View Full Version : Art and Artistry: Pride and Prejudice

03-03-2006, 12:41 PM
Art and Artistry: Pride and Prejudice
Directed by Joe Wright (first feature)

A film of this excellent quality can only be achieved when there is sufficient money to fund such a superior product, the difference between a few hundred thousand for a television project versus the multimillion dollar budget for a major motion picture. The evidence is clear from the very beginning; long sweeping movements of the camera lingering on perfectly lit subjects with incredible detail in every aspect of the background. The authenticity of the period is expressed in every turn. Such detail is missing from every other endeavor except this attempt to tell the age old Jane Austen story of love and aspirations.

Of all the persons associated with this version, DP Roman Osin and Production Designer Sarah Greenwood should be given first kudos for their invaluable contribution is setting the mood and direction of this film. There are hardly a few romantic films I can recall that have been photographed with such care and attention to artistic beauty as this film. The images float across the screen like a fluid painting, owing much of their continuity to the editing of Paul Tothill. Director Joe Wright has evoked the right amount of emotional emphasis from his actors to carry over this unfortunately truncated version of a rather lengthy and cumbersome novel. While the performances are delightful, I believe the technical aspects of this film far outweigh the performances. So many actors have played those parts so often that most of the words are as familiar as a Shakespeare play. Even the great Dame Judi Dench seems lost in the two-dimensional and overly dramatic Austen dialogue of the moment, trapped to sound just as peevish as the last person to play the part. Then every fourteen year old girl in the audience sighs as Mr. Darcy proposes to Lizzy, and dreams of living in a big beautiful castle by the sea, ad nauseam.

What makes this particular production so distinct from the others is its technical mastery. When Wright moves the camera through the house, we see one vignette after another being played out until at last, languishing on a cool blue wall, Elizabeth ends the long dollied scene with her icy take on Mr. Collins. I havenít seen a long shot like that since the Italians stole it from Orson Welles. Extremely complex, with expert timing required by the cast not to look caught off guard, the shot and the scene flow like the brush strokes of DaVinci, lovingly lingering on the beautiful Miss Bennett. One wonders what took Darcy so long to be so bold? The answer lies in the lengthy feminine hand of Miss Austen, hoping to draw her readerís anticipation to the very end of her novel about the various strata of social graces.

The DVD is a typical minimal effort by the home division of Universal Studios with few extras. However, the film is so beautiful and such a joy to watch, I highly recommend adding it to your collection. I would still insist that a more lengthy version would be preferable, if you enjoy the story details more, such as the BBC production. However, for authenticity of the period and pure artistry, this will have to do.

03-06-2006, 12:09 AM
When I compare this historic period piece to the lavish images of even such a movie as The Man In the Iron Mask (1998) or even the more gritty technical richness found in the 2006 PBS television series Bleak House by Charles Dicken or even my personal favorite Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), Pride and Prejudice (2006) seemed somewhat inauthentic, too Americanized, too informally comfortable. I wasn't completely convinced of the feeling, mood, the cinematography. It's difficult to put my finger on what was off balance regarding this movie, it just didn't seem to have that Robert Altman touch of such a movie like Gosford Park (2001). A much more telling and poignant pride and prejudicial movie was the superlative presentation by Gillian Anderson in House of Mirth (2000).

03-06-2006, 04:28 PM
I believe part of that perception stems from the formality of the novel. There is a rigidness to Austen's novel that gives very little flexibility to filmmakers. However, I felt that the cinemaphotography set up a dreamy and romantic mood. You could look for other films with more gritty realism, such as McCabe and Mrs. Miller or even Oliver had that gritty realistic "dirty" look. However, these were the middle and upper classes (although all the scenes in London were truncated). With servants mucking about, their bound to keep the place neat and tidy.

As to the darkness in Man in the Iron Mask or even The Count of Monte Cristo; they revolve more around a different type of story, where pretty English countrysides give way to torch-lit castle stairs, and grandiose palaces. P&P deals more with "country folk" as so expressed in the very beginning:

"I like the country." (Bingly)

"It has it's place." (Darcy)

03-06-2006, 11:48 PM
I've just started an attempt to watch the six VHS cassette BBC/A&E version of Pride and Prejudice. The first hour seems to provide strangely enough a less rigid and formal approach to the novel. I'm finding it less stereotypical, black and white, with characters that seem more real, more complex, more interesting than the 2005 movie version. The period trappings don's seem to matter as much as the performance as well as the setting seem to be working well in this older version.

03-07-2006, 05:21 PM
I do not know your sex but I am assuming you are a man. That said, it seems strange we should be "fussing" over what most consider a very feminine film and story. However, I have always had an affinity for things British, especially film and television (i.e. Lawrence, Zhivago, River Kwai, Great Expectations... good Lord! Those are all David Lean films! I completely forgot about Kubrick! Major sin!) Then there's Agatha Christie, Shakespeare, Robert Bolt, Hitchcock, George Bernard Shaw, Doyle, Orwell, Wells, Dickens, Olivier, Oscar Wilde... whom am I leaving out? Tons!

At any rate, the BBC/A&E treatment is certainly filled with more detail as to dialogue and story. I love the woman playing Lady Catherine. She's so despicable. Unlike Judi Dench, whom I love from the Bond films. Oh, yes... Milton, Keats, Shelley, Byron, ...

03-11-2006, 05:53 PM
After having recently finishing up watching the BBC/A&E 1995 six hour mini-series version of Pride and Prejudice, I find it difficult to make direct comparisons between the 2005 theatrical film and 1995 mini-series versions. The amount of necessary editing and cutbacks in the script for a theatrical film require a considerable latitude in terms of plot and character development for the 2005 version. I am also deficient in my background not having read Jane Austen's novels.

Nevertheless, it seems that the 2005 film was uneven in its overall approach towards depicted the Romantic period of the English Monarchy and class distinctions. Like "Anne of Green Gables," Elizabeth seems to be much more outgoing for the young woman of her times which I presume was one of the endearing qualities of the novel. The BBC/A&E version captures this burst of informal, independent attitude very well while Keira Knightly was much more constrained and almost awkward in her balance between the etiquette of the times and Jane Austen's portrayal of Elizabeth. Knightly's performance as such then didn't seem geniune to me and not deserving of an awards nomination. I'm not saying her acting was bad nor even not good, but that the directing of her performance wasn't compatible to the basic notion of free-spirited young girl of the times.

03-13-2006, 09:18 PM
It didn't dawn on me to take that approach but I believe you've made some insight in comparing the two versions. Knightly's performance would be considered far too audacious for the period, labeling her with something Austen did not have in mind. This is especially true when she confronts Mr. Darcy after his first proposal of marriage when he politely points out the defects in her family and her character. Keira has an outburst of emotion which would surly have driven poor Darcy permanently away and not bewitched him further. He would have thanked his lucky stars and returned to his sweaty men's club.