Cover of "Pride & Prejudice"

Cover of Pride & Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice has been filmed again, this time by Joe Wright and with an ampersand in the title.  Now it’s Pride & Prejudice (2005) and it stars Keira Knightley (of course) as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew MacFadyen as Darcy.  I learn from critic David Edelstein that “Wright has said in interviews that he approached the novel as a piece of gritty English social realism” (, which is fine as long as Jane Austen’s themes do not get lost in the process.  They don’t.  Scriptwriter Deborah Moggach is steadfast in her focus on the pride and prejudice of the two chief characters, and decisively does the film reveal the slow empowerment of the middle class in late 18th-century England.  For once I agree with Edelstein:  the movie is very good.  That social realism is reflected in the fine costumes and the even finer production design.  Dario Marianelli’s music is gorgeous, and the directing more imaginative than arty.

Some praiseworthy scenes:

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet speak briefly to Elizabeth, outdoors, about her rejection of conceited Mr. Collins’s marriage proposal.  Mr. Bennet, supporting his daughter’s decision, utters his famous witty line about never speaking to Elizabeth again if she accepts the proposal.  But the scene is not played for laughs, as it has been in other film versions of the novel, for Moggach considers it a serious matter for all involved.  Astute, this.

The Meryton Ball is full of attendees , and tracking shots show, among other things, a young girl’s humiliation:  Mary Bennet is stopped by her father, Mr. Bennet, from further playing the piano at the ball.  Crushed, Mary dashes away and Mr. Bennet realizes he has made a blunder.  A later tracking shot reveals him beginning to warmly comfort the girl. . .

I relish the look of the film–congrats not only to Sarah Greenwood for the production design but also to Roman Osin for the cinematography–except for the half-light Bronte effects.  The acting is seldom great but generally admirable–which absolutely describes Knightley and MacFadyen.  Great here is Donald Sutherland (Mr. Bennet), who is touching and not merely comic, dignified but certifiably middle-class.  Pride & Prejudice isn’t perfect, yet although the ampersand is a mistake, the making of the film was not.