Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pride & Prejudice: 1995 vs.2005

So, "Masterpiece Theatre" finished showing the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice last Sunday. I had never seen this version before, so I was looking forward to comparing it to the 2005 version which I adore. There are so many different opinions as to which version better, so I decided to throw my own in there as well.

Jennifer Ehle ('95) vs. Keira Knightly ('05)
This one is a tie. Both actresses bring different elements of "Lizzie Bennett" to life. Jennifer definitely has the maturity and the wit. She plays Lizzie with grace and doesn't gives her witty remarks like they were from a script, but rather from her own mind. She does, however, lack some youth and vivacity, and can sometimes seem as if she were playing a much older character than a 19 year old. Keira is the opposite. She has the youth, vivacity and "what do I care if Darcy likes me?" attitude, but she lacks Jennifer's grace and delicacy. If we could find a way to meld the qualities of both of these actresses, I think that then we would see the real Lizzie.

Matthew McFadyn ('05) vs. Colin Firth ('95)

Another tie. Both of these men are wonderful as Darcy. Matthew brings an air of mystery and contempt to Darcy's natural pride. He is cold, distant and reserved. With Colin, we know that he likes Elizabeth from the start, so we are expecting his proposal when it comes. Not so with Matthew. His proposal comes as a shock given the fact that other than a few glances and touches, there is no indication that he feels anything but contempt for her. Another difference is the two actors different interpretations of Darcy's reaction to the Bennett's impropriety. Matthew's feelings are not very evident. He remains cold and distant in the face of the Bennett's silliness. But Colin is obviously mortified, giving us a sense of the pain it was for him to be around the family. Honestly, both of these actors portray Darcy beautifully, and I could watch either of them on any given day. (But between you and me, I prefer the foggy sunrise to the "wet shirt scene").

Susannah Harker ('95) vs. Rosamund Pike ('05)
The winner for me is Rosamund Pike, hands down. Unlike Susannah's Jane, Rosamund gives the character a personality. Though her Jane is obviously shy and modest, she is also affectionate and warm. Susannah's Jane remains flat and dull, leaving one to wonder what Mr. Bingley saw in her in the first place. Plus, Rosamund is actually pretty.

Tom Hollander ('05) vs. David Bamber ('95)

It's hard to choose a favorite Mr. Collins, because the character himself isn't easily likable. But I think that I will have to go with Tom Hollander. He plays Mr. Collins as an awkward, ridiculous twerp (and his height only adds to this impression). David plays him more as an in-your-face and rude kind of guy. I personally liked Tom's portrayal better. I found his Mr. Collins to be so utterly ridiculous and laughable, that he was almost charming. As for David's Mr. Collins, the word that my sister and I felt best described him was "disgusting". I couldn't even really laugh at him, I was so busy rolling my eyes and wrinkling my nose.

There are many other differences in the other characters, but I won't go into all of them.
So, my final verdict? These adaptations are different, but equal. Without a doubt, the '95 version is the definitive version. I have seen very few movies that follow it's book so closely, and almost all of the character interpretations were right on. However, there are times (especially the first 2 hours) when this version seems to drag.
The '05 version gives the plot a faster pace and a modern sparkle, and the majority of it's character interpretations are good as well. But like alot of modern adaptations, the essence of the book is somewhat lost in the shuffle.
Ultimately, I think that I will have to have both of these adaptations in my collection.


Anonymous said...

I am behooved by some of the reviews I see concerning the movie version of P&P. It too is my favorite Jane Austen novel and I thought the movie was simply superb. Prior to my decision I agreed with many that the 1995 verson was excellent. I agree that Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle were superb, but the continuous background music in the 1995 version at some points became annoying. In the movie Matthew McFadden and Kiera Knightly were mesmerizing in their performances, McFadden’s Mr Darcy was indeed the best. Ms Bennett in the 1995 version was simply overbearing crass and screachingly loud. Caroline Bennet looked like a peacock in the 1995 version, much more refined and sophistcated in the movie. I actually believe that the actors in the movie complimented each other quite nicley where in the 1995 some fell out of place. The costumes in the 1995 were not as exact as the 2005 movie version which seemed to indicate a lot more research was done. My most favorite scene in the movie was when Mr Darcy first proposed on a veranda in the rain.. excellent coorespondance and you got the feeling they were just about to kiss before he apologizes for taking up too much of her time… just a great scene. Another great scene was Lizzy not being able to sleep walks out on the small overpass on the brook and sees Mr Darcy coming from afar, what dynamics between the two. In the 1995 version, I didn’t get that feeling like the movie that really, here are two people who do love each other and trying so hard to reach the other… This movie was not only the best production of Pride and Prejudice, but the best movie I have ever seen. I believe that regardless of editing and liberties, Jane Austen would be delighted with this version which simply did her novel justice.

Anonymous said...

I watch the 2005 movie at least once a month, that's how much I love it. I still really like the 1995 series, but I thought that everything was slightly too formal. And I really couldn't see Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle married. Some people hate the movie and love the series and others love the movie and hate the series. I have to say that one must view them as different interpretations of the novel. If you want a love story, watch the movie. If you want accuracy, watch the series.

Anonymous said...

everyone from the 1995 film was perfectly cast and acted just as i would have imagined after reading the book.

Unknown said...

I believe that the 2005 version was abominable and had nothing to do with the novel exept a collection of isolated scenes from the book. I found the 2005 very irritable.

Anonymous said...

I did not care for the '05 version at all. The characters are too unlike the book. Lizzie is so out spoken for a young lady of her time, she is not at all reserved. Knightly plays the role like one of the silly sisters that her father so abhors in the book.

The movie version seemed like it was made for teenaged girls. Too many of the scenes are so far fetched that it seems to be from a different time period, and that Austen's work just wasn't sexy enough for Hollywood. The rain scene is preposterous and has nothing to do with actual events in the book. The '05 version is good for those who don't actually care for the subtlety and humor of Austen's work.

Ivy Clad said...

I admit that I live both versions, HOWEVER, the 1995 series has so much more depth and humor. I have read the book twice in the last 3 months and laugh out loud with every reading. Jane Austen's wit is just so fantastic. I don't think the 2005 movie really captures that wit. As someone else here has similarly mentioned, the 2005 version seems to have been adapted to young American girls. Still, the 2005 version is entertaining if you are not hoping for the story line to stick to the book.

Joachim said...

Yes. You don't even have to watch the '05 version to realise that.

Joachim said...

Did Keira go about and shout all the time like a stuffed pig in the rain scene? Because that's how I always picture her. Let's be honest, she's a horrible actor, and she's only where she's at because of her looks. It's an abomination to compare the two versions because one of them isn't worthy at all.

sugarbucket24 said...

To even compare to two is an abomination. The BBC is the definitive masterpiece and the absolute one true adaptation of Austen's greatest work. Every detail, every word, every single moment is utterly perfect. It is the book, personified. The casting in particular was masterful. There is no comparison to Ehle. Knightly is revolting and has no understanding for Lizzy or for the story. The 2005 is a remake for the bubblegum generation and a prime example of Hollywood making things fast paced and sexy. The BBC version is everything from the book in absolute perfection.

Anonymous said...

I actually watched the BBC version just recently, I loved it very much. It is the book on screen with every detail. But I have to admit, I loved the movie as will. The rain scene some of the comments hate is one of my most loved scenes. I hope they will make a movie based on Darcy’s point of view; I would watch it on a heart peat.

Anonymous said...

Sugarbucket nailed it. The 2005 version is a bubblegum Hollywood "adaptation" of the novel, and does not communicate any of the delicious irony in the novel. To compare KK to Ehle is absurd! Ehle is in another league altogether, as is Firth. Also, Bamber is brilliant and hilarious as Mr. Collins, while the 2005 dude is simply gross in an obvious, juvenile way. I could go on and on, but there is just no comparison.

Anonymous said...

Hard to compare a 1 1/2 hr film with a 6hrs series! But J Ehle is definitely closer to the Lizzie we all imagined, and so delicately beautiful!Her eyes, her mouth, her smile are irresistible. KK is very pretty, but was may-be ill directed: too nervous, too agitated, too modern.
Now the Darcys: True that Firth irradiates sexiness with natural elegance. And he walks, talks and rides like a god.But at times he overdoes it in stiffness or disdain.
M McF on the other hand is also a sexy man, rather handsome,and his"near kiss"scene is a jewel. But he looks more frightened than proud.It is hard to believe he is the"master" of Pemberley.
The Janes: although evrybody seems to prefer Jane in the 2005 version, I find that Jane in the BBC series is probably more to the beauty criteria of Jane Austen's times.A delicate,quietbeauty and what beautiful eyes.
Mr and MrsBennett : I found Sutherland simply disgusting, (especially compared to the classy act the other actor gave in the bbc series). He and his wife seem to be poor farmers or worse,definitely not a country gentleman and his wife. But on the other hand, Mrs Bennett in the bbc series was so hysterical that I confess to use fastforward when she is on screen too long.
I saw the 2005 version with pleasure, but I delight in the 1995 version! Unfortunately both skipped the end, the long courtship, the conversations between Lizzie and Darcy,and some glimpse of their life at Pimberley.
The US addition to the 2005 version could have been cute if it had not been for the so silly lines ot KK. "goddess divine"!!! scripter get paid for that?
I hear that another version/adaptation is in the works in USA and I fear the worst -lol-

Mags said...

I finally was persuaded to watch the 2005 film after vowing never to having seen numerous trailers. I have to say it was the worst adaptation I have ever had the misfortune to watch. Knightly is too modern, outspoken, rude and not at all ladylike, oh and don't get me started on the fact that her costume was simply awful. A young lady of the period would never be seen out without her stays, and the dresses were not fit for someone supposedly a "Gentleman's daughter".

It was insipid, poorly adapted for the film version and clearly trying for popularity rather than period authenticity or even faithfulness to the original narrative. The proposal in the rain? A load of rubbish, and not even remotely close to anything in the book, or even close to anything someone of Eliza Bennett's class would do in real life.

The BBC used their time to the best advantage with very little removed from the original story, and nothing that detracts from the story as a whole. The young ladies act as they ought, with the exception of Kitty and Lydia, as they were written as very silly girls. Mrs Bennett is written as a hypochondriacal vaccuous woman with no tact, and is played brilliantly by Alison Steadman. Sutherland unfortunately did not give the character of Mr Bennett enough of the dry humour that was written for hin by Austen.

As for Caroline Bingley- Well, she just walked out of the book in the BBC version- proud and disagreeable, but incredibly beautifully dressed.

To summarise, the film was the biggest load of old rubbish I have ever had the misfortune to sit and watch. They took a charming period romance and turned it into something badly written and more apt for a very amateur dramatic performance in a church hall.

The BBC series is far more correct to the book and to history. Anyone can see the huge difference in the care and attention to detail shown in this version, along with the very clever casting that meant each of the characters in the book were very accurately portrayed on the screen.

The BBC gets my vote. Hollywood once again gives in to popular culture and ruined a good story.

Anonymous said...

I simply ADORE the 1995 version with Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Lizzie. They are more representative of the book and that is the way characters of that time period would have acted and talked to each other. In the movie, the characters were just SILLY. In the movie, as has been said, they tried to modernize Lizzie and she had no grace whatsoever. A 19-year old in this time period would have looked and acted more like Jennifer Ehle and not like Keira Knightly. Matthew MacFayden or whatever his name was was horrible as Mr. Knightly too. Just ridiculous. All of the characters in the movie were just ridiculous, imo.... I just cannot see how anyone (besides young starry eyed girls) would prefer the movie to the series. That is one thing the movie was perhaps able to do..introduce a new generation to such a wonderful, timeless book. Still, I stand firm on my love of the series and how all characters were wonderfully acted and true to the character of the book. The movie was Hollywood bubblegum fluff. I couldn't even sit through its entirety.

Anonymous said...

I must say that the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice was terrible, simply idiotic. That it won prizes for its costumes is completely unexpected, really. If you look at the drawings and paintings from that time, you immediately see that the dresses were tight around the chest and loose all the way down from there. Some of Knightley's dresses were tight around the waist, which was typical a bit earlier and after the early 1800 - not in the period Jane Austen lived. I know that comparing a 6 h series to a movie of 1½ - 2 h is very difficult, and that you can't expect the same subtleties in the movie of '05 as the 1995 series, but the scenes they picked and they way they were acted out was lacking in the '05 movie. Honestly, they KISS after the proposal in the movie! Two people of the opposite sex did not stand that close to one another before marriage - it was unheard of. Hence the embarrassment Lydia is to her family when she clings to tightly to the officers. The first proposal in the rain was rushed, and though it was a lot more unexpected in the movie than it was in the series, I still felt that the series' first proposal was much truer. In my opinion, it was nice to get the hint that Darcy liked Lizzy before Lizzy herself knew it - because she was prejudiced - so we noticed her surprise more than we did in the '05 version because in the movie, we ourselves were surprised. I agree with the comments saying that the '05 movie seems to be made for teenage girls. The only thing I liked about the movie was the soundtrack (which was stunning - however lacking in the ballroom dance scenes) and the beautiful landscapes in the title-scene, the scene where Lizzy is in Derbyshire, and the early morning of the last proposal. The houses and manors were OK at best in the movie (Darcy's was so handsome from the outside, though we sadly didn't see much of the park, but the sculpture-room was ridiculous!) I cannot believe that the Bennet's house was so untidy and run-down! And geese directly out front? The father is a clergyman who seems very organized, and even the horrid Ms Bennet is always thinking about keeping up appearances. Which brings me to the cast. I was so enraged when I saw Donald Sutherland with a 5 o'clock shadow and long, unkempt hair as the dry Mr. Bennet. The 1995 version was spot on with Mr. Bennet - his love for Lizzy is evident, and they seem much more like kindred spirits in the series than in the movie, for in the movie Lizzy seems like just another one of his silly daughters. I will not go on with all the cast, for I care much more for the 1995 cast than the movie's cast, although the cast in the series does seem a bit too old overall. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy - need I say more? The look in his eyes as he watches Lizzy... ah! simply perfect. The Mr. Darcy in the movie seems to have been dragged through some terrible hardships and doesn't seem as proud as he really is. He seems much less like nobility than I feel Mr. Darcy does in the novel. Mr. Collins is a tie. Oops, it seems I did say some more about the cast after all! Sorry! My point is that the movie isn't at all true to the subtleties and humour of Jane Austen - Lizzy (and Caroline Bingley) would never say such obvious, spiteful things in the face of the other! They would imply it, but never say it outright. And the Bennet-girls standing outside doors, snickering seems laughable. The movie was a failure. I wouldn't recommend it for any true fan of Austen.

the fairest said...

Personally, I enjoyed the 2005 version. I found it thoroughly entertaining and it didn't suffer from any of the stiffness that the 1995 BBC version did. A lot of the venom that's been thrown at it from die hard Austen fans is due to their attachment to the 1995 BBC version. While I do agree that the 1995 version was BRILLIANT, it doesn't mean that I can't enjoy other adaptations of the story. I think the movie did an excellent job.