Having read the novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ we watched two adaptations, both by the BBC, the first of the two was made in 1985 as a one off film. It has a running time of 109 minutes. It was dramatised by Faye Welldon, produced by Jonathan Powell, and directed by Cyril Cokes. It is said to catch the wit and lightness of touch on the original work. The second version was made in 1995 as a multiple part series, and has a running time of 301 minutes. It was adapted for film by writer Andrew Davis, produced by Sue Birtwhistle and directed by Simon Lamgton. This adaptation is described to have captured the romance, drama and humour of Jane Austen’s greatest novel, in an all-star cast.
The original film we saw I felt was filmed in sets. Obviously the exterior of Pemberly was filmed on location but the interior was in sets. You could tell this as they did the tour, of the house, as the interior didn’t seem to match the exterior, for example the ceilings were very low compared with what you’d expect, as low as the ceilings in our houses today, not big country manors dating back to the sixteenth century, which is commented on in the film.
Pemberly house in the first adaptation wasn’t what you’d expect from reading the novel. The scene starts with shots of the Derbyshire countryside with calm music appropriate for the scene. Then the shot goes into the closed top carriage, so you can’t see the countryside around, not even out of the windows because most of the camera is on the actors’ faces. The Gardiner’s and Lizzy are discussing whether or not to go to Pemberly; in the novel this discussion takes place in an inn the previous day. Once decided that they will visit Pemberly they turn into the drive, a very short drive, unlike the book describes, whilst they are driving along the drive the camera is outside looking at the carriage driving along the drive, with music in the background all the time until you reach a break in the trees to unveil Pemberly.
It is a bit of an anti-climax, the music builds up, and there Pemberly is not standing particularly proud amongst its grounds, in fact the shot you get is more of uncut grass than a splendid house. The house is indeed large but is made of stone so looks very cold and harsh, more like a gloomy castle than a country manor, not really what you expect, it does leave you feeling disappointed that your illusion of what the house would be like isn’t really portrayed. The house isn’t set off very well by the weather either; it is a very gloomy day so the house looks even more dull and grey. In the book it says that they go over a bridge and past the gatehouse, in this adaptation this doesn’t happen, it goes straight from the shot of Pemberly to the front of the house, where they go straight inside don’t stand outside and look at the house and it’s grounds for a moment as you may expect.
When inside as I have said before the room’s look out of place, too small for the house with the ceilings too low, so suggesting that the rooms were sets. This adaptation had a lower budget then the second adaptation we watched, so would probably not have been able to afford to rent the house for filming, hence the reason sets were used. They meet a maid and were taken on a tour of the house as the novel says. You get shots of them going into different rooms each time they enter a room there is music in the background, which I think works well because if it wasn’t there it would be boring. In each room there is a little bit of conversation going on but not nearly as much as is said in the novel but you still get the main points across. There are quite a lot of shots on Lizzy as the maid is telling them how good a person Mr Darcy is and that he is the best master anyone could ask for. They show her surprise, when Mrs Gardiner says to Lizzy that surely that is not the same proud Mr Darcy they know and is surprised as well.
The sets did try to resemble the interior of a country manor but not only were the ceilings too low and the rooms too small, I felt the furnishings didn’t match the novel’s description, Lizzy is said to have admired Darcy’s taste in furniture,
“that it was neither gaudy nor uselessly fine; with less of splendour, and more real elegance, than the furniture of Rosings.”
However the way these rooms were decorated did look gaudy and uselessly fine, and also somewhat cluttered. The rooms weren’t as you’d anticipated them from reading the novel. Another thing I noticed was that Lizzy didn’t look out of any of the windows. The novel suggests, that she looks out of the window to admire the views but she didn’t; this was probably because the rooms were sets and there was nothing to look at out of the windows. The picture gallery was explained as a grand room but in this adaptation it didn’t seem very grand. However to these faults were rectified by the scene in the picture gallery. Lizzy spent a lot of time in front of the picture of Mr Darcy thinking, by a voice over and shots of her face and Mr Darcy’s face in the picture, about how splendid she thought the house and its grounds were, and how wonderful it would have been if she’d been mistress of the house, which she could have been, if she had not rejected Mr Darcy’s offer.
After the tour they go out side to view the grounds, which in my opinion where overly splendid, with perfectly cut hedges and with over elegant flower beds, not as the book describes, Lizzy is said to believe, “never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste.”
The garden seemed to have this “awkward taste”. In the garden scene Darcy is introduced but not how the book explains, with him just coming round from the stables, because this is done on film it has to be a bit more interesting. In this adaptation Lizzy is looking at some of the flowers in the flowerbeds when a dog appears from behind a hedge, this dog is Mr Darcy’s, you know this because he is featured in other parts of the film. Lizzy sees the dog and the camera shows a look of surprise on her face and then the music which was going on in the background starts to build up and the camera goes to the bush the dog had walked from for a few seconds, but it seems like a lot longer, and then Mr Darcy emerges from behind the bush.
This part of this adaptation is the best bit you see for a second a look of shock and horror on both Lizzy and Darcy’s faces. Then as the novel says Darcy stutters and stammers his way through some questions about Lizzy’s family looking surprised all the time. I thought that this was a good way to bring in Darcy but once he was in the scene his surprise wasn’t really reflected enough in his tone, the acting by both Lizzy and Darcy in this particular scene was very stiff, not really enough effort was put in to make it a bit more realistic. Another reason it didn’t seem that brilliant was that Darcy was supposed to have just come off of a horse, or maybe a horse and carriage but have been travelling so he would look slightly tired or look slightly scruffy, instead he is in pristine condition with not a hair out of place.
After the encounter, Darcy goes to the house and Lizzy tells her aunt and uncle that they should leave but they encourage her to stay because they were about to go and tour the rest of the grounds. On their tour of the rest of the grounds, which seem to match the novel’s description a little better, they stop to look at the lake and notice Mr Darcy is following them so they wait for him to catch up. This is like the book describes, shortly after Darcy has caught up with them he offers Mr Gardiner the chance to go fishing and invited them to dine with him and his guests during their stay, they go back to the carriage. In the carriage going back to the inn the conversation is about Darcy and a lot of camera work on Lizzy’s face as her aunt and uncle discuss him, the conversation then turns to what they are going to wear, which is added speech unlike the rest of the film where speech was mainly taken out.
After the carriage ride the scene goes straight into the inn, so you don’t see the exterior. This was probably because this was a low budget version and to make an outside side would cost too much. The interior of the inn I believe is done very well, as you’d expect an inn to be, sparsely furnished only the bare essentials and a fireplace. The lighting is good but the atmosphere is very dull as the windows aren’t particularly big. Mr Darcy, Miss Darcy and Mr Bingley come to visit Lizzy in the next scene which is very short, it’s just Lizzy and her aunt talking then the three guests arriving and then it goes straight into the next scene, at dinner at Pemberly. In the novel this scene is longer with them being invited to dinner in this scene not at Pemberly, Mr Bingley also enquires about her sisters, but in this adaptation it doesn’t come until later on.
The next scene is at Pemberly while they are having dinner. The room they use is quite small; you’d expect them to use a bigger room, as there were quite a lot of people in it. The lighting was good in this it was not too bright and not too dull about what you’d expect. Through out this scene you are aware of a lot of idle chitchat but the bits you heard were really taking digs at Lizzy, making sure that everyone that Lizzy was slightly lower class, as it is in the novel. There is music going on throughout the scene and a low hum of chat as you’d expect at a dinner party, in this scene Bingley enquires about her sisters especially Jane. This scene seems to fade out to the next morning where people who had stayed over, Mr Bingley and his sisters, Miss Darcy and Mr Hurst, are having breakfast. Miss Bingley comments on how she thought Lizzy was, tolerable, and Darcy saying he thought she was the prettiest girl he’d known. In the novel this happens the previous evening after Lizzy and the Gardiner’s had left. The room that is used in this scene is the same as the room used the evening before, which seems a bit unusual because they would have probably had a breakfast room or something like that, and wouldn’t use the same room for everything.
The next scene is back at the inn with Lizzy reading the letters, she starts off by the camera filming her reading the letter with Jane’s voice over the top as if Jane is saying it as she writes. After a couple of seconds of this the shot goes to Jane sitting a room writing the letter, with her father coming in to say he was going to find Lydia. In the novel there are two letters, in this adaptation the letter’s rolled into one. After reading the letter Lizzy is very distressed and needs to find her aunt and uncle so they can leave and go and help immediately, but instead as the novel says Mr Darcy coming in and comforting her, she runs all the way to Pemberly, which with its extensive grounds is easily five miles away! As her aunt and uncle are supposed to be fishing there. This is not very realistic, but if you haven’t read the novel you would be none the wiser when she arrives she tells Darcy everything and he tries to support and comfort her.
This adaptation is much shorter than the second one we watched, so lots of bits are left out, you could say some crucial bits have been omitted, but if you were watching this film and not really thinking about the fact that there it was taken from a novel, then the story would be fine and you wouldn’t think that bits had been left out. As you’d not have had any background knowledge of the novel and therefore would have accepted anything the film told you. If you had watched this with no real knowledge of the novel you would probably think that it was quite a good period drama, with an interesting storyline, which kept you in suspense. Will Lizzy and Darcy get together? However I’ve read the novel and it’s not a very good representation, it was a lower budget film than the second one we watched, but they could have spent more money on costumes so people were wearing different things, in a few scenes all the costumes seemed to be the same!
The actors they used were also not that brilliant, the novel comments on how pretty Lizzy is, and that Miss Darcy is very handsome indeed, so you have these images in your mind of what the characters would look like and when you see them on film they don’t seem to fit in. Mr Darcy wasn’t that handsome either, and he’s supposed to be every woman’s dream man, but he wasn’t really. The way I rate how good the adaptation from the novel is or not for content, is if you can write an essay from it without reading the book, and get a c or above grade, from this adaptation I doubt you’d get a d- using this adaptation. However as I’ve said above if you had never read the novel and were in 1985 – 87 or so and had seen this, you would have probably enjoyed it, but I’ve read the novel and have seen technology of the twenty first century, so I didn’t really enjoy this adaptation.
The second adaptation we watched was quite a contrast to the original. This adaptation was filmed ten years after the original and had a higher budget so you’d expect it to be better. As technology has moved on a lot since 1985, and with a higher budget you can afford the latest technology, better sets and actors. The production company can afford to pay higher salaries so can get more experienced well known actors, rather than amateurs that no-one really knows, as in the first adaptation. No one recognised any of the actors on the first adaptation, and even though we were all only just born while it was being made, you’d still recognise people from the film when we were a bit older, the second adaptation was filmed in 1995, six years ago and we still see the actors in various productions.
The extract we studied in this adaptation started in an inn scene with Lizzy, and Mr and Mrs Gardiner discussing whether or not to go to Pemberly the following day. The room is very real but I think it was probably a set because the more you do in the studio the easier it is, but the set is very realistic with lots of light coming through the windows, it looked natural, and the conversation was taken straight from the book. From this scene you get the carriage they are using, which is open topped, so when the camera goes into the carriage you can see the outside around them and know it’s not been superimposed. You get shots of Derbyshire with the theme tune to the production playing in the background, a lot of the music is bits of the theme tune, which means the audience know the music when it’s being played, and because they know it don’t notice it although they know it’s there to compliment the scene. After the pictures you get a shot of Lizzy standing on a stone looking into the valley saying how beautiful it is and how she’d love to live in Derbyshire. This isn’t in the novel but the person who adapted the novel for film has put in extra irony which is good because it emphasises the whole ‘will they or won’t they get together?’ which, whilst reading the novel and watching adaptations is the big question on everyone’s mind.
From the scene with Lizzy on the stone it returns to the carriage driving along the driveway to Pemberly, this driveway seems a lot longer than the original version’s driveway and more realistic of how the book describes it. As they drive over a bridge and through these wonderful grounds, the cameras show occasional shots of Lizzy’s face and you can see the suspense and, when shall we see Pemberly is what she’s thinking and the actress is superb in putting this across you can really see it in her face. When Pemberly finally appears in a break in the trees the camera is in the coach so you see it as Lizzy and the Gardiner’s would have seen it. It is splendid, you feel overcome with its beauty and also its resemblance to how the book describes it. The shot goes to Lizzy’s face and you see that she is also overcome with its beauty, it’s like a natural reaction on her face, not as if she acted it. This is also set off by the music it had been quietly playing in the background and then it really starts to build up and you just know that Pemberly is about to appear.
The house is like the novel describes on a small hill with its grounds all around and looks really beautiful, it has a lake straight in front of it which reflects the house in it so makes it look even more beautiful. Unlike the first adaptation this one is filmed on a really perfect day with blue skies and the sun shining so the house is set off well. It makes it look more magnificent, than if it was filmed on a dark and dull day then the house may have looked a little dull or drab, they probably spent a few weeks trying to get the perfect shot. The house is made from brick and looks very warm and inviting especially as it was such a good day.
When the Gardiners and Lizzy reach the house and get out of the carriage they pause for a moment to look at the house, which is very realistic. When inside the house you can tell that it’s not a set as it looks exactly like stately homes look like if you go around them now, with high ceilings and big rooms which aren’t overly cluttered, and decorated as the book describes with taste, and real elegance not over extravagant, showing off how much money the owner had. During the tour lots of speech is put in but it doesn’t spoil anything it’s just right to compliment the story. Lizzy looks out of the window at the grounds and the cameras are on her face and again she doesn’t say anything but you can see exactly what she is thinking, how wonderful it all is and that she could have been mistress. When they go into the picture gallery you can tell it is real because the ceilings are exceptionally high and a they walk through it you can hear an echo from their shoes and their voices, which no matter how hard you tried you could not get in a set.
During their tour of the house the camera goes outside and you see Darcy on his horse riding up to the house, he stops and gets off and decides he want to go for a swim and takes off his clothes, to his undergarments and dives in the lake in front of the house. This is done going back and forth from him to the house, Darcy doesn’t say anything but is filmed with music, which works very well. You don’t need any words to know what he’s doing and why he is doing it, you can tell by the expression on his face and the highs and lows of the music, actions an speak louder then words and in this scene that’s what happens.
Once the tour of the house is over Lizzy and the Gardiner’s go outside to view the grounds, as they go outside Mr Darcy is walking over the grass to the house. When Lizzy and Darcy meet there is an obvious surprise and embarrassment in the meeting, you can see it in both of their faces, embarrassment for the most part as Darcy is standing front of Lizzy with only his wet undergarment on, which is very unusual sort of thing to happen in those times. The conversation is taken from the book with Darcy enquiring about Lizzy’s family and how long she’d been in the area, and repeating those questions. This meeting I feel is much better than the original adaptation because the actors are much less stiff and you can see obvious embarrassment in both actors’ voices and in their body language.
After their encounter Lizzy insists to her aunt and uncle that she must leave immediately so they head back to the carriage. However Darcy comes back out still getting dressed, and his hair still wet, so you can tell that they tried to film it so it was in the right timescale. He encourages them to stay and says that he’ll take them for a tour of the grounds. As they walk round there isn’t music but there are the sounds of birds and of a natural sounds you’d expect outside. The tour of the grounds is much the same as the novel describes, with natural beauty all the way through. When they get back to the coach Darcy helps them in and asks them where they are staying. Then the coach leaves, just as it is leaving though Lizzy looks behind at Darcy and there is eye contact, and the audience can really tell in this adaptation that this is the turning point of the novel and that Lizzy is starting to fall for Darcy.
The next scene is at the inn, which is a different inn to the one they use originally and I think that this is a set as well however, unlike the original adaptation we watched we see the outside of this inn and it looks realistic. However I think that it’s a set as well because there is something not quite realistic about it, you can tell it’s a set, or it could be real but have had a complete make over to make it look like early nineteenth century. The scene is Mr Darcy visiting Lizzy, with Miss Darcy and Mr Bingley as in the book they are visiting her to invite her to dinner. This is the first time we see Miss Darcy and she is unlike the original version as pretty as you would expect and she is also very shy, Lizzy leads the conversation with her encouraging her to speak and feel welcome. I think that this was a good thing to add because it meant that Miss Darcy would like Lizzy and you could imagine her encouraging Darcy to propose to her again, as from the conversation you can tell that Darcy has been singing Lizzy’s praises.
This closeness that Lizzy and Georgiana (Miss Darcy) have developed is reflected in the next scene at dinner at Pemberly, it is shot in a drawing room after dinner Lizzy is playing the piano and Georgiana was turning the pages for her. The camera goes round and shows a lot of faces so you can see everyone’s expression. When Lizzy finishes playing she encourages Georgiana to play. Whilst Georgiana is playing the conversation starts up and Miss Bingley starts it by asking questions about Lizzy’s family and the militia being a great loss to her family. She particularly mentions Mr Wickham, and when his name is said Georgiana stops playing the piano and there are looks of alarm on Darcy and Lizzy’s faces. Darcy gets out of his chair to help but relaxes again as Lizzy takes over the situation apologising for not turning over the pages of music. This I felt was a good way to adapt the words from the novel, as everyone knows why this has happened and this scene strengthens the fact that Wickham is a touchy subject in that household. In this scene the lighting is appropriate and so is the music, and all the actors look as if they’ve just enjoyed a meal and are relaxing.
An extra scene is put in that is not in the novel in anyway. Mr Darcy is going to bed after everyone else and stops in the room they were all in earlier and stands over the fireplace and looks at where Lizzy had been sitting and he has a flashback of that evening. This extra scene emphasises the turning point in the story even more as you can tell that Darcy still has feelings for Lizzy.
There is another scene put in which is Darcy getting dressed in the morning with a very sure look on his face and it was as if he was getting dressed to impress, when I saw this I thought that he was perhaps getting ready to go and propose to Lizzy again, especially because of the scene the night before.
From Pemberly the scene goes to the inn and Lizzy and the Gardiner’s are getting ready to go out, when two letters arrive, so the Gardiner’s go and Lizzy stays to read them. Lizzy sits down and starts to read them with the camera at her and her voice over the top. After a couple of seconds of this, Lizzy’s voice is heard over the top the events going on in the letter are actually being acted out as they happen. When the first letter is read it goes back to Lizzy again and she is looking very distressed and is sobbing, the second letter is read the same as the first and then Darcy walks in. The dialogue is the same as in the novel, but Darcy seems to coax Lizzy into saying it a bit more, and you can see Darcy’s emotion as Lizzy is telling him the story, you can see from his expression that he is blaming himself as much as Lizzy is blaming herself, because they both knew what Wickham was like but neither had said anything.
This adaptation was longer than the first with a higher budget and made ten years after the original one. The costumes were exceptionally well made and chosen, each character had more than one outfit and those outfits suited their status and their age. The sets were made well and the lighting in them was just right for the particular place. The music used was very appropriate, most of it was the same but the tempo and volume changed depending on the scene. The actors used were more recognisable than in the first adaptation and they made a very good job of acting, to make this adaptation what you would expect from reading the book without much fault. The adaptation was very good as well because the novel was thoroughly adapted to the film and the extra bits put in made the story even more interesting.
You can probably already tell that the second adaptation was my favourite. This was because you could really get into it; even someone who can’t stand period dramas would get into it and really enjoy it. If I had seen the first adaptation in 1985 I would probably have thought that it was brilliant and that the technology was up to date and would have really enjoyed it, but the second one was filmed when technology had advanced so much, but is what I’m used to, as I can’t really remember much of the eighties, or not things that are significant to this essay, to compare it to. However technology wasn’t the only thing that made the second adaptation better, the costumes and sets and overall acting in the second adaptation were better.
Even it’s adaptation to film was better with more suspense put in, will they or won’t they get together, your constantly on the edge of your seat, even more so than when reading the novel. This was filmed as a multiple-part series for the BBC; if you watched the first episode then you would not want to miss the next. Annabel Heseltine of the Daily Mail wrote a column about this particular adaptation on October 16th 1995, it starts with her saying how she was not to be disturbed for the next two Sundays while ‘Pride and Prejudice’ was on, and goes on to talk about how Jane Austen was the French and Saunders of her day, and explains the novel and how Jane Austen worked.
However Susan Elkin from ‘The Times’ takes a slightly different approach and on the 6th October 1995 wrote how she thought that this adaptation would be recorded by school teachers all over the country and be shown to students, as a good representation of the novel, so students would get off reading it. I believe that this was a very good adaptation of the novel but also agree with Susan Elkin that once you’ve seen the adaptation these characters get into your head, or those from the first adaptation and when you read the novel you don’t conjure up images of what the characters look like, or the places, and that it does spoil it if you read the book afterwards. However I still think that the second adaptation was the better of the two and that it is very good representation of the novel, and has been adapted to film very well, and can be enjoyed just as much as reading the novel.