Wednesday, 11 October 2006

DVD: Pride and Prejudice

Lowdown: Keira Knightly searches for the ultimate husband in a very hostile environment - old English society.
Review:
When I think Jane Austin I think boredom. It's not like she disappointed me in the past; I had the same approach towards Emma and I ended up quite liking it. It's more to do with the setting of lots of people, mostly women, doing nothing but talking, mostly about men.
Fuel was added to the fire with the casting of Keira Knightly at the helm. So far I could not say that I was greatly impressed by her acting skills, nor can I say that I find her particularly attractive (even for her own class of fleshless skeletons).
All this introduction was basically a tool for me to be able to counter and say that in spite of my expectations, I actually enjoyed this film quite a lot and found it to be really well made. A very good film, to put it bluntly.
Jane Austin's story, which to the best of my knowledge was adapted before but with significantly longer versions, seems to work well here. Not that I read the original - it's just that the film is cohesive and effective. The story of a family of girls trying to get married in a society where status and money are all important and where women are nothing but a prize to decorate their husbands is extremely well told. The realistic settings - we could even identify some of the great mansions we visited in the UK - add a lot to the feeling of authenticity which contributes to the film, since nowadays one can find it hard to believe that people were so stupid in their quest for status inside a society that was obviously derelict. But then again, are we any better?
Well, the character portrayed by Keira Knightly obviously is; despite examples left and right, she ascends over the dominant state of minds to look for the true qualities one should look for in a husband.
Excellent performances by actors I did not see much of before, as well as by familiar ones such as Donald Sutherland, Brenda Blethyn and Judi Dench really help for a convincing presentation.
Not that the film is perfect. For a start, I had a severe problem with the spoken English: Given that English is not my first language, I just couldn't follow up with the quick spoken old English dialog (and it's not really old English, it's just structured in non-contemporary ways). I had to rely on the subtitles and the rewind button to keep track, which robs of the film's fluidity.
And then there is the kitsch. The best example is Mr Darcy's Superman like entrance at the end of the film, popping up out of the fog the way Arnie pops up from a ball of flames to save the day. I can understand why they did it, but in a film with serious pretentious such scenes feel out of place.
At least the Australian version has saved us from the puke inducing "American ending", provided on the DVD as an extra. Watch that scene at your own peril, but just be warned to have the barf bags prepared in advance.
However, please do not be discouraged by those problems. As far as films based on books go, this one is one of the very few films that can proudly stand on their own and claim to be good ones.
Best scene: The film's climax is really well done. You know very well what is about to happen, but because the film is so well made you're anxious to see how this is going to come about.
Picture quality: There is a lot of noise in the picture, but that can be easily ignored. Other than that, the picture is really good and adds a lot to the feeling of realism.
Sound quality: This film works on subtleness as far as sound is concerned. Or is it realism? Most of the time there is hardly any score and most of what you hear are sound effects, of which there are a lot of; so despite the fact this is not the most "noisy" of soundtracks, it is quite effective in letting you feel that you're there.
Overall: 4 stars.

12 comments:

Wicked Little Critta said...

Saw that you reviewed this, and I HAD to comment. :)
I liked this version. I am interested in what you mention about a different Australian ending, since I wasn't aware of more than one...
The book is fantastic. But you probably don't need me to tell you that.
The 1995 British version, directed by Simon Langton, is one of my favorite movies. It has a different mood than this one, more light-hearted and comedic. But it's an incredibly faithful account of the actual story, and it definitely draws the viewer in. I recommend it for when you have about 5 hours of free time to spare.

Moshe Reuveni said...

First, I have to say I didn't read the book. I guess I'm more into science fiction - popular science than a Jane Austin novel.
My wife is the Jane Austin fan in the family. She read the book, and she will gladly tell you anything you ever wanted to know about the older version (which she watches on VHS from time to time). I watched it myself, but I had a problem with its length (although the bottom line was a positive one). One of the things I liked in this version was that it wasn't too long and seemed to make an effort with the settings.
Anyway, as for the alternate ending: the ending on the region 2+4 DVD we had (aimed at Europe and Australia) simply had one less scene. Things end immediately after the climax where all the mess is sorted out and Darcy is marrying Knightly. The American ending, included in the DVD's supplementals, features a scene which was gladly removed in "our" presentation: Knightly and Darcy sit on this statue, in the middle of a fountain from Darcy's castle (Chadsworth), and tell each other how much they love one another. It's the type of a scene you can't believe the director would ever shoot unless he had a gun pointed to his head.
I hope I managed to satisfy your curiosity...

Moshe Reuveni said...

Further on the subject of converting a book into a film:
I'm of the type that thinks a book cannot be converted to a film and vice versa without significant differences made to it. I think the better conversions tend to be the ones where significant changes are made (e.g., Blade Runner). In my book, even Lord of the Rings is significantly different to the book, although by conversion standards it's probably very loyal.
Anyway, look what you did: you made me think.

Wicked Little Critta said...

My apologies, totally didn't mean to make you think. ;)
Well, in light of your comments, maybe I should be conversing with your wife instead! I will admit the older version is long, but for some reason the story keeps me thoroughly engaged.
Anyway, I'm a little peeved that the director saw fit to include that unnecessary scene in the American version. Makes me want to relocate. You're right, it was most likely meant to give us a warm fuzzy feeling, but succeeded only in making me sick. Didn't match the rest of the movie, either.
Lastly: I disagree that a movie should be changed from the original context of the book it is based on. In some cases this is best, because some books simply don't translate well onto the big screen. LOTR is probably a good example, though I didn't read those. But sometimes the change isn't necessary, e.g. Pride and Prejudice. Another example would be A Walk to Remember, which was a great book with a simple, honest story with a lot of meaning and emotion. The movie changed the characters and a significant amount of the plot to make it more marketable to movie-goers. In the process, it lost the entire soul of the story.
Thanks for the dialogue.
Happy movie-watching!

Moshe Reuveni said...

Apology accepted; and if you really like Jane Austin then you will probably have a hell of a time digesting her work with my wife. That is, if you get her next to the PC, because she's of the type that thinks I'm wasting too much of my time in front of the computer.
BTW, lately a lot of it is your fault, because I'm going through your blog's history (I really like it).

With regards to the film/book dilemma, I will start by saying I have never heard of "A Walk to Remember" before.
The film I use to make my point in this argument is Starship Troopers. The film and book are significantly different, as any Robert Heinlein fan would tell you - to the point where most of the book's fans would tell you the film is truly bad.
Yet I think the film is excellent - one of the best I've ever seen - in the way it uses the book's main themes to discuss fascism in our modern day to day lives.
It's not a one on one conversion, but it is a fine piece of art on its own.
If someone manages to be very loyal to a book when doing the film then good on them; but I don't think that should be the director's main aim. I think the director's main aim is to make a point (and as you mentioned, the studio's main aim is to make a buck).
Last, but not least, with regards to you thinking of a relocation: I'm always amazed at how the country that constantly provides the world with its greatest achievements (e.g., putting a man on the moon) can have such poor displays of taste (e.g., the need for super stupid movie happy endings). I won't go into politics in this blog (I reserve that for my personal blog), but it is certainly food for thought.

Wicked Little Critta said...

Well said. You're not the only person who wonders about American tastes. Maybe it's the result of the melting pot: not the best of all possible worlds, but a combination of the good and the bad to make some things the best and other things even worse.
Does that even make sense? I should ponder that idea a bit more...
About your comments, don't feel badly about never having heard of A Walk to Remember. I just realized the other day that there are very few books that I've read that have been made into movies. So my pool of examples was small.
Never seen Starship Troopers. I'll have to check it out and see if it's worth a watch.
I'm glad you like our blog! Hopefully we'll get some of your worthwhile input at some point. The blog is basically the result of my group of friends that one day realized all we do is watch movies and talk about them. So it's been fun. It's even more fun when there are varying opinions (check out the V for Vendetta Movie of the Month comments). We're currently working on a different MotM format, since reading multiple, full-length reviews on the same movie isn't as thrilling for everyone as it is for us.
Anyway, yes. Too much time on blogger. Absolutely. ;)

Moshe Reuveni said...

Ok, since you're dragging me into this:
In my most humble opinion, that is likely to offend you but please don't take it as anything other than an opinion of someone that really looks up to the USA (I subscribe to Scientific American!), the reason why a clear happy ending is required is because...
The American society, more than any others, is built upon the notion of "if you make an effort, you will succeed". Success, according to the common American dictionary, means earning lots of money (personally, I don't think that highly of money, but let's ignore that point for a second).
The problem is that most people who do try and make an effort will never succeed. Through no fault of their own, some will fail while most of the others will succeed but not to a level high enough to fulfill their aspiration to become the next Bill Gates.
But in order for this well oiled machine to continue working the people have to continue being convinced that they still need to make an effort, despite all disappointments - and one of the weapons called to the rescue is the happy ending, an ultimate magic pill to make you go back and do your homework again so you'd be able to say you have fulfilled the American dream, too.

Anyway, back to your blog: I actually enjoy reading multiple reviews of the same film; it lights up perspectives I never thought of before, which is where I get the fun out of reading reviews.
I also prefer to read the reviews of reviewers who do it for fun, rather than your average Siskel & Eberts, whose reviews tend to be too mechanical and formulistic (is there such a word?).
The only "problem" I have with your blog, other than the lack of time to read it, is the fact many of the films you dissect are films I've never heard of before.
At the moment I'm trying to form an opinion on your Donnie Darko review. I thought the film was a piece of sh*t that wasted a couple of hours of my life, so understanding why people like it could be a bit of a treasure hiding on the other side of the rainbow.
One of these nights I'll get to the Vendetta part of your blog - I'm going in reverse order. Glimpses of it showed it would take hours to fully digest, but it looks like it's going to be worth the effort (yes, I know I repeat myself, but I like your blog).

Wicked Little Critta said...

Ummm, I'm not sure I would use the phrase "dragging me into it," but I'll make one more comment on the matter. While my initial reaction was to be offended, I was quick to realize that there was no need. You have an interesting opinion, and sometimes it's easier for a person who views something objectively to make an accurate judgment, rather than the person who is in the middle of it. So, while I won't immediately agree with you, I think it is a likely possibility. There is a mindset here that communicates "you are in control of your situation in life" which often is taken a bit too far. If you do succeed, then good for you, you're living right. If you don't, then you're clearly doing something wrong. Frankly, having never lived in a different country, I assumed that this was not unique to us. I also never thought about it very hard. But I can see how the standard "happy ending" does fall into this neatly. There's also another very prominent theme (I'm not sure if it's just in the U.S.A.) in romantic movies of "love at first sight" and "love conquers all" that, in my opinion, misleads people into assuming things about love that are rarely true. But that's another topic that you're free to take or leave as you please.
Interesting that you like the multiple reviews...we'll take note of that. We're thinking of making it more of a dialogue, so multiple opinions can be explored, while not taking up a ton of blog space on the same film. But we'll see.
And I see that you reviewed the Transporter 2! I'm due to review that one soon, I already reviewed the first one and am anxious to write up the second. But it looks like our opinions don't differ terribly.
Anyway, happy candy corn day.

Moshe Reuveni said...

Corn and candy day?!
Thanks for not being offended (it was definitely not my aim), even if I don't think anyone's opinion can truly be "objective". But let's not be overly philosophical.
What I'm trying to say here is that your reply merits much more than a casual reply on my behalf, so please stay tuned. It would probably take me a couple of days (right now I'm putting lots of stuff for sale on eBay - pre holidays cleanup - and it's taking me ages).

With regards to my Transporter 2 review: don't expect much; it was one of those reviews where I had to write it because I'm committed to reviewing everything I watch rather than truly having something meaningful to say.
I did read your Transporter review and have already posted a comment.

Other than that I will use the opportunity to say, again, that I like your blog. I'll add its link to my blog, probably later tonight.

Happy 31st of October!

Wicked Little Critta said...

By the way, candy corn is this disgusting little halloween candy that's really popular here. I love it. :) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candy_corn
Today, November 1st, is the start of National Novel Writing Month. So get started on that novel you've been meaning to write!

Moshe Reuveni said...

Ok:
I dedicated an hour of my life to write what I think of the USA. You can find it in http://reuvenim.blogspot.com/2006/11/good-bad-and-ugly.html
I hope we're still talking to one another after this. I don't see why not, but then again I tend to offend people too often without meaning to.

The issue of love at first sight requires addressing as well; but not today.

Happy Melbourne Cup day!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melbourne_cup

Moshe Reuveni said...

We've recently watched the 1995 TV mini series version, and I liked it so much that we re-watched this recent movie version immediately after.
So, which is the better take?

As expected, there is no clear winner - they're both good. The movie has the advantage of being more life like in looks and authenticity; for example, evenings by the candle fire really look like evenings by the candle fire. I guess it's a budget question. The TV series, on the other hand, has the advantage of having some five hours at its disposal as opposed to the movie's two, so it was able to better digest the material and provide a better refined output; that said, it also made it clear that the movie's corner cutting acts were pretty well done.
Then there's the question of casts. I don't particularly like Knightly and I certainly don't think her beautiful; on the other hand, in the role of beautiful Jane the film features the genuinely beautiful Rosamund Pike, whereas the series' Jane failed to steer me at all. I'm wondering whether the series tried to be more loyal to Austen's era when it came to taste. Finally, Colin Firth as the series' Darcy beats the film's Darcy by a long stretch, and I'm not saying that because Firth played me in Fever Pitch.

So in conclusion, I will just say this: if you liked the movie, go and watch the series; and vice versa. Both are very good, and both are uniquely different.