i know this is character talk time.... but I would really love to hear more about your thoughts on the joe wright p&p adaption.
I think Wright’s adaptation is a superb one.
Joe Wright is always so skilled as subtlety : with true insight, he manages to express on screen, and without words, what has been written about the soul of his characters. In Pride and Prejudice, it relies primarily on symmetry, glances, and gazes.
He is very faithful to the book, and particularly to the constant and delightful humour of Austen : each scene is filled with such mirth, I’m always laughing out loud when I watch it; the awkwardness, especially, is delightful. Darcy, his gait, his tenseness, and Elizabeth perplexity are a delight.
To convey Austen’s elegant, controlled style, Joe Wright does a great job with cinematography and scenery : painting scenes, symmetric scenes, slow traveling of the camera on a picturesque yet very classical, very subdued detail. Pride and Prejudice is not baroque in the least : its simplicity, in the colours (dark green, dark blue, white, brown), in the costumes, in the repetitive and piano-filled soundtrack, echoes the tranquil and beautiful domesticity of the original story.
The characterisation is absolutely stellar and I think in that, Joe Wright really showed his respect and understanding of the book; as I said before, his Darcy is Austen Darcy : the stutter, the controlled yet passionate hand, the rare but sunny smiles, the awkward posture and early blindness to his surroundings, and then that new degree of softness and warmth when we come back to him at Pemberley; more than anything, the hidden vulnerability, the sudden pain and anger on his face when he is hurt, and the trembling eyelids when his gaze must absolutely escape Elizabeth’s.
The Bennett as well are great: Wright decided to make the Bennett parents a little closer than they are in the book, and M. Bennett a little more loving than he is in the book, and I think it’s a lovely addition; in any case, their constant giggling, occasional stupidity, the dynamics unfolding in the scenes where they are all in the parlour or at dinner is deeply satisfying: a whirlwind of laughter, smiles, conniving (and signification-filled) glances, true warmth and intimacy in their hand choreography (give me this, give me that, carried on so smoothly), their surroundings always found in the happy chaos of true living (contrasting with the cold, immobile Netherfield and Rosings).
Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth is a true delight; still full of innocence and impulse—her rapidity of expression and limpidity of gaze convey both her youth and her cleverness, her insolence and her warmth. She manages to express her thoughts without having to speak: in her rigid or supple gait, in the angle of her neck, lowering of her eyelids, in the very distinct movements of her mouth. Their is a magnetism between her and Macfadyen that is actually heart-seizing, isn’t there? From the start, Wright decides to show us how similar they are, how instinctively they are linked, and it works so well.
All the casting to me is satisfying, except for Bingley who I thought lacked in elegance and prince-like charm—but Kitty and Lydia’s mixture of impudence and gaiety, Wickham’s charisma and transparency (the cold elegance of a paper hero), Charlotte’s plain but reassuring persona, Collins’ hilarious and enraging pretentiousness, Miss Bingley’s rat-like pettiness, Jane’s peaceful, magnetic softness, and Georgiana youthful charm (although that is an invention —Georgiana is very Darcy herself in the book, awkward and shy and timid) are all perfect.
What Joe Wright has chosen to put aside from the book, I think, is a show of his talent as an adapter: he got rid only of what wasn’t mandatory to the story, letting himself linger on the faces of his protagonists, their interior turmoil palpable behind the mask of conventions. Mrs. Phillips, the Gardiner’s children, the whole London’s storyline, Mr. Bingley’s second sister, the dinners leading to Jane and Bingley’s engagement… these would have been empty additions to a well-paced, beautiful movie.
Where Joe Wright loses me a little, however, is when he tries to add drama to a very lovely yet very human-scaled story; of course the idea is justifiable. He’s appealing to a romantic audience, who might not be satisfied with only subdued and subtle signs of affection. But I do like Austen’s no-nonsense writing, and her credible (somewhat, although she’s not above easy, lucky coincidences) string of events. For example, Wright’s scene for the engagement of Elizabeth and Darcy is a bit wobbly: they both meet in a field, in the morning after Lady Catherine’s visit to Longbourn. How could Darcy have known so soon what Elizabeth had said? How can they be meeting here, in an unknown field, and know they would find each other? And above all, why is his shirt slightly open, and Elizabeth all the while wearing pyjamas? It’s the 1800′s, guys. Get dressed.
Wright sometimes overlooks the rules of propriety and modesty in Pride and Prejudice, again for the sake of drama. It’s not a problem and to the neophyte spectator, it’s certainly not memorable; but it did irk me at times. Darcy entering Elizabeth’s bedroom to give him the letter, although she is alone and again, in her nightdress; Lady Catherine forcing herself into the Bennett’s household at night; Darcy running after Elizabeth; Elizabeth and Darcy being again and again thrown alone in a room, although the book always has them chaperoned.
What is beautifully done, however, is the slow discovery of Elizabeth’s own mind; the intensity of the feelings. It’s subtle, you know, both in the book and in the movie: otherwise the audience and readers could think Elizabeth changed her mind when she saw Pemberley, for example. But no —her fascination for Darcy starts just a little earlier than her visit, and gnaws at her steadily; at first, she cannot explain it; when she can, she’s horrified that she has lost his esteem forever. Her silence when Jane asks her about Rosings (which a departure from the book: she confesses Darcy’s proposal to Jane there), her single tear at night when Jane talks of Darcy and Bingley; her sole, heart-breaking admission in front of the mirror: I have been so wrong. Silently, slowly, passion has been growing on her side as well.
All in all, I think it’s a true, faithful, respectful hymn to Jane Austen’s work, and what Wright had to bring to the table in his adaptation is generally very successful, very thoughtful, and delightfully carved. He did such a good job.