Ten years ago, the now adored adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice premiered in limited release on November 11, 2005. The film was adapted by Deborah Moggach with some additional script help from Emma Thompson (who won the Oscar for her adaptation of Sense and Sensibility) and directed by Joe Wright (Atonement). This adaptation of Pride and Prejudice had just the right talent to bring Jane Austen’s beloved novel to the screen.
RELATED: Pride and Prejudice (1995) A 20th Anniversary Review
Surprisingly, there hadn’t been a feature film adaptation since the 1940 one starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. And with the iconic status surrounding the much-loved 1995 TV adaptation with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, bringing the story to the big screen would be no easy task – especially if Wright wanted to please Jane Austen fans around the world who viewed the 1995 adaptation as the quintessential version.
Still, Joe Wright found a way to once again bring Jane Austen’s story to life in a new way. The 2000’s (with period dramas like North & South and Jane Eyre) brought a more modern approach to period filmmaking, introducing younger fans into the world of costume drama in a more accessible approach, which Wright did in spades.
So, on this special 10th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice 2005, I decided it was time to revisit this instant classic – which will continue to rank as one of the best period dramas of all time for many years to come.
Years after its release, the Keira Knightley/Matthew Macfadyen version of Austen’s novel has become a real favorite amongst period drama lovers everywhere. While there’s no dive into a pond, there is an epic walk at sunrise as Mr. Darcy walks romantically (and with purpose) toward Elizabeth. This may be one of the most rewind-worthy scenes in any film ever (nothing competes with the Dirty Dancing end sequence – sorry Mr. Darcy), perfectly encapsulating why old-fashioned romance on the big screen works – and why there needs to be more of it.
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Macfadyen had a lot to live up to following on the heels of Colin Firth, but he found a way to make the character his own. Macfadyen, like Darcy in a way, has a way of growing on you. At first, I didn’t like him because all I could see was Colin Firth’s interpretation in my mind. But as the film continued, Macfadyen grew on me just as Elizabeth found herself warming to him as well. Now, I admit I love him every bit as much in the role as Firth.
As for Elizabeth Bennet, Knightley interpreted Elizabeth with an almost introverted temperament – prone to prideful outbursts due to keeping her feelings to herself. Knightley captures the independent nature of Elizabeth while also giving her a sensual appeal. Keira Knightley received an Oscar nomination for her performance – and deservedly so – for the full range of emotions she presents throughout the film. It may be her best role to date. Together, Macfadyen and Knightley created an intense onscreen chemistry with one entertaining scene after the other – their banter a close match to Austen’s.
Joe Wright proved to be the perfect director possible to bring Jane Austen into the 21st century while also staying true to the essence and spirit of Jane Austen’s classic masterpiece.
On top of Knightley and Macfadyen, every role (down to the last extra) was perfectly cast in this adaptation. From the “shy” Jane (this is my favorite interpretation of her character), the loving Mr. Bennet, the Orlando Bloom take on Mr. Wickham, the foolish and selfish Lydia, the hilarious and eye-rolling Mr. Collins, the most three-dimensional interpretation of Charlotte Lucas who feels trapped by her situation in life, the scene-stealing Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourg, the sweet Mr. Bingley and more, everyone was perfection. Not only did each actor give the best performance possible, but they played off each other with an explosion of synergy. Joe Wright (as surprising of a choice he was at the time) proved to be the perfect director possible to bring Jane Austen into the 21st century while also staying true to the essence and spirit of Jane Austen’s classic masterpiece.
Besides the strong performances, the authenticity of the story was also incredible with accurate period detail, including gorgeous costumes from costume designer Jacqueline Durran, and a level of realism used with characterization, camera angles and more.
One major change to this adaptation was the setting and tone. Wright brought a touch of romanticism to the story with shots of nature and gothic like weather to represent the shifting moods of the characters. The Bronte-esque approach to Austen’s work may be a strange choice, but it really worked. Who can forget the impassioned first proposal between Darcy and Elizabeth in the rain? It was an artistic choice and one that paid off. Wright was able to condense the length of the novel while still capturing the essence of the story by incorporating visual cues that matched the feelings of reading Pride and Prejudice – at least as Wright interpreted it. It was a brilliant move on his part.
A perfect example of this visual technique was the scene when Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy dance (and argue) with the crowd disappearing around them. That way, the audience would understand that nobody else was in the room for Darcy and Elizabeth. A clever, visual metaphor.
Overall, the 2005 Pride and Prejudice has the best of what good period dramas have to offer. The script with its clever dialogue, the set design, the beautiful costumes, the performances, the smoldering, the realistic female relationships, flawed and human female characters, the epic old-fashioned romance where the touch of a hand is worth its weight in gold. Not to mention Mr. Darcy. And then there’s Elizabeth – who most of us want to be (you know you take those online Jane Austen quizzes and cheat!)
The 10th anniversary of this romantic drama marks the perfect time for a re-watch – or a first-time watch if you still haven’t been able to risk seeing another adaptation after the 1995 masterpiece. I say enjoy this wonderful version and remember: There’s plenty of room for more than one great adaptation. I like to think of it like a play. There are many productions with various directors and actors over the years, but each interpretation brings something new. And what this adaptation brings is magic!
Do you love Pride and Prejudice 2005? What are your thoughts on Joe Wright’s interpretation? Do you have a favorite moment? Let me know in the comments.
Photos: Focus Features/Universal
10 thoughts on “Pride and Prejudice (2005) – A 10th Anniversary Review”
I LOVE this adaptation! It’s gorgeous, romantic (that first proposal… *swoon*) and I so admire the changes the production took to make it its own story. Plus, given it had only two hours to tell it in, the story is told beautifully in that limited boxy space, and very well at that. 🙂
Yes, I agree. The filmmakers really did a wonderful job with only two hours to pull off such a long novel!
I’m with you! It’s true this version isn’t as epic and classic as the 1995 series, but it is not a fair comparison and as you say Knightley was well able to capture the independent nature of Elizabeth. For me the film is a delight to watch and re-watch. The time constraints of the film almost work to amplify the emotion and beauty of the story, instantly transporting me to JA bliss.
I love this adaption, too! It’s always a pleasure to watch it again and again(for about 10 times at least), and the filmmaker did a really great job to put the whole story into a 2 hour movie! (ps. the background music was awesome, too.)
This is real late, but you that wasn’t Orlando Bloom who played Mr Wickham right?
Thanks! I was going to point that out!
i love this movie so much. The casting, the costumes, the cinematography… WOW. Maybe I love it so much because I’m not a Jane Austen fan, maybe I wouldn’t like it if I were, but I can watch and rewatch this movie again and again.
My daughter and I have watched this movie no less than 100 times. We are completely in love with this movie. Elizabeth is so fiercely independent and so amazing to watch.
I’m sorry to disagree! Maybe it is because my love of period dramas started with the 1995 Pride and Prejudice, but I just couldn’t warm to the characters in this adaptation.
I could have lived with this version of Lizzy, although throughout the whole movie I was waiting on her to be witty and outspoken, which is her main characteristic in the book and which was so evident in the 1995 adaptation with Jennifer Ehle. Worse for me was this version of Darcy. Macfadyen looked mostly whiny even when he was attempting to stare smoulderingly. Maybe it is just me… I guess I’m not a big fan. The hairdressers in this movie didn’t help with this terrible wig! I don’t believe any gentleman in that period would have let himself been seen with shaggy hair like this.
The other characters were comparably flat. The father for instance. There was hardly any wit. He seemed sleepy to me. The sisters were ok, I guess, but nobody can come near David Bamber and Allison Steadman as Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet.
While I liked the moody camerawork, the sets were so so. First you see for example Lady Catherines House and then Pemberly. While Lady Catherine is rich and pompous, Mr. Darcy is rich, but has style. When Lizzy toured his house I thought the whole time, that this doesn’t fit. It was overloaded with shiny things and artwork. Maybe they wanted to project with all the naked statues that he was a liberal artisty kind of guy? Not so stiff and arrogant? Maybe they have “slightly” overdone it?
I could pick it apart further, but will stop now. As I said in the beginning: I fell in love with the BBC miniseries with Jennifer Ehle and Collin Firth, which I have watched countless times. It is difficult for me not to compare. If you liked this version, disregard my rant, please 😉 and forgive the possibly weird English full of mistakes. It is not my native language.
Thank you to the authors of this site. It is a good inspiration to watch my favorite period dramas again and discover new ones.
Adaptations will not always speak to each individual, and that’s okay. 🙂