On Pride and Prejudice

Times and Tenors

Or, What the Movies Have Done, and Failed to Do, to Pride and Prejudice
By Sarah Zettel

Hi.

My name’s Sarah . . .

And I’m a PBS Janeite.

(Hi, Sarah!)

I fell in love with the works of Jane AustenHthrough the movies and the television specials, and for the longest time I stayed away from the actual novels. I thought I could get along with the lovely old BBC presentations, and when I saw the 1995 miniseries starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, I was sure I could be set for life. But . . . there was an empty feeling within. Somewhere deep down, I knew there was a problem. . . .

Okay. Maybe it wasn’t all that Marianne Dashwood-level dramatic. But, it is true, I watched Pride and Prejudice long before I actually sat down and read it. Then, my husband bought me a lovely, old edition of Austen’s collected works for Christmas. That was when I discovered, as do all who read Austen, that these books were much more than what their media interpretations portray. I also came to realize that what those interpretations pull out of the story says far more about the time and place the filmmaker lives in than it does about Austen’s time.

All filmmakers who work with literature make choices. Unfortunately, it really is impossible just to film the book, whatever book it might be. Decisions have to be made about what to leave in, what to take out and what to make up. All this is done according to a complicated combination of what the filmmaker thinks the  …

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