the original author would appreciate. It only seems right.

Thank you for reading my thoughts on this movie, I know this was a long post. Now I want to know what you think!
What are your thoughts on the movie? What do you agree or disagree with me about?

~Jane~

14 comments:

Elinor Dashwood said...

Agree agree agree!!! LOL!!! I have tried to like it... if I look at screencaps or listen to music from it I do, but once I actually watch it I wonder what people even see in it!

I totally agree about the Bennett's "barnyard", and also, what about their wrinkly clothes and absolutely messy hairdos? Just because someone is poor (and the Bennetts aren't supposed to be dirt poor) doesn't mean they can't do their hair nicely or iron their clothes!!

I also felt that many of the scenes were way too crowded. All the stuff on the table and in the background in the dining room scenes are positively distracting.

"Lydia in disguise"-- I liked that. ;-) (I mean, the way you worded it. Not that they made Lizzy like that. :-) )

They *do* talk way to fast, and I hate the way Mr. Darcy blurts out "I love you." Colin Firth's "You must allow me to tell you how much I admire and love you" works fine for me! ;-)

Oh, and it bugs me that Caroline is travelling alone with her brother and his friend, without her sister like in the book. I don't think that would have been done.

I could go on to historical inaccuracy in dress too, but I won't... ;-)

I'm afraid you touched on something I can talk way too much about. ;-) I will say Matthew MacFadyen makes a handsome Darcy, and I like their choice of an actress for Jane. The music is lovely too, and I like Lizzy's brown pelisse. :-)

Tessa Conte said...

You're absolutely right, although what struck me most was the historical stuff and the way the script varied from the book. The acting was the cherry on top, so to speak.

Although I kind of liked it when I watched it the second time, with the preconceived determination that tis WAS NOT in fact Pride and Prejudice but just a movie with the same title.

Allison Elizabeth said...

I feel like this could have been (for the most part) written by me.

I, too, have noticed the ridiculous rate at which EVERYONE speaks... that, coupled with their already difficult to understand accents, made for a whole lot of "What on earth is going on here??" the first time I saw it.

And about the historical accuracy, I agree! I also thought it was strange that Caroline Bingley wore a spaghetti-strapped dress to the Bingley's ball... I may be wrong, but I didn't think they wore that sort of dress back then.

And Keira Knightly... good heavens, don't get me started. I totally agree with you on everything.

The reason I said at the beginning that I could have "Almost" written this post, is that , unlike you, despite the movie's many MANY faults, I still actually like it. It was the very first Jane Austen/Period Film I ever watched EVER, so it really holds a special little place in my heart, that no amount of problems could change. ♥

But now, it is one of my least favorites. Especially compared to the BBC version, and BBC's "Cranford", "Emma" and "North & South". Hollywood has not out-filmed good old BBC!!!!

Allison Elizabeth♥

Stevie said...

I completely agree with your assessment. I would blame three factors:

First, how do you rationalize making a new movie of P&P as a vehicle for Keira Knightley? You do it by deliberately making choices that are different from those made in the past, even when those past choices are generally considered to have been successful and resulted in an iconic production.

Second, it was too short. You can't possibly capture all the wit and nuance of the book in a two hour film. We should all remind ourselves of how bad the Greer Garson - Laurence Olivier version was (although Olivier was a fabulous Darcy) -- part of it was the hilarious dialogue, costumes, and production choices, but part of it was just the horrific compression and expurgation of the story to cram it all into the short time available for the telling.

Third, I think, was the desire to turn it into a conventional romance for the modern teenybopper viewer. P&P is so much more than that! It is a wonderful exposition of some eternal truths of human nature, but those are a lot less telegenic than Keira and Matthew in the rain.

Bottom line: it's a FAIL. And if you really just want eye candy, Garson/Olivier do that much better (even though their movie is laughably bad).

Darby May said...

I loved that post and agree with everything in it. I also agree with Allison Elizabeth about the spaghetti strap dress. I really, really don't think they would where a strap so very,um... spasksghetti-y, even if they DID where dresses without long sleeves.

--Darby

Guinevere said...

Oh, I didn't notice some of this until you put it into my attention! But yes- you're right. Blech.
Also, I looked up Keira Knightley on Wikipedia to see how many movies she had played in, and there were some...*revealing* pictures...:(

Milisande Awnia Grim said...

Here are my thoughts:

When you said "I am not for certain about this one, because I have heard arguments on both sides of the equation, but I just don't think that the Bennets would have had their barnyard right there with the house. It would be dirty, and it would smell. As local gentry, I am fairly sure that the workings of the farm would have been at least some distance away from the house."

It was actually very popular at the time to have a barn attached to the house. Also it was very convienient for the farmer as it was he didn't have to trudge through weather each morning. I know it may be discusting and wrong for this movie inparticular. But yes they did exist!

When you said:
The actor who plays Mr. Wickham looks exactly like Orlando Bloom to me. I know, this one is really not a reason to dislike a movie, it's just one of the silly things that bug me about it. : )
One of the few things I do like is that Mr. Wickham is actually handsome and charming in this version, as he is in the book.

AND I TOTALLY AGREE!
:D

Oh and yes i tottally agree with you from a book standard. But if you were an unfortunate person who had not the chance to read Jane Austen. Then i dont think you would mind it.

Im a Historian and a Jane Austen freak so i notice alot!

In Christ
Milisande

Gianna said...

I totally agree!!! I really prefer the 6-hour-bbc-1995 version of pride and prejudice. It turns out that I saw the longer one first, so when I saw the 2005 one, it seemed so short and rushed! and Elizabeth, well, Keira Knightly just isn't right - I MUCH prefer Jennifer Ehle.

Oh, also, I just wanted ask you if you wanted to enter my follower-fest I want to get 35 followers by the end of July, when my makeover will be finished. If I get 35 followers by then, I will have a blog party. If I get more than 35 followers by the end of July, I will host a giveaway.

God bless,
~Gianna

Elizabeth Rose said...

That was... WOW. Should I follow your blog just because I agree with every nitty gritty detail in this post? I think yes. :) That was fantastic!

"Elizabeth in this movie is not Elizabeth. She is Lydia in disguise." Thank you for saying that! I completely agree!

Oh, and the whole Mr. Bingley coming into Jane's room... no that would not happen. Ever. It would be thought scandalously improper.

Well, as for characters I DO like, Jane is lovely, and Mr. Collins is hysterical.

Very, very good post! :)

In Christ,
Lizzy Rose

The Rush Blog said...

I enjoyed this version of "PRIDE AND PREJUDICE" very much. I'm not saying that it is the best version. But I feel that Keira Knightley's performance does not deserve the bashing it receives.

Ms. Knightley portrayed the character in her own style. I find nothing wrong with this. I do not believe that an actor or actress has to portray a character exactly as it was written in some novel or play. To do so, to me, smacks of a lack of imagination on the performer's part. And since Ms. Knightley portrayed Elizabeth in her own style, this only tells me that she has the imagination and courage to do this.

The Rush Blog said...

I had no idea that Keira Knightley had become so unpopular with the public over the past few years. Why, I do not understand.

Melody said...

Aha! Thank you. Sometimes I get tired of this movie being more well-known than the 1995 one (simply because it's a 'film' and was played in theaters, I think.)I didn't like the modern feel of it. By the way, while I did not like Matthew Macfadyen's Mr. Darcy, I think he makes a good Arthur Clennam on Little Dorrit. :) I enjoyed his acting in that one.

I agree with everything I saw you said (I'm afraid I wasn't able to read the whole thing), and I would have had even more to say!

Melody said...

And another thing...whenever I find someone who dislikes this version and has the right ideas about P&P, I feel...sort of joyful inside. hahaha ;P

Fiona said...

I felt frequently embarrassed about Lizzy's behaviour in this film while I was watching it. Couldn't stand the initial proposal in the rotunda under the rain. It was so implausible and then the fact that they looked as though they were going to kiss at the end of that scene. AHHHHH! I struggled to find anything I liked about this movie.