There are very few movies out there that I can watch more than once and come away with a different view each successive time.
My thoughts the first time I watched the ’05 version of the classic Austen story ran something along the lines of, “this is horrible.” The choice of era, the liberties with the book storyline, and the interpretation of Darcy all mixed into one frustrating viewing experience.
But, the ’95 version is 5 hours, and it’s at the library. I like it best, but it is rather inconvenient. Plus, for some reason, the TV people are especially fond of playing the ’05 version. So for lack of anything better, I’ve watched parts and pieces of it several times over. What follows are my gentle thoughts on the movie. (Screen pictures from here.)
And in order for me to do that, I need to separate this movie from the book, otherwise I get all conflicted about the interpretation. It’s something like the 1940’s adaption of the book, but not quite. That kind of thing. Okay, now I’m starting. :)
Firstly, it’s beautiful. And the pacing forces me to acknowledge that. There are so many moments of stillness in the film. When I first saw it, I did have a bit of the, “come’ on people, you only have *glances at clock* one hour, forty-six minutes, and 29 seconds to get this rather complex story line finished”. The cure for that was doing writing work with the movie on in the background. I found myself ignoring the busy scenes and only looking up for the still scenes. And in those moments where nothing seemed to be happening, I realized I was being brought into the equation, because my mind took cues from the visual and musical references, and wandered freely into the story. I suppose it was “interactive” after a fashion, and I found myself appreciating the breather, rather than trying to make sure everything had time to fit in. That said, my recommendation to P&P newbies: with this version, definitely read the book first. My first contact with Pride & Prejudice was the ’95 movie version, and I remember being overwhelmed. The ’05 version would’ve been dizzying. But when you know the storyline well enough, the pace takes on an entirely different speed.
And the music. Even during my “this is horrible” first viewing, I couldn’t ignore the music. It carries the story beautifully well, and when it stops, you notice. The musical transition scene at Pemberley is the best example of this. Actually, that might be my favorite scene of all. The moment of stillness accomplishes an unbelievable amount of story with a mirror and a few key characters. Plus, it actually endears me to this version’s Darcy, and that is a major accomplishment.
If I could point out minor details that delight me, they would be: Rosamund Pike (perfectly Jane), Mrs. Bennet (my own poor nerves greatly appreciate her lack of chirping wails), the scene down below (Bingley is not my ideal, but this simple scene really makes me love their friendship), and most importantly, that the Darcy/Elizabeth dynamic still has the power to excite me.
This is, of course, ignoring all the things I personally think were wrong moves. The beginning seems bland, and fails to excite me much at all (save for the promise of later), Darcy (puppy dog is all that comes to mind when I see this version), Catherine de Bourgh’s visit (shudder), and yes, that ending. That is the issue that grates against me the most, because I personally love the book ending, and I love the way it turned out on film in 1995. I have every belief that the makers of the 2005 version could’ve done the book ending too, and still with the film’s signature style.
What everything ultimately points to, I believe, is that Pride & Prejudice 2005 seeks to be an independent interpretation of Jane Austen’s book, freely accomplished through innovative filming techniques and enjoyable audio/visual. I would really love to have seen this version stick truer to the book — for me, it’s hard to judge a movie that drops these characters into reimagined scenarios — honestly, I think it’s less fair that way. This movie’s unique styling could’ve been reason alone for the remake. I don’t think they needed to change (modernize?!) the plot any to justify it.
But, I’ll hand it this. Given enough time, it can make one see all the good things it does have to offer. So for a Pride & Prejudice fan especially, I really think it deserves a watching or two. Or, like me, however many it takes. :)