When I first read Jane Austen’s iconic romance, I believe I was in the 7th or 8th grade. Although I finished the book and comprehended the basic plot, I thought it was dull; you know, one of those pretentious books that educators make you read simply because it’s “old”. Fast forward a few years later; I was a 15 year old sophomore in high school and had just re-read A Tale of Two Cities for an English assignment. I was surprised at how I found myself in tears by the end of it–I mean, it wasn’t like I hadn’t read it before! I was reminded of Pride and Prejudice since both had come together in a set (I think it was some Costco special), and wondered if it too deserved a re-read.
I found it neglected among old school texts and hunkered down to give it an earnest second shot. And I was hooked. Floored, to be more precise. As I reintroduced myself to Elizabeth and her family and friends, I was startled to find myself completely reeled in and relating to them in a way that made me go, “How in the world did I miss this the first time around?”. I guess a lot of growing up happens between 12 and 15.
The book is one of those reliable pieces that I can always pick up and come away from feeling refreshed. No matter how many times I read it, something new will jump out at me from the pages, or I laugh, realizing that the same thing that made me smile on that second reading is still making me smile at the seventieth. One of the best things about Pride and Prejudice is that it is so multidimensional. Meaning, no matter what medium it’s translated into or what spin on the story you take, it almost always manages to remain satisfying, if not profound. So naturally I’m a fan of investigating its many reincarnations, but film in particular.
In late high school I became a huge fan of Bridget Jones’ Diary; modern and irreverent, it still managed to feel emotionally substantial despite being a loose and comical adaptation. It’s a great movie to watch with my girls. The ironic thing is, once I became sexually active I viewed Bridget’s predicaments with a lot more sympathy and realized just how painful and sad certain parts of her life were–despite the fact that the movie is supposed to be funny.
My first semester of college I sat down and watched all of the BBC episodes (also with Colin Firth) for the first time, with one of my best friends. The lovely thing about that one is A. It’s a million years long so, more time to spend with P&P, and B. It’s pretty historically accurate and faithful to the book. Quite a stickler for details. Great when you really want to see more of the nitty gritty parts of the story.
And then came the 2005 rendition with Kiera Knightley. Oh lordy! That film reaches down into your soul–grabs it–lifts it out of you–and drags it along for a journey that leaves you too breathless to wonder about such mundane and logical details like, “Why is Elizabeth going to the Bingley’s house/in public with her hair unpinned and no hat?” The dreamlike cinematography–SIGH! The sweeping piano score–SWOON! It’s a stream that turns into a river, pulling you along a narrative so compelling and aesthetically beautiful that I can almost (almost) forgive the very horrible last thirty seconds of the film.
It being a movie and not a miniseries, some details are left out and obviously condensed. However, I feel like it’s very true to the spirit of the book, and that’s arguably the most important part. One of my very favorite scenes and what makes this version especially memorable, actually has nothing to do with Darcy. It’s about the relationship between Elizabeth and Charlotte. Charlotte prior to this, I had always kind of glossed over. The spinster side-kick with no self esteem, you know. But this clip–
GAH! Charlotte!! I’M SO SORRY I JUDGED YOU! I didn’t understand! Wow–it really made me feel for her in a “that could have been me!” way, had I lived back then. And I really love how they included that interpretation in the movie. A breath of reality, humanizing a marginalized and not super popular character. In the next post I’m going to talk about another interpretation of Charlotte I really like in “The Lizzie Diaries”.