IT IS a tale that has touched the hearts of countless romantics, a conflict-riddled plot revolving around a handsome aristocrat and a country lass in one of the greatest love stories of all time. First published in 1813, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a witty satire of pre-Victorian courtship and marriage practices. The novel has already been adapted into three mini-series, two TV movies, and four films—the latest of which is directed by Joe Wright under Working Title Films.

Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Carribean, King Arthur) plays Elizabeth Bennet, a headstrong young woman whose family has a big problem—all five daughters are unmarried.

Fearing her daughters’ fates if and when a distant relative inherits their Meryton, England estate, Elizabeth’s mother is eager to see the sisters marry rich. The problem is almost solved when a rich Londoner, Charles Bingley, arrives, and is absolutely smitten with the eldest and prettiest Bennet sister, Jane.

But Bingley’s aloof and seemingly arrogant friend Darcy, a man of considerable wealth, disapproves of both the countryside and Jane. He immediately persuades Bingley to leave Meryton, giving the Bennets the idea that Bingley’s affection is just a passing fancy, until Elizabeth finds out that Darcy orchestrated the whole thing. She loathes him for breaking her sister’s heart. Meanwhile, Darcy falls for Elizabeth and tells her his true feelings, but Elizabeth promptly turns him down.

However, the events that follow make Elizabeth reconsider her feelings, especially when Darcy volunteers to find her younger sister Lydia when the latter elopes with a soldier named Wickham. In the end, Elizabeth admits that she is indeed in love with Darcy, and his sacrifices make her prejudice of him seem foolish and unfounded.

Irony at its most fatal

Unlike the 1995 British Broadcasting Corporation adaptation, Wright’s Pride & Prejudice is not very faithful to the novel, as was expected because of time constraints. The novel just could not fit into 128 minutes. Several characters were omitted, like Mrs. Hurst, Bingley’s married sister. There is poor character development for Lydia and Kitty Bennet, who are portrayed as tittering girls in the whole film. Wickham’s conniving does not measure to his deceit in the book.

Also, Knightley is a bit too striking for the role of Elizabeth, who is supposed to be “plain,” but she handles the part well, acting out every bit of the stubborn yet passionate character. Although Colin Firth is more popular playing Mr. Darcy from the BBC mini-series, Matthew MacFadyen did not do a bad job, either—quite the opposite, even. He was definitely convincing in his part as the high aristocrat who would do everything to win the heart of the woman he loves. Dame Judi Dench as Lady Longbourn is commendable as a snobbish 18th-century noble.

Despite the lack of literary detail, the cinematographic detail is breathtaking: the golden sun gently illuminating the landscape and highlighting the youthful and fresh feel of the movie, which the director seemed to emphasize; the panning shot in the Netherfield Park ballroom where the camera twirled with the dancing Knightley and MacFadyen.

The costumes are very authentic, and screenplay writer Deborah Moggach tried to stick to the actual Austen lines, with a very pleasing effect. The whole movie is shot in the United Kingdom, and the 17th-century moated house Groombridge Place was chosen to be the Bennets’ house. The casting was also better than in the 1940 version where the actors were in their mid-30’s played younger roles.

'Santo subito!'

Although lacking some plot elements, the film turned out very well, and is bound to be remembered as a good screen adaptation. With a well-loved story, a line of good actors, and amazing cinematography, the film truly is a wonder from the first line to the ending credits, a love story retold for a modern audience. Florian C. Garcia


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