Pride and Prejudice Book Vs Movie

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Updated: Jun 11, 2021
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Jane Austen, one of England’s most famous authors, wrote many novels including, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. These novels have continued to inspire generations past her own even three hundred years later. Her novels have been adapted in productions ranging from Hollywood to Bollywood and each drawing the attention of her fan base. One of her most famous novels, Pride and Prejudice follows the story of a couple, separated by their economic statuses, and how their differences, one’s pride and the other’s prejudice, drives them apart but, in the end, those same differences are the source of their own love.

In the article, Style Over Substance, the author, Catherine Stewart-Beer, discusses the changes of the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by director Joe Wright and the 1995 BBC series production of Pride and Prejudice. These two are compared to the original source text by Jane Austen. Stewart-Beer examines the “cinematic flashiness,” (Stewart-Beer), of the film and its former adaptation, the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice series. The author also discusses the question as to why the 1995 adaptation has more of an audience in comparison to Keira Knightley’s 2005 film. Did the film simply fall short in its ideal to show the maturation plot of the main character, Elizabeth? For example, in the book Elizabeth is portrayed more adultlike or mature while in the film she is a bit more childlike due to her solidarity. Ultimately Catherine Stewart-Beer’s publication raises the question if the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film is, “a case of style over substance,” (Stewart-Beer)? Stewart-Beer discusses this vital question in analyzing the cinematography of the film, the setting, and Wright’s, the director of the 2005 film Pride and Prejudice, “stylistic brand of Postmodern Romanticism,” (Stewart-Beer)? Was truly meant for a piece of work such as Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or is it merely “aesthetic pleasures,”(Stewart-Beer)?

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The publication, Style over Substance, contains the authors argument that the 2005 film directed by Joe Wright places focus more on the romance between two of the main characters, Elizabeth and Darcy, rather than focusing on their journey as written in the source novel by Jane Austen. Stewart-Beer states that the film was more susceptible to harsh reviews from audiences due to its lack of utilizing the source text but using Wright’s own interpretation to create a masterpiece meant for the screen. Due to this characteristic, the film has received, “relatively scant, and even tepid response from critical and academic quarters,” (Stewart-Beer).

The article does address some of the insecurities of the film on director, Wright’s part. As Stewart-Beer addresses in the beginning of the essay, Wright believed in portraying his adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, as realistically as possible. But this idea falls flat due to his love for portraying aesthetic beauty. Wright stated that he wanted to create the film in a sense of, “British Realism,” (Stewart-Beer), but when the location for Pemberley was chosen, Chatsworth, a beautiful estate was elected but it was nothing of the sort that Mr. Darcy would have lived in. Due to the fact that the owner of Chatsworth, the Duke of Devonshire, at the time of Pride and Prejudice had a significantly larger income than that of Mr. Darcy. Darcy’s income was simply 10,000 pounds a year whereas the Duke’s income was 70,000 pounds a year, (Stewart-Beer). This is not very accurate British Realism. This thus illustrates the differences between a modern adaptation and an older source text. Even with a book as stellar as Pride and Prejudice, that has a very wide audience, there are still parts that can be interpreted differently.

Film adaptation theory is the study of a piece of work for example, a novel, and transferring that body of work into a film. One of the most important aspects of film adaptation theory is the concept of fidelity. Fidelity in film theory is the measure of how faithful an adaptation to its source text is. A majority of current films now are not truly faithful to the original text. In reference to the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice directed by Joe Wright, it has a sincere lack of fidelity. As Stewart-Beer notes, the original text focuses on the maturation plot of Elizabeth whereas the 1995 series version focuses on the maturation of both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. In contrast, the 2005 film, starring Keira Knightley, focuses singularly on the maturation plot of Elizabeth similar to the source text. Also different in terms of fidelity, in the film by Wright, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are portrayed as in love and even tolerate each other, which is widely different from the original novel.

Mrs. Bennet, in the novel, is very different from that of the Mrs. Bennet in the film. In Wright’s production, she is a character who has real love her for family and truly cares about her daughters’ future whereas in the novel she is, “shrill and abrasive,” (Stewart-Beer). This emphasizes the idea of a filmmaker taking a concept and making it his or her own to place an emphasis on a certain concept. Sometimes this idea stifles the fidelity of a source text to a film or any other medium. Due to this lack of fidelity in this “modern” version of Pride and Prejudice by director Joe Wright, the film itself received a range of reviews. Some completely in love with Wright’s take on the classic piece of literature where others are completely appalled by Wright’s film where he creates new interpretations of characters and settings. Some critics say, “this text-to-screen adaptation is less interested in the ‘text’ as opposed to its greater focus on the ‘screen’ than most adaptations, which are often embroiled in a more intensive dialogue with their literary predecessors,” (Stewart-Beer). This meaning that this film is less in contact with the original text than others due to all of Wright’s changes to major aspects of Austen’s original novel.

Another aspect of film adaptation theory that is addressed in the 2005 cinematic production directed by Wright is if the film can withhold the stance of time with a large following. Wright’s film has aged significantly at thirteen years old this year but its relevance in today’s society has certainly not faded. For those who are interested in the, “aesthetic pleasures,” Joe Wright’s production is perfect. With its sweeping shots, and photography lush with impressive art design, the film certainly shows off the beauty of England. Wright never seems to stray away from aesthetic appeal, stating,” One’s natural inclination as an artist is to make things beautiful… I always said I wanted to make it to be beautiful, but not pretty,” (Stewart-Beer). These graceful images the film features are sure to attract fans of art and nature. Also discussed is Keira Knightley’s acting as for modern women. As stated earlier, Knightley’s Elizabeth is less mature than the Elizabeth from the text. Elizabeth from the 2005 film is less mature, childlike. Many believe that this more innocent Elizabeth illustrates the year of 2005 and the plight of women in that modern time. In the year 2005, adults were staying at home longer thus lulling them into a false sense of reality much like the situation of Elizabeth and her sisters, (Stewart-Beer). They each are on the threshold of womanhood and that is one of the reasons that so many are drawn to this film. The first being the relatability of Elizabeth to modern times with her growth to maturity throughout the film and the second being its beautiful cinematography.

Jane Austen is widely celebrated all over the world by various authors and her audience. She is known for her impact on both her own society and the society of today. One of her most famous novels, Pride and Prejudice, has been adapted many times, one of the most recent being the film directed by Joe Wright. In the publication, Style Over Substance by Catherine Stewart-Beer, she discusses whether or not the adaptation is truly a significant one. Is the film simply loved by a wide audience due to its cinematic approaches or is it truly an adaptation that has application in modern times? Or is it a combination of both?  

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Pride and Prejudice Book vs Movie. (2021, Jun 11). Retrieved from