“Only the deepest love will persuade me into matrimony, which is why I shall end up an old maid.” – Elizabeth Bennett whispers to her sister in late night confidence, a line that contextualises the depth of her eventual love for Mr Darcy.
Based on the beloved Jane Austen novel, Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice released in September 2005 after over fifteen previous adaptations. Before Wright’s film, the most popular adaptation had been the 1995 miniseries produced by the BBC which was largely credited for its faithfulness to the source. Although straying more from the source material than the miniseries, the film garnered much acclaim and praise from critics and public alike – receiving four Oscar nominations and six BAFTA nominations, including one win.
Pride and Prejudice centres around the Bennet family. Mr and Mrs Bennet (Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethyn) care for their five daughters – Jane (Rosamund Pike), Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), Lydia (Jena Malone), Kitty (Carey Mulligan) and Mary (Talulah Riley) – as they all make their way into adult society. The story specifically follows Elizabeth and her struggles with marriage expectations and prospective proposals. Elizabeth is a head-strong protagonist who cares much more for books and love than money or prospects. As Elizabeth’s four sisters grow up and find love of their own, she is forced to face her feelings for the stoic and proud Mr Darcy. Their romance buds slowly and reluctantly, growing from joint intellect and wit. Jane and Mr Bingley’s (Mr Darcy’s best friend) relationship provides a stark contrast, as their sharing of undeniable kindness and charisma creates an instant romance.
Pride and Prejudice is both visually striking and thematically rich, creating a film that’s enjoyable for its surface level qualities and emotional nature. Beautiful, scenic cinematography of the Peak District alongside complex themes of social class, gender, and moral values form the backdrop to one of the most renowned love stories of all time. Director, Joe Wright, and Cinematographer, Roman Osin, work together to use the visual medium of film to their advantage. They utilise the landscape by mirroring the emotions of the characters through terrain and weather. This is seen in the representation of relationships as well as individual characters. For Mr Darcy and Elizabeth, they use cool tones throughout the film until sunlight bursts through them when they unite at the end, meanwhile Mr Bingley and Jane are nearly always seen bathed in sunlight – reflecting the warm nature of their relationship.
Mr Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship signifies a bridge between all the conflicts hidden within Pride and Prejudice. Each of them represents a different social standing, degree of wealth and gender. As made clear by Lady Catherine De Bourgh (Mr Darcy’s aunt) in her attitude towards Elizabeth, Mr Darcy is considered to be so far above Elizabeth’s position that even the rumour of their engagement is a scandal. Lady Catherine furthers this distinction of class by attempting to use her power and wealth to deny Elizabeth marriage to Mr Darcy. This abuse of power occurs both explicitly and subtlety throughout Pride and Prejudice, underlying all the joy and love to keep the story grounded. It is these layers that, I believe, keep people returning to both Jane Austen’s books and films year after year.
“I have been so blind.” – Elizabeth Bennett