I think it is pretty safe to say that Pride and Prejudice is Jane Austen’s most famous novel. Most people, regardless of whether they have read the novel or not, have at least heard of it.
Part of it’s success is due to the adaptations that Hollywood has provided us. The most famous adaptations are the 1995 miniseries and the 2005 movie.
Like my previous post about Mansfield Park , I will try to honestly debate both adaptations.
Cast: Elizabeth Bennet (Jennifer Ehle), Fitzwilliam Darcy (Colin Firth), Mr. Bennet (Benjamin Whitrow), Mrs. Bennet (Alison Steadman), Lady Catherine De Bourgh (Barbara Leigh-Hunt)
Pros: Colin Firth in clingy pants (that ingenious line is from Lost In Austen, which I highly recommend). Sorry, I had to get that out. Aside from that, Firth and Ehle have solid chemistry. It’s just there, you know that something is going to happen between their characters regardless of how much of the novel the viewer has read. There is so much detail in this adaptation, it is as if Miss Austen was on set during filming. Every actor is perfectly cast.
Cons: The only con that I can think of is that some of the actors were a bit older than their characters, especially the parental figures in the novel. But it’s not really a con because they were so effective as their characters that you forget there may be a 10 or 15 year age difference between the actor and the character.
Cast: Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley), Fitzwilliam Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen), Mr. Bennet (Donald Sutherland), Mrs. Bennet (Brenda Blethyn), Lady Catherine De Bourgh (Judi Dench)
Pros: This is a well put together movie. Director Joe Wright and screen writer Deborah Moggach created a very marketable movie that appeals to all, not just the Janeite fandom community. As Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam, Knightley and MacFadyen are both age appropriate and effective in their roles. This was my first real introduction, not just to Pride and Prejudice, but to Miss Austen as well. It works as a gateway to the other novels and overall Janeite fandom.
Cons: It is a 2 hour movie. The difference in making a 2 hour movie versus a 6 hour miniseries is that sometimes story lines have to be condensed and characters have to be cut out.
In conclusion, the winner is…. The 1995 miniseries