Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth dance together at the ball. (Universal Pictures)

Arts and Entertainment

Review: How the 2005 film adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ vivifies Jane Austen’s classic narrative

Specific camera shots highlight Austen's creative genius.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/emilyli1101/" target="_self">Emily Li</a>

Emily Li

January 7, 2022
Even two centuries after her death, Jane Austen’s legacy as a renowned novelist still lives on. Austen, known for her comedic yet realistic writing style, vividly captures the rawness of human relationships and often explores themes of British gentry and independence of women in marriage of that time.

Her works include romance, but instead of pursuing sentimental language popular in her time, her characters reveal natural imperfections and flaws. Amongst her well-known classics, “Pride and Prejudice” proves to be the most famous among them. This story has been adapted into numerous TV shows and films due to its widespread adoration and integration of both romantic and satirical elements.

Although it is hard for movies to explore the same level of depth given its time limitation, “Pride and Prejudice,” starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, nevertheless successfully illustrates the reserved yet beautiful romance that blooms between Elizabeth and Darcy through its own film language.

The story follows Elizabeth Bennet (played by Keira Knightley), an intelligent, independent-minded young lady and the second oldest daughter of Mr. Bennet of Longbournm. However, since Mr. Bennet’s estate can only be passed to a male heir and the Bennet family has no son, it is necessary for at least one daughter from the family to marry well.

A perfect chance arrives as Mr. Bingley, an affluent bachelor, visits the neighborhood with his sister and friend, Darcy. Mr. Darcy is also extremely wealthy, but his arrogant and aloof personality drives others away. Bingley falls in love with Jane, the Bennets’ eldest daughter, and through the two families’ relationship, Elizabeth increases interactions with the infamous Mr. Darcy. As Elizabeth learns to overlook initial prejudice and differentiate between authentic and superficial traits, a dynamic connection forms between them.

The Magic of Camera Perspective

Specific camera shots elevate the chemistry between Darcy and Elizabeth. The movie’s close-up shots on objects and facial expressions add nuances to the development of their relationship without blatantly declaring the characters’ feelings.

The scene when Elizabeth leaves Bingley’s manor at the beginning of the film perfectly exemplifies this narrative technique; as the camera follows Elizabeth up the carriage, it suddenly cuts to a closeup of Darcy’s hand holding hers, helping her get inside the vehicle.

The perspective then dramatically returns to Elizabeth, this time a more focused shot of her startled expression at Darcy’s gesture. Finally, a close-up frame of Darcy’s hand ensues as he expands and retracts his fingers, feeling the lingering temperature of her touch.

Although the only physical interaction in this scene is a brief graze of hands, this camera paneling technique of their hands, Elizabeth’s expression and Darcy’s reactions speak volumes of their underlying romantic tension.

Mr. Darcy (played by Matthew Macfadyen) holds Elizabeth Bennet (played by Kiera Knightley)’s hand as she steps into the carriage. (Universal Pictures)

Another instance of excellent camera close-up and placement is when Elizabeth and Darcy meet again at Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s manor, and the former plays the piano. She speaks to Darcy’s friend about Darcy’s puzzling behavior at the Netherfield Ball while the camera encompasses all three characters in the scene.

However, when the friend exits and only Elizabeth and Darcy talk to each other, each shot focuses on their expressions separately. Chemistry overflows the screen as the camera concentrates on only one face at a time, capturing nuances in their facial expressions and implicitly demonstrating each character’s contrasting emotions: Darcy, embarrassed and wanting to justify himself, and Elizabeth feeling sarcastic toward him.

Elevation Through Weather and Atmosphere

Aside from strategically placed camera angles, the movie adds layers to the story’s atmosphere through weather that isn’t present in the book to showcase the fervorous intensity of the main characters’ relationship.

When Darcy proposes to Elizabeth for the first time, a pouring storm happens simultaneously. Their clothes and hair soak with water as they argue after Darcy’s rude elaboration of his confession, and the background audio of rain creates more drama to their intense conversation.

While the book describes their quarrel vividly, it does not present any details about the weather. The movie production team intentionally added a gloomy downpour to give this proposal a tense ambiance, hinting its failure.

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet argue intensely in the rain. (Universal Pictures)

Darcy’s second proposal suggests an entirely different aura from the former; at one of the film’s emotional peaks, weather plays crucially to the scene’s romantic chemistry. As Darcy walks toward Elizabeth, a soft morning fog envelops his figure and a hint of the orange sun appears on the horizon.

During their exchange, the sky lightens gently to suggest the profession of love that lingers on Darcy’s lips. Finally, sunlight illuminates their profiles and blurs the camera as they hold hands and touch their heads together. Cinematography drives the emotional development of this segment, creating an atmosphere that leaves a heart-stirring impression for the audience.

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy share a heartfelt moment under the rising sun. (Universal Pictures)

 

My hope for romantic love shifted drastically as I grew older; from dreamy fairy tales about princesses and knights to the reality of modern relationships, I was exposed to interpretations of romance but never truly experienced this mythic feeling.

In this era of speed-dating, people idealize the concept of love more than their true feelings toward their partners. Many teenagers around me take a similar approach, hurrying to leave their single identity but only to find themselves losing interest. For the first time, we expose ourselves to loving someone, but we are still too young to understand the responsibility that comes with it.

After watching “Pride and Prejudice,” I resonate deeply with the romance between Darcy and Elizabeth; throughout the course of their relationship, they also discover more about themselves and make improvements along the way.

Contrary to the popular teenage relationship mindset that centers around oneself, Darcy and Elizabeth have flaws, but their affection toward each other eventually surpasses these imperfections. This movie renews my outlook on romantic relationships and reminds me to love not based on outward presentations but rather, one’s true character that lies beneath the surface.

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