PRIDE & PREJUDICE (Joe Wright, 2005)
Jane Austen’s PRIDE & PREJUDICE is back for another retelling, this time with Keira Knightley as the headstrong Elizabeth Bennet. She’s one of five sisters for whom her dear mother is trying to find suitable, read wealthy, husbands. A viable prospect appears in the form of Matthew McFadyen’s Mr. Darcy, but Elizabeth believes him to be haughty and meddlesome.
PRIDE & PREJUDICE has been made very familiar to modern audiences in the last few years. BRIDE & PREJUDICE and BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY are Bollywood and contemporary British versions of Austen’s story, and then there’s the comprehensive, much-beloved 1995 BBC miniseries. It makes you wish for a filmed NORTHANGER ABBEY rather than another account of this literary classic.
So it’s all the more remarkable that director Joe Wright has made a splendid film that ranks among the year’s best. PRIDE & PREJUDICE is a lovely production, with spectacular estates and soft, golden hues, but it’s far from a musty affair. Wright favors a classicist’s approach yet also deploys some exhilarating modern touches. The camera conveys the emotion as much as the words, whether via a close-up of Darcy’s hand flexing after he assists Elizabeth into a carriage or with a zoom toward Elizabeth and a quick cut as she leaves after being spotted secretly observing Darcy and his sister.
The ball scenes are masterfully handled in the manner of Visconti’s THE LEOPARD, and one sublime moment finds the crowd vanishing as Darcy and Elizabeth discover one another. The delightful dialogue is quick-witted and, at critical moments, quite moving. Knightley has been a strong presence in other films, but her performance here is something of a revelation. She’s never been better than she is in this glorious film.