When people ask me what my favorite film of the year has been I’m almost hesitant to tell them for fear that it will reflect badly upon my masculinity, but if I were to be completely honest I would have to say that it was Joe Wright’s take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I have never been a fan of period films or Jane Austen, but I was absolutely mesmerized by each frame of this adaptation. Not one shot seems wasted and each detail is meticulously formed to create a captivating and beautiful film. Each role is expertly cast and even more impressively portrayed, and the only thing that is able to upstage the talent is the breathtaking cinematography set to a simple yet poignant score. In short, I would be hard pressed to find more than a few things that I don’t like about Pride and Prejudice.
This version of Jane Austen’s story focuses largely on Elizabeth Bennet, one of the middle children in a liberal household.
speaks her mind freely which gets her into some trouble when she meets the
seemingly uptight Mr. Darcy. In a family filled with girls, Elizabeth ’s mother’s main goal is to marry
them all off, but she refuses to marry unless it is for love. Mr. Darcy seems
the last person in the world she could love, but first impressions prove to be
very deceiving. Elizabeth
The popularity of the BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice put a great deal of pressure on the new film, but it seemed to me that the material pulled from the classic story formed a simple and coherent telling of Elizabeth Bennet’s involvement in the plot. The dialogue is filled with wit that requires sharp attention or multiple viewings while never losing the heart behind the material as well. I was also extremely impressed with how well the film understood that simplicity is sometimes best, and less can be more.
When I first saw Keira Knightley it was in Bend it Like Beckham, a film that I didn’t care for in most ways, but I was unable to take my eyes off this young new actress. I have followed her since then, but none of her roles brought out the spark which had attracted my attention in that first film. Pride and Prejudice allows Knightley to spread her talent out in full force. She is both wildly engaging to watch as well as subtly dedicated to the character. When Knightley feels sadness, I feel sadness, and this allows me to care for Elizabeth Bennet as if she were a member of my family.
Although Knightley is certainly the center of attention when she is on screen, the other actors are never overshadowed. This cast is filled with such an eclectic mix of newcomers and veterans. Even extremely likable actors are able to make their character irritating where appropriate and necessary for the good of the story. Donald Sutherland plays each scene with the quiet defeat of a lone man in a family of females, but when he speaks he is a joy to watch. The final scene between him and Knightley is by far the warmest and most loving depiction of father/daughter love I have ever witnessed on film.
What makes Pride and Prejudice the most remarkable romance I have seen in years is its respect for the preciousness of each moment in love. We are bombarded with images of sex in film and television so that it all begins to lose any meaning. We don’t truly feel what the character is experiencing with each kiss. Pride and Prejudice makes certain that we see every time they have the slightest bit of contact, even if it’s just a brush of the hand, and the sexual tension builds up to the very last frame in which we are finally given the satisfaction of witnessing a kiss. The simplicity of it is far more beautiful and romantic than any convoluted story which has been onscreen in the past years.
Director of photography Roman Osin captures the beauty in something as intricate as a sunrise with such simplicity that it is a perfect fit for Dario Marianelli’s soft score. These two elements weave us through a seamless world which is filled with grime and texture that feels like life. It is real in a way that we never could have experienced but it is also familiar even if it is something we have only known through art, literature and music.
Entertainment Value: 9/10
Filmmaking Quality: 10/10
Historical Significance: 8/10