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Monday, June 1, 2009

Pride and Prejudice. DVD. Universal (2006)

Director Joe Wright and screenwriter Deborah Moggach, along with a pitch perfect cast have made an enthralling film, romantic, witty and superbly crafted. The screenplay has very carefully filleted the book so that the essential elements are retained while the story works primarily as a film rather than a respectful transfer of a beloved novel to the screen. Joe Wright fills the screen with the social context for the actions, the class distinctions between the Bennets, Mr Bingley, Lady Catherine de Bourg and Mr Darcy are clearly demonstrated by the size and splendour of their houses. The distance is nicely and effectively made clear in the difference between the ball at the start of the film where all the main characters first encounter each other and the later ball at Mr. Bingley's house.
One of the numerous pleasures in the film is the way the Bennet family is portrayed,they intrude upon each other and support each other and are a tangle of affection and aggravation. Donald Sutherland as Mr Bennet has been slightly soften from the book and to very good effect, he is much more a loving father, albeit one with a sharp wit. Brenda Blethyn as Mrs Bennet, a woman with five daughters who have very limited prospects to marry off is a joy. She is allowed to be much more affectionate and worried while being silly rather than stupid. There is a vivid chemistry between Kiera Knightley and Matthew Macfayden as the the central romantic pair whose encounters crackle with tension and closely held emotions. The scene where these restrains are let go and they speak forcefully to each other is gripping.
For me the item that makes or breaks any version of this story is the presentation of Mr. Collins, one of the most acutely funny and horrifyingly embarrassing characters in fiction. His overweening self-importance linked to his absurd fawning on Lady Catherine are hard to catch without making him a buffoon, which he is not. Tom Hollander does a remarkable job in this role, it is a gem of a performance without the slightest hint of irony. All the aspects of this film, from the music to the dexterous camera work , the biting wit and the truthful emotional force that pervade this delightful fairy tale are skillfully brought together to provide a feast of a film that repays repeated viewings with pleasure.

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