By Jessica Verdi, Crimson Romance’s assistant editor
I am a huge Jane Austen nerd. The woman was a genius. How she wrote six of the most engaging, romantic novels with some of the most iconic characters ever to grace the pages of a book, and ALL WITHOUT A COMPUTER, is beyond me. I bow down to her awesomeness. Probably unsurprisingly, my favorite Austen novel is Pride and Prejudice. I mean, that’s everyone’s favorite, right? But my preference in film adaptation detours from the general consensus quite a bit. Because I will ALWAYS choose the 2005 Keira Knightley/Matthew Macfadyen version over the 1995 Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth one. ALWAYS.
Here are just a few reasons why:
1. Elizabeth Bennet is badass. She’s a strong, independent woman in a time when that was pretty unheard of. Sure, she wants to get married, but she won’t just marry anyone, despite the fact that her family desperately needs the financial security. She will only marry for love, and anyone who deigns to suggest otherwise (read: Mrs. Bennet) will be firmly put in their place. Long story short, Keira Knightley plays the role with fire in her eyes. Jennifer Ehle doesn’t. Sorry.
2. Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen generate a sexual chemistry so thick you practically have to wipe down the fog from the TV screen in order to see them properly. That scene where he proposes to her (the first time) and she throws his proposal back in his face… holy moly. It’s a good thing thing it’s raining in that scene otherwise I would be worried they would burst into flames with hotness. They inch closer to each other seemingly without even realizing it, drawn to each other like magnets, and stare at each other’s mouths like they are seconds away from devouring each other. Kudos to the actors and director Joe Wright for somehow managing to make a scene with no actual physical contact feel like it should be plastered with a “for mature audiences only” warning. Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle have the chemistry of a couple of rocks. Not once do they look at each other like they want to rip each other’s clothes off. Funny, since they actually dated in real life…
3. Joe Wright is a genius. He’s my favorite director, hands down. The 2005 P&P is stylized in the most stunning ways possible. The imagery of Darcy’s hand recurring throughout the film, the scene at the ball where the guests fade away and it’s just Darcy and Elizabeth dancing together in their own world, the gorgeous sunrise and sunset shots, the wonderful scenes where Wright showcases Elizabeth’s fondess for walking, and his iconic extended one-shot scene where the camera weaves throughout all the rooms of Netherfield Park during Bingley’s ball and we see all the characters and guests of the ball interacting with each other in their own private ways. Genius, I’m telling you. Don’t get me wrong, the literary gods know I love the BBC, and I’m so grateful they continue to produce historical miniseries (I’m in the middle of Northanger Abbey right now, actually), but they’re not exactly known for their cutting edge, groundbreaking filmmaking. They’re nice and predictable, which is great, but Joe Wright took Elizabeth and Darcy’s story to a whole new level with his artful direction.
4. Let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? The cast of the 2005 film is just SO MUCH BETTER LOOKING. Sure, Colin Firth looks great in a sopping wet white shirt, but that one scene is about as sexy as that miniseries gets. And yeah, yeah, looks aren’t everything, but we all read romance novels — we know how it goes. It’s just more satisfying to read about beautiful people falling in love. Besides Keira and Matthew, Jane and Bingley are both incredibly gorgeous (and, for some reason, even though Jane is supposed to be one of the most beautiful women in the county, the casting directors of various pre-2005 versions of P&P seem to have forgotten that), Wickham is sex on a stick, Kitty and Lydia are every bit the flirty, surface-obsessed teenagers they should be, and even Charlotte Lucas, who isn’t supposed to be all that pretty, is nice to look at.
5. Dame Judi Dench, Donald Sutherland, and Brenda Blethyn. Sheer brilliance. ‘Nough said.
6. The 2005 version is truly Elizabeth’s story, whereas the 1995 version is more Darcy-centric. And yes, I love Darcy as much as anyone, but Elizabeth is the far more interesting character. Pride and Prejudice truly is her story, and the 2005 movie totally GOT that. Just look at the differences between the two films’ movie posters. In the 1995 one, Colin Firth is in the foreground, looking directly at the viewer, while Jennifer Ehle is teeny tiny in the background, given equal importance as Jane. Jane? Really? In the 2005 one, Keira is much more prominent, while Matthew is in the background — actually out of focus. Girl power all the way!
I have a million more reasons for why the 2005 film is superior, but this blog post is already getting way too long. But feel free to continue the discussion in the comments! Agree with me? Fervently disagree? Let’s discuss!
Movie posters courtesy of Focus Features and the BBC