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Adaptation Deathmatch: Pride & Prejudice

The 1995 mini-series and 2005 film go head to head in an epic battle to determine which adaptation reigns supreme.

Adaptation Deathmatch: Pride & Prejudice

In what may be the longest post ever, Meghan and Posh duke it out over which Pride & Prejudice adaptation is better: the 1995 mini-series or the 2005 film. Both make articulate, heavily scientific cases, but it's up to you, the reader, to choose the victor. Carefully weigh the arguments below and, after considering all of the facts, cast your vote in the poll to help determine the winner of this most brutal battle.

OPENING ARGUMENTS

Meghan, arguing for the 1995 mini-series

Guys, sorry my opening arguments aren't dazzling, but I've just spent a couple of hours doing Google image searches for Colin Firth, and my brain isn't functioning properly. I'm not entirely sure why we're even having this discussion, as it's obvious there is no version that comes even CLOSE to the 1995 BBC miniseries, and there is certainly no other Mr. Darcy than Colin Firth. I'll admit I came to this version already an avowed Pride and Prejudice fangirl, who could quote whole passages and knew the characters like my best friends. Having to watch this stretched out over weeks when it aired on Masterpiece Theatre for the first time was pure torture, because I wanted -- nay, NEEDED -- Darcy and Lizzy to just GET TOGETHER ALREADY. There's something necessary about the sweet pain of drawing the story out over six hours, rather than just cramming the highlights into two and a half, and although I was a huge fan of the book, the miniseries is also accessible for the P&P novice (unless that novice is Lee). Obviously, I love the miniseries for Colin Firth's Darcy, but I also love it for Jennifer Ehle and Barbara Leigh-Hunt and David Bamber. Anything less just seems like a knockoff rather than a transcendance.

Posh, arguing for the 2005 film

Look, y'all. I'm not here to try to convince you that the mini-series is crap. That would be as futile as trying to convince FYA that cocktails are poison. Instead, I'm here to prove to you, through the power of science, that the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is not only as good as the mini-series but WAY more satisfying to watch. I realize that I'm the underdog in this debate, since it's a known fact that Colin Firth is a god, so I'm asking you to read the following argument with an open, rational mind. Check your pride AND your prejudice at the door, yo, and I'll show you that director Joe Wright knew what he was doing when he took Jane Austen's masterpiece and transformed it into an insanely romantic and deeply compelling cinematic masterpiece.

MR. DARCY

1995 Mini-Series

HELLO HOTNESS. I love Matthew Macfadyen as much as the next girl (and never so much as when he's reading poetry), and if Colin Firth (aka The Only Darcy) had never existed, I'd be all OVER that frock coat. But Colin Firth does stone-cold disdain so well, rarely flashing that charming grin of his. He also can clearly communicate, "Come have sex with me NOW," just with one look.

Firth has the ability to demonstrate adorable shyness without stooping to Hugh Grant levels of bumbling idiocy, and that's a huge part of Darcy's character, and he does it all while keeping his hair out of his eyes. GOD, Macfadyen, don't you have a valet? Who owns a comb?  And a razor? What are you DOING with that 10,000 a year?

But in truth, it's very, very difficult for a hot leading man to rise above a mediocre leading lady (let alone an awful one), and so far the only one I've seen do it is Jeremy Northam, aka The Only Mr. Knightly. Even The Only Darcy would be hard pressed to be a sex god if his partner was the atrocious Keira Knightley, which brings me to Lizzy.

2005 Film

You'd think that this would be the toughest category for me to argue, since Colin Firth is a smoldering hunk of man meat. But all it takes is one viewing of the 2005 version to realize that MATTHEW MACFADYEN HOLDS THE KEY TO YOUR HEART AND SOUL. I mean, LOOK AT THOSE EYES! Those deep, tortured, beautiful eyes! Then pair them with panty-meltingly deep voice and aristocratically handsome good looks (including a brow made for haughtiness), and you have yourself a smokin' hot Mr. Darcy. What's wonderful about Matthew's performance is that he doesn't even try to emulate Colin Firth. Rather, he achieves a whole new vision of Fitzwilliam while staying true to the core of the novel's character. He broods but maintains a sense of humor; he scowls and yet, there is the promise of a smile. He brings a sexy and soulful intensity to the role that, I'm sorry to say, Colin Firth is a little too stiff to match. Matthew's is a virile Darcy, a strong, intelligent man whose passion simmers below the surface and, when it finally erupts, causes him to stutter in the most swoonworthy way possible. EXHIBIT A-Z, MOFOS:

LIZZY

1995 Mini-Series

Look, Keira Knightley's ok in some roles. She's adorbs in Bend it Like Beckham, and manages not to diminish James McAvoy's supreme hotness in Atonement, but she's horrendous as Lizzy. Horrendous. She's too … modern. The only pre-20th-century costume role I could see her in would be as Jo March, but she's no Lizzy Bennet. Look at Jennifer Ehle's composure! Those delicately arched eyebrows! Her fine eyes! That knowing little smirk that makes me want to propose marriage, too! The way she can flare up in a temper, and cry so prettily, and handle all the sarcasm of Lizzy without sounding like a harridan. SHE is truly accomplished, and is perfect. Knightley has nowhere near that range of expression, although I'll grant she's pretty good at traipsing about outdoors. Just look at that faintly sardonic pensivity!

Also, please to take a look at Jennifer Ehle's hair:

Now look at Keira Knightley's hair (and this isn't even the worst example; it's just the worst for which I could find a screenshot):

Perhaps the reason she and Matthew Macfadyen fell in love is their mutual abhorrence of combs?!

2005 Film

Look, I'm no swimfan of Keira Knightley. She's far too skinny, and she's got that whole unfortunate bobblehead thing happening. She's also kind of annoying, which, in a way, makes her the perfect Elizabeth Bennet. After all, if Lizzy was a slice of heaven, she would've been snapped up by a gentleman suitor ages ago. There's a reason that Jane is the beauty of the household and not Lizzy. And even though Keira isn't my favorite celebrity, no one can deny that this chick has the skills to pay the bills. She's a brilliant actress, and she brings a lively complexity to our esteemed heroine. She's introspective but playful, and she's clever but occasionally foolish. She's willful and stubborn and DAMN she knows how to bring the sass. In terms of fiery spirit, she trounces Jennifer Ehle, and I love watching her dish out the spunk, whether her victim is Darcy, Mr. Collins or anyone else who dares to cross her. Keira makes it clear that BISHES DON'T BE MESSING WITH LIZZY BENNET, Y'ALL.

CHEMISTRY

1995 Mini-Series

HELLO. One of the reasons The Only Darcy and Jennifer Ehle are the shining stars in the Pride and Prejudice is because they were involved in real life while filming. No WONDER he makes sex eyes at Lizzy, yeah? But really, the main reason is both the actors can communicate so much while barely moving a muscle, and that repression totally ups the slow burn, compensating for the lack of actual sexytimes. You can toootally tell they're looking forward to the honeymoon, ifyaknowwhatimean.

2005 Film

Um, hold up for a sec. I need to get my lady parts UNDER CONTROL before I write this section of my argument.

AHEM. OK. So, um, this film can barely contain the ELECTRIC SPARKS that fly between Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden. Like, have a fire extinguisher handy is all I'm saying. Every scene they share crackles with sexy heat, and even when they're hating each other, you can tell that deep down they want to tear each other's clothes off and DO THE SEX. Here's an example:

I MEAN LIKE WHOAH. (I actually read somewhere that, when they were filming that scene, they ended up kissing because their chemistry was TOO HOT TO IGNORE. Hello, WHY ISN'T THAT IN THE BONUS FEATURES?)

And, as if their scenes weren't intoxicating enough, director Joe Wright decided to dazzle us with the potency of Darcy's man parts. And before you wonder how you missed that scene featuring his penis, note that I am talking about his HAND. HIS HAND, YOU PERVS. See, after he helps Lizzy into the carriage at the close of the Netherfield Ball, Darcy stretches out his hand in a way that reveals his attraction to Lizzy, and it is seriously the SEXIEST THING THAT ANY HAND HAS EVER DONE. And then later, after another conversation with Lizzy, the camera pans to his hand again, and it's like THE SEXINESS OF HIS HAND JUST BLEW MY MIND.

Seriously, this film is so hot, it should've gotten an R rating. As in, R for RIP MY CLOTHES OFF, DARCY. And the kiss! The kiss at the end! This ain't no mini-series bull shizz Sunday School kiss. (I mean, seriously, WTF IS THAT? You spend six hours watching the movie and all you get is a chaste peck on the lips? HELL NAH.) This kiss is a super tantalizing, heart-soaring, swoon-a-thon of a liplock. This is the kiss that we, as the audience, DESERVE. And the 2005 movie DELIVERS.

SUPPORTING CAST

1995 Mini-Series

Lydia! Ugh, Lydia is THE WORST, and I mean that in the best possible way! She's immature and irritating and has the godawful screechy/raspy voice of a hardcore party girl. I absolutely ADORE the way she squeals, "Oooh-ooohh!!" Georgiana's perfect -- a blend of shyness and adoration, exactly as I pictured her in the book. Wickham's a great combination of sleaze, smarm, and charm, and we get to see all Lizzy sees -- and all Darcy sees (unlike the 2005 version, where we maybe hear 5 minutes of his sad-sack tale, and he's never seen again, until he's married to Lydia).

And as much as I love Judi Dench, she isn't Lady Catherine to me. Barbara Leigh-Hunt's boniness and bug eyes are by far the more irascible old bitch.

And Bingley! In this version, he's kind of an idiot, but he's a sweet idiot, not an embarrassing ass. He's the kind of nice guy, a little light on brains but with good intentions and decent judgment, who Darcy would befriend, UNLIKE the ridiculous fop in the other version (who ALSO has never seen a comb). THAT one, Darcy'd shove into the river and just keep on walking.

The crowning achievement of supporting characters here is Mr. Collins. He is SO GROSS and it is AWESOME. He's simpering and greasy and just flat-out DISGUSTING, just like Mr. Collins in the book! The other Mr. Collins is ok, but he's really just boring, not appalling. It's hard to understand why Lizzy freaks out so much about Charlotte settling for him when he's just a little bug of a man, not ugly, not officious, not really anything. But David Bamber, aka the Real Mr. Collins? GROSS and PERFECT.

The one supporting character I'll give away is Mr. Bennet. I like dear old Mr. Bennet in The Only Film Version Worth Watching, but I fully delight in Donald Sutherland's Mr. Bennet.
1. Because he's Donald Sutherland, and therefore can do no wrong.
2. He has the perfect mix of irritation, meanness, disinterest, sarcasm, and genuine emotion. When he cries at the end when Lizzy asks to marry Darcy? PERFECTION. J'adore.
3. Because he's Donald Sutherland, and therefore can do no wrong. So, point to you, Posh.

2005 Film

The cast of the mini-series is full of fine, skillful actors. That, I will not deny. But some of them just... don't fit the part. The prime example is Susannah Harker as Jane. Lizzy's older sister is supposed to be incredibly beautiful and captivating, so why does the mini-series make her look like Mona Lisa on steroids?

I mean, am I the only one who can't ever stop staring in morbid fascination at the alien way that Jane's neck and head go together? How can Bingley ignore the fact that his future wife either has a really tiny head or really massive shoulders?

In contrast, Rosamund Pike's Jane in the 2005 version is full of light and grace and transcendent beauty.

Ain't nothin' wrong that with that head OR that neck!

The rest of Lizzy's sisters are wonderfully and realistically portrayed by actresses we all know and love. (With the exception of Talulah Riley, who played Mary. Although she is in Pirate Radio!) As Kitty, Carey Mulligan is a delightful gigglebox, and Jena Malone makes it super fun to hate the insufferable Lydia.

The heads of the Bennet household are even more fantastic. Donald Sutherland beats the pants out of what's-his-name in the mini-series, because duh, HE'S DONALD SUTHERLAND, and Brenda Blethyn is hilarious yet always stays on the amusing side of irritating, which is more than I can say for Alison Steadman. (I find her Mrs. Bennet to be utterly cartoonish and not the least bit believable.)

And HOW ADORABLE is Mr. Bingley?! He's so cute and daft! AND HE'S A GINGER. BONUS POINTS! Even though Darcy and Lizzy are obvs our main focus, it's important to note that Jane and Bingley's chemistry is sweetly palpable.

You also have to give the 2005 version props for casting someone actually hot as Wickham. I mean, with Ruper Friend, we can totally see why Lizzy was tempted.

As opposed to this doofus:

But out of all of the supporting characters, I think Claudie Blakley as Charlotte might be my fave. She's plain, as Charlotte should be, but she's also got some serious pluck, and she's way more deserving of Lizzy's BFF charm than yawn-worthy mini-series Charotte, Lucy Scott.

And, finally, last but not least, I bring you DAME JUDI DENCH as LADY CATHERINE DE BOURGH. BOW DOWN TO HER FIERCENESS.

Now Mr. Collins' simpering allegiance makes SO MUCH SENSE. The woman is scary and regal and ridiculous, just like Lady Catherine should be. Also, her hair is AMAZEBALLS.

ACCURACY

1995 Mini-Series

1995 Mini-Series

Clocking in at six hours, The Only Film Version Worth Watching had better be more accurate! Andrew Davies basically copied all the book's dialogue into the screenplay, so it's dead-on. I'd also add that the cast does an excellent job BEING the characters -- Mrs. Bennet and her poor nerves; sniveling, sad Mary; boring and possessing saintlike forbearance Charlotte; as well as all those already mentioned. It's definitely a bit cleaner and gorgeoused up than the real Regency period -- like, everyone looks like they used shampoo on a daily basis -- but it's way more accurate than that imposter version. I think the screenwriters got together and said, "Hey! I have a great idea. Let's move all the indoor scenes outdoors, and all the outdoor scenes indoors. What did this Jane Austen woman know anyway? Also, we only need one Bingley sister, and let's toss out a few other minor characters. No one actually needs to know WHO invited Lydia to Brighton, or that the Bennets had more than one aunt and uncle!"

2005 Film

Sure, they had to cut some parts out of the book in order to hit a two hour running time. But it's not like they edited out Lizzy and Darcy dancing together, or Darcy watching Lizzy play the pianoforte, or Darcy discovering Lizzy at Pemberly, or ANY OF THE AWESOME SCENES WITH LIZZY AND DARCY. This movie is basically Pride and Prejudice's Greatest Hits, with just enough build-up to fully savor all of your favorite moments. In a third of the time it takes to watch the mini-series, you can get your Darcy fix and feel equally as satisfied. The 2005 script is still true to the book, even using much of the same dialogue, but the film does what adpatations are supposed to do: it transforms the pages into an utterly sensual experience. And come on, you know there's been at least one time when you've fast forwarded through the mini-series to get to the Darcy parts. In contrast, the 2005 version is 100% pure goodness without any filler. Because, "Hey, wait, where's that second Bingley sister? I miss her," said NO ONE.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

1995 Mini-Series

1995 Mini-Series

Ok, yeah, the new version is gorgeous, and the sets look historically accurate (read: dirty and full of chickens), and there are no embarrassing superimposed faces. But does it have THIS piece of scenery?

I thought not.

2005 Film

Ok, is this category even a competition? I mean, Joe Wright's movie features breathtaking landscapes, vivid colors and gorgeous glimpses of the English countryside. The mini-series, on the other hand, includes wanna-be artsy mirror shots and Mr. Darcy's face super-imposed on windows. I mean, yes, his face is handsome, but that shizz is wack, y'all.

SOUNDTRACK

1995 Mini-Series

There's not much to say about the soundtrack here. Appropriately sweeping and majestic during the stirring, emotional scenes, and tinkly and light during intimate parts. But anyway, who pays attention to the soundtrack, instead of the sound of Colin Firth's voice?

2005 Film

Raise your hand if you own or regularly listen to the mini-series soundtrack. Ok, now raise your hand if you own or regularly listen to the beautiful, soaring soundtrack of the 2005 film, featuring a gorgeously haunting piano melody that makes your heart LE SIGH. Yeah, that's what I thought. BOO-YA.

COSTUMES

1995 Mini-Series

1995 Mini-Series

Hands down, the BEST costumes are the Bingley sisters'. Check out that wacky turban! How can you NOT vote for those? From what I can tell, the muslin dresses and spencers are all pretty historically accurate, too. But LIZZY. WHAT are you WEARING to Rosings, dear? That plaid is SO unbecoming (I couldn't find a screenshot, sadly).

2005 Film

The costumes in this movie reveal an incredible attention to detail, which allows all of us to pretend, for two sweet hours, that gloves and short-waisted dresses are all the rage. The wardrobe of the Bennet sisters is suitably plain, and Caroline Bingley's fashions are hella sumptuous. But the real pièce de résistance is Mr. Darcy's outfit in the final scene.

The long coat and the open shirt and the tight trousers = THANK YOU, COSTUME DESIGNER. THANK YOU.

CLOSING ARGUMENTS

Meghan, for the 1995 Mini-Series

The 2005 version is pretty, I'll grant you that, but it's more like a version for people who've never read the book than anything for a true Pride and Prejudice fan. The miniseries is infinitely superior in the overall casting, the characterization, and the ability to remain true to the story without being a stilted copy, a "faithful adaptation" -- the ability to capture and translate all the spirit of the original. Sure, six hours is a lot of time, but can you think of a better use of your time than spending six hours looking at Colin Firth? Yeah, I didn't think so.  To sum up:

and

and

Posh, for the 2005 Film

Before you cast your vote, remember that this argument isn't about whether or not Colin Firth is magic. (We can all agree that he most certainly is.) Instead, this debate is about which Pride and Prejudice adaptation is the all-around best. Which one has the best cast and the best script and the best direction and the best romance? Which adaptation pulls you into the wonderful world of Lizzy Bennet and doesn't let go until you've achieved Austentatious levels of ecstacy? The answer, my friends, is clear. The 2005 film gives Pride and Prejudice the respect it deserves while condensing the story into 127 minutes of utter cinematic bliss. Not only does this movie deliver a swoon-worthy Darcy, it also showers the viewer with a vivacious cast, gorgeous scenery and a dynamic script.

But when you boil it down, we all know it's about Lizzy and Darcy, and the 2005 version is about 60% Lizzy and Darcy, as opposed to the lousy 30% of the mini-series. NUMBERS DON'T LIE, Y'ALL.

In summation, THIS:

Which adaptation will emerge victorious? YOU DECIDE!

 

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Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).