Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Many Versions of Pride and Prejudice

“Hear that sound, George?  [makes fast, repeating sound]  That's Jane Austen spinning in her grave like a cat in a tumble-dryer.” – Amanda Price, Lost in Austen

Last year for Valentine’s Day I did a series of posts I called “Gwyneth Paltrow is British”.  All the movies where she played a Brit had romantic plots in them, so they seemed to be a good fit for Valentine’s Day.  You can find those posts here.  This year I am going to review the versions of Pride and Prejudice that I would recommend.  The book has sometimes been called “the most romantic ever written”, so it also is a good fit for Valentine’s Day.

There have been almost a dozen filmed versions of the Pride and Prejudice story.  The best known are versions from 1940, 1980, 1995, and 2005.  I will be reviewing three of them: the 1940 movie with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier; the 1995 miniseries with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth; and the 2005 movie with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. 

I have not seen the 1980 version with Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul.  I had planned to watch it, but after recently seeing the five hour 1995 miniseries, I could not take another five hour version of the story so soon afterwards.  Another thing making me a little hesitant to see the 1980 one is that it is generally considered the least of the four major adaptations.  I find it interesting that along with that it is also considered the version that is most faithful to the book.  This illustrates that movies and books are two different media and that what makes a good book is not necessarily what makes a good movie.  There is such a thing as being too faithful to the book.

Notice that I wrote “generally considered” in the prior paragraph.  People think that The Lord of the Rings fans or Star Trek fans are the most obsessive ones out there.  I’m here to tell you that they have nothing on Jane Austen fans.  The amount of fighting on the IMDB boards over the various Pride and Prejudice adaptations is truly amazing.  I realize that I am approaching the “third rail” by even writing reviews of some of the versions, but never let it be said that I am unafraid to present my opinions on a movie that I would recommend to others. 

In addition to those versions mentioned above, I have also seen the 2004 movie Bride & Prejudice.  It was actually the first version of the story that I saw, followed by 2005, 1940, and 1995.  It was directed by Gurinder Chadha (Bend it Like Beckham).  It was a Bollywood-influenced modern version of the story starring Aishwarya Rai and Martin Henderson.  It is an interesting take on the story, but it’s not quite good enough for me to recommend.  If you have seen the other versions, and this concept sounds interesting, then check it out.  In case you are wondering, I have not seen the other modern version from 2003 with Kam Haskin and Orlando Seale.

A very fun miniseries that uses the story as its basis is 2008’s Lost in Austen.  Its premise is that a modern English woman gets transported into the world of Pride and Prejudice – her favorite book – and she finds out things are not quite what she expected.  She proceeds to make a mess of things, with characters and storylines going in directions Jane Austen would be surprised by.  It’s definitely something Pride and Prejudice fans should see and I will be reviewing it, too.

I have also seen some people refer to Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001) as a version of the Pride and Prejudice story.  While author Helen Fielding definitely had Colin Firth’s version of Fitzwilliam Darcy in mind when she created her character of Mark Darcy (played by Firth in the movie in a meta moment), I do not feel that the overall plot of Bridget Jones’ Diary follows that of Pride and Prejudice closely enough to be called a version of it.

Finally, there has been much talk about a film version of the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  The studio has had trouble keeping a director attached to it, as well as finding a leading lady, so who knows if this movie will ever get made.

As I post reviews for these movies, I will place links to them below:


  1. Being someone who has read the book and seen many different versions, I can confidently say I believe the version with Kiera Knightly is the finest. Every book fan falls all over the one with Firth I suppose because it follows the novel so closely, but to me it just is not well made, or well acted.

  2. @Matt Stewart - Thanks for the insightful comment. Stay tuned; I think you're going to like an upcoming review.