Pride and Prejudice Movies: Colin Firth’s (1995) vs Keira Knightly’s (2005)

By Sarah Levesque
Word Count: 657
Rating: G
Summary: A review of the two biggest Pride & Prejudice films.

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When I was in high school, I picked up the book Pride and Prejudice for the first time and loved it. Now I’ve always preferred books over movies, hands down, but when I heard the girls at school talking about the different versions, I knew I had to watch at least one. For reasons I can no longer remember, I watched the Keira Knightly version first, with my mom, who is not a purist and hadn’t read the book for decades. Mom really enjoyed it, while I was indignant that they had dropped multiple characters, and combined scenes and changed both proposals! Some time later, I was able to convince my mom (the remote controller) to watch the Colin Firth one. It was way longer than the other version, and mom didn’t like it as much. I, on the other hand, was thrilled to see that each character and each scene got its due, and we even got to see a bit of how Darcy and Wickham grew up, and how Darcy found Wickham and Lydia in London! But I did have to agree that it was very long. The music for both versions was amazing, and I used both soundtracks as my morning alarm for years.
Fast forward to this year. I rewatched the Keira Knightly version and realized it actually was well done, and that many thing had to be sacrificed in order to give the movie a reasonable running time. And let’s face it, the dresses worn by Knightly and her ‘sisters’ were far more modest than those worn by Jennifer Ehle and her ‘sisters’. However, it was still hard for me to see Knightly as a lady instead of a pirate, and I prefer Matthew Macfadyen’s Arthur Clennam of Little Dorrit to his Darcy, mostly because Clennam actually smiles and seems comfortable in his own skin. The Colin Firth version I still like, though I cannot condone the cut of the dresses, and the running time is too long for many people. Also, as much as I hate to say it, some of the scenes can drag.
As for the characters, Keira Knightly makes for a very free Lizzy, who does and says what she wants when she wants because she wants to, and has a temper. Jennifer Ehle’s Lizzy is more demure, more reserved, more concerned about what society thinks and, I believe, more like what ladies were in that day and age. While both Lizzys have some concern about their younger sisters, the 1995 version has Lydia acting rowdy and ignoring certain rules of society (calling herself fat in public, among other things), while the 2005 version has Lydia and Kitty going to visit soldiers hoping to find them in some state of undress, but otherwise acting fine, if I remember correctly. Both Janes were excellent, and I cannot separate them enough to say anything more. I’ve always thought the 2005 Bingley was played a bit dumber than he needed to be, while the 1995 Bingley is more of his own man. As for Mr. Darcy, both men did a fabulous job! Macfadyen’s proposals pulled on my heartstrings, while Firth’s were played as straightforward and awkward, which is closer to how I imagined the book proposals.
To conclude, the Colin Firth version has always satisfied the purist in me, while the Keira Knightly version satisfies when I need a quick shot of the Bennets and company. However, I have to say that when I think of the characters, I see those of the 1995 version. But I’ll also say that I get confused between the book and the two movies because there’s so much overlap and so much goodness between the three that it’s hard to keep them separate. If I’ve confused anything, my sincerest apologies. If there’s a version you haven’t seen, I suggest that you see it and draw your own conclusions, because they’re both amazing in their own ways.

Post Author: sarlevesque

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