Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a classic English novel that explores the personal relationships of people regarding social and economic class. Romance is a tool used by Austen to portray the pride and prejudices between the social classes of her age. The novel's popularity has led to numerous adaptations of the text to film. The paper focuses on the 1940 adaptation in comparison to the 2005 version by Wright. The scene under the spotlight is the last scene which showcases Darcy and Elizabeth in a romantic mood confessing love for each other. The adaptions of the movie, whether by deliberate effort or oversight, both simultaneously conform and deviate from the original text providing different perceptions of the film by the audience.
The 1940 version of pride and prejudice attempts to a considerable extent to stay true to the original version of the text. The ending has Darcy visiting the Bennett's to confess his love for Elizabeth. The scene, just as the movie itself is shot in black and white giving it feel of the past ages and reminds the audience that it has been taken back in time in the era that Austen lived and wrote the text (Leonard, 1940). Darcy is portrayed in good spirits as he has lost his earlier aloof and patronizing nature. The mood is decidedly romantic as Darcy finds a pretext and takes Elizabeth out in the garden so that they can be alone. The scene replicates the text almost faithfully that even purists will not have cause for complaint. The mood cultivated by the last scene mirrors the romantic ending the novel where everything is beautiful, cozy and sweet.
Another aspect of conformity lies in the conversation of the characters in the last scene. The version religiously follows the conversation of the characters as they are depicted in the novel. The conversation between Darcy and Mrs. Beckett ensues the exact conversation that is in the book to giving the audience an exact replication (Austen, 1995). Replication of the conversation establishes a connection with the audience since they can relate to the text and thus relive it because they understand the novel better through the movie version. However, it may be boring because nothing new happens. Darcy and Elizabeth converse entirely with a typical English accent careful choice of words typical of the Jane Austen's diction. In this way, the 1940 movie adaptation does not pretend to be an independent work but reminds the audience that it is a rendition of the novel. The faithful replication maintains the authenticity of the original text without the distortion that comes with a change in storyline.
However, the movie does provide a few glimpses of deviation from the original text regarding a few visual aspects. Jane Austen wrote the novel in the Georgian era either in 1796 or 1797 though the book was published around 1813(Austen, 1995). In this period the dress code for women depended on the event. The last scene of the movie depicts Elizabeth in formal dress while Darcy is in trademark waistcoat (Leonard, 1940). As much as the type of dressing is consistent with the Georgian times, it does deviate in some way. The rich adornments on Elizabeth's dress were not really in the fashion of the Jane Austen's time. The dresses were simpler and shorter because long trains had gone out of style. The dressing in the movie is more of the late nineteenth century. Deviation of this kind could not be deliberate but arguably a misinterpretation of the historical context. The Bennett's garden is lavish as portrayed by the scene. The Bennett's were a well to do folk, but the opulence of the garden is just above their level. This kind of deviation or apparent error by the director gives the wrong perception to the social and economic status of the Bennett's.
The 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice endeavors to create a new perception of the original text as demanded by the modern audience. The dialogue in the film alternates between the original text and a few other additions to give it a new flavor. The last scene of the 2005 version displays a more romantic engagement of Darcy and Elizabeth as they are alone and dressed in a way to suggest they had just made love (Wright, 2005). The scene is overly sexualized, and the characters are hardly those depicted in the book. It is unimaginable to see Elizabeth in that kind of situation of petting and kissing given her strength of character and proud attitude. The scene provides a new perspective of Darcy and Elizabeth as having broken their pride and prejudice for each other (Austen, 1995). Demand from the modern American fans must have influenced such an ending because the contemporary audience is inclined towards romantic scenes. The director must have had ratings in his mind by giving the audience what they demand.
The difference in the scene also seeks to portray the movie as a unique work of art and not merely a replication of the previous work. The society in Austen's time was more conservative, contrary to what is portrayed in the movie (Austen, 2005) Debate is rife on whether the movie adaptations are original works of art or should not be considered as inventive for they depend on other works for their content. Literary purists are often offended when the movie veers off the storyline of the original text or makes additions which may be considered unnecessary or those that completely change the meaning of the book. In the context of the Wright adaptation, the audience by default expects a romantic ending in line with the novel and Jane Austen's style in particular (Wright, 2005). However, the romance portrayed is modern rather than the kind that one would expect in Austen's time. The change appeal to the contemporary audience as it provides new insight and a modern twist to the novel. For the director and the movie company, the last scene gives them credit for creatively playing with the expectations of the audience and claim to authenticity of new ideas in production.
Furthermore, the sexualized ending the thematic concerns of the text away from pressing social issues such as gender roles and class differences. The novel itself is seriously addressing the problems of interest in the past and present era. In the 1940 version, we see Elizabeth and Darcy finally on level terms after their initial hatred. Darcy has finally realized that his pride needs to be toned down while Elizabeth overcomes her prejudice of Darcy (Austen 1995). Elizabeth has demonstrated that firm belief and a little arrogance can go a long way in achieving respect. Darcy has had to come down a peg or two; it is a win-win situation. The 2005 version goes contrary to the text. Elizabeth is reduced to a sexual object and Darcy towering over her does not give her the power she has over him or rather the mutual understanding between the couple (Wright, 2005). Darcy seems more domineering which then perpetuates the theme of male dominance rather than equality. More so, the main concerns of the text are trivialized by the focus on sexuality.
Choice of cast characters for the leading roles of Elizabeth and Darcy change the perception of the audience considerably. Comparing the two versions on will realize that the 1940 characters, played by Greer Garson for Elizabeth and Laurence Olivier as Darcy, are older than the 2005 version that has Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy and Keira Knightley as Elizabeth. The 1940 characters seem older giving a perception of maturity (Leonard, 1940). Their behavior also relates to their advanced age, at least by the understanding of the audience. The other version features younger characters, and they conform to their age and are more romantic and sexy than the previous ones. Choice of characters is therefore vital in shaping the perception of the audience and in turn the meaning derived forthwith.
In conclusion, the translation of the novel Pride and prejudice as presented in the two adaptations offers valuable insight into the influence of adaptation of scenes to meaning and context of the novel. The 1940 faithful depiction of the movie seeks to preserve the original sense as intended by the author. The deviation from the text by the 2005 version provides an interesting twist for the audience to savor. However, staying true to the book is boring due to predictability while deviating draws attention away from the main issues addressed in the text. The casting also plays an essential role as the age of the characters that play the parts influences the opinion of the audience considerably.
Austen, J. (1995). Pride and Prejudice. New York: Modern Library.
Leonard, R. (1940). Pride and Prejudice [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7XXkg9DUtg
Wright, J. (2005). Pride and Prejudice [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHx0vLdVObg
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