Tuesday, November 22, 2005

FILM: Pride and Prejudice

On Saturday night, we greatly enjoyed seeing the new adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen's stories are rich romances, featuring strong and spirited women who seem like they won't get the man they deserve, and men who are often not what they seem at first blush (both good and bad), but character always triumphs over class and money in her endings. In this story, protagonists Lizzie Bennett and Mr. Darcy spar engagingly like Beatrice and Benedick until the inevitable reconciliation. Keira Knightley is perfectly cast as the spirited Lizzie, and Matthew MacFadyen is marvelous as the brooding and taciturn Darcy. The story has been very nicely adapted to the screen by big screen newbies director Joe Wright and writer Deborah Moggach (though rumor has it that Emma Thompson had some hand in the dialogue; she is credited on the film with "special thanks"), in a sensitive handling that focuses on the romance and the character judgments (and mistakes) that people can make. Beautiful shots of English countryside, together with some very subjective camerawork contribute to the story. (One memorable scene: when Lizzie and Mr. Darcy are dancing at a crowded ball, and for a moment we see the scene as Lizzie does, as if they are the only two in the room, providing a nice depth of feeling in contrast to her seemingly aloof repartee.) The cast are all excellent, but especially notable are Donald Sutherland as the loving father Mr. Bennett (who truly wants his daughter to marry for love), Tom Hollander as the mousy and obsequious Mr. Collins, and of course Judi Dench as the imperious Lady Catherine de Bourg. The costumes, settings, and even the blocking (all that courtly bowing) perfectly recreate the texture of the period. The superb 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility was a hard act to follow, but Pride and Prejudice lived up to our great expectations.

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