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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Pride & Prejudice 

I had the pleasure of seeing this new film in an early preview tonight. It was a pleasure, and I hadn't been entirely sure that it would be, so I'm in a pretty good mood now. I never saw the 1995 TV series, so I've no comparisons to make, but I thought that Keira Knightley made an excellent Lizzie Bennett, while Matthew MacFadyen really warms in the role of Mr. Darcy as the film progresses. Judi Dench is commanding, as usual, if not particularly remarkable as Lady Catherine De Bourgh, and Tom Hollander makes an excellent Mr. Collins.

In its favour as a book adaptation was that it took pretty much complete control of us as we watched it. It wasn't until I was discussing it with my family in the car on the way home that I remembered all the pieces of plot and scenes from the book which are missing here. Some of these are more important than others - trivially, I found it interesting that in the film Lizzie's character is a genuinely bad pianist, where in the book her playing seemed to have a sort of 'unpolished charm'. More importantly, there's very little of Wickham or Georgiana, and much less of Mr. Bingley's sister than might be expected.

The film really emphasises the comic aspects of the novel, and in cutting down some of the romantic angst of the original it also manages to be one of the fastest paced period films I've ever seen. This works to make it all the more enjoyable and recommendable to people who don't usually like that sort of thing. It had me laughing out loud in several places, and Knightley (true to director's orders, according to one interview) manages to avoid sultry period-pouting throughout. In fact, she manages to carry off all the different emotions of Lizzie Bennett with such subtlety and variety of expression that I've had to completely abandon my earlier opinion of here as being merely the new Winona Ryder - someone to replace the worn-out model post-shoplifting disgrace. Knightley really is much better than that - she's everything Ryder seemed to be in Heathers, yet spectacularly failed to be thereafter. And hopefully she'll be doing much more very soon.

One annoying thing - Jane Austen has this terrible power to leave people talking in affected Austenesque tones after they've seen any adaptation of her works. (She's like Shakespeare in that - I lost count of the number of annoying people trying to sound like they were in Romeo & Juliet back in 1996). Unfortunately I'm not immune to this sort of thing, which means that the return of my regional accent, which had been gradually making a comeback after three years lying dormant in Oxford, may be held back a bit longer. So it'll probably be quite a while yet before anyone hears me saying "Oroit bab?" "Yeah, bostin'!"

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