Lowdown: Keira Knightly searches for the ultimate husband in a very hostile environment - old English society.
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.