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Monday, March 24, 2008

black-and-white and basis: a comparative analysis between the novel and film version of pride and prejudice

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice was recently reprised by Hollywood with Keira Knightley as lead. However, an original adaptation of this literary classic has appeared at a time when black and white films were still in vogue. Rooted during the aristocratic New England era, this masterpiece is noteworthy for its simplicity and excellence suited to a reader's sense and sensibility. It thrives on universal topics such as love, marriage, importance of wealth, social standing in society and, to go with Austen's times' conservative context, the book also talks about manners and right etiquette. It gives one the notion that almost everything necessary to know in the novel was covered by Austen—somewhat impossible yet not altogether untrue, notwithstanding the constrictions of her distant time and countryside upbringing.
Having mentioned the first film version of the novel, it is interesting to point out that nothing appears to beat the original form (the letter form, that is), even in today's postmodern period wherein the copy of the copy of the copy within everybody's access gets just better, it seems. The novel has characters whose mind one is able to follow, even when one picks the mellowing pride of Darcy or the passionate prejudice of Elizabeth. However, the predictability of the novel's episodes does not flesh out familiarity in, say, the film characters of Elizabeth and Jane. One is regaled with moments with these characters but oh-so-briefly that the subsequent events poured in faster than one can swallow a handful of popcorn. Given the lack of roundedness in a limited medium such as cinema, the film as a replica of the novel begs for a substance that was provided only by the director's interpretation of it. In Pride and Prejudice as in any other novel, one may want to sit down through the entire text till kingdom come, and one does not get choked by the captivated sights, smells and textures being conveyed, since one is time and space's master. The film may have been faithful to some parts of the book, but one cannot help but argue with some of the director's cramming point of view.
To cite a few examples, some key characters in the novel failed to grace the movie such as the significant Gardiners. They played the important role of bridging the love of Elizabeth and Darcy in the text form but the movie, at most, made these characters flicker existence by virtue of just a short letter sent by Mr. Gardiner. A major difference generated in the movie makes one turn devoted to the novel because it was with the Gardiners that Darcy and Elizabeth’s love story sprang a second look at love. Also, Lydia’s fate was helped along by the Gardiners. Moreover, other events in the novel do not correlate with the movie because of obvious alterations and differences. While the movie is supposed to stimulate color (the reference is not satiric of the black-and-white format, only with the film's feel) and visual effects, it makes one wish a novel materializes before one's hand to feel the aura and the flow of the story as one follows the events of inheritance, elopement, escape from spinsterhood and visits at the manor. Since the two forms are devoid of parallelism, the film's inconsistencies with the book confuse one with what taste and style one has built in one's mind. How does one relate to the absent transition of Darcy's hatred for Elizabeth transforming into full-pledged love? The film lets the viewer think way too independently of the said lovers' mutual development. What is more, the happenings in the lives of Lydia and Mr. Wickham were left open-ended by the movie.
Film or extra-textual adaptations of literary works should be a welcome matter to reading fans, but with a black-and-white Pride and Prejudice quite failing to deliver, one all the more appreciates that Jane Austen (or any other literary giant) was a writer first and foremost.

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