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Pride and Prejudice

April 4, 2013

Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Director: Joe Wright
Actors: Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Donald Sutherland

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Synopsis: Sisters Jane Bennet (Rosamund Pike) and Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley) meet dashing noblemen Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) at a local ball. Elizabeth assumes the pride of Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley’s sister is the cause for Mr Bingley dropping his interest in Jane, but a turn of events force Elizabeth to re-assess her opinion of Mr Darcy.

Review: Over-familiar material gets innovative, yet faithful, treatment from Joe Wright in this lovely little adaptation of Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’. The two main areas where Wright seems to focus his directorial efforts are in his roving use of cinematography and spatial choreography to try to approximate the earthy chaos of the Bennet household and the more realistic than usual depiction of the early 19th century social canvas.

The pièce de résistance of Wright’s ingenious craft is in the lovely opening, where he employs a single-take shot to introduce us to the fluid, riotous atmosphere in the Bennet household as the nervy mother (played colourfully, if predictably, by Brenda Blethyn) and her five daughters make life ‘entertaining’ for the father of the household, Mr Bennet. In the same shot, rather than the sun-dappled, uniformly affluent milieu purveyed in many Austen adaptations (think both Douglas McGrath’s and Autumn de Wilde’s Emma adaptations for example), Wright accentuates the working realities of life on a lower middle-class country estate. Poultry and livestock are seen roaming around the Bennets’ farmhouse, and the girls’ clothes seem dipped in the muddy grass through which they rush and bicker.

Encapsulating the warmth and ingenuity of this adaptation is the poignant final scene where Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth seeks approval for her marriage to Darcy from her father, played by Donald Sutherland. Sutherland’s totally sincere response of warm laughs watered down with tears of joy, crystallises the successful marriage in this movie of that tricky Austen cocktail of comedy filtered through more serious social commentary. (April 2013)

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