Sunday, May 07, 2006

Pride and Prejudice

We finally saw the new Pride & Prejudice last night and liked it. The cinematography is arresting; romantic landscapes, colorful village bustle, elegant stately homes, all lush, vivid, and artistically framed. There's great depth of focus for most of the scenes, recalling Robert Altman's great, busy shots, fully of genre detail.

This thumbnail photo shows St George's Square, Stamford, Linconshire, which was used as the village of Meryton. There's one "Meryton" scene that gives a quick glimpse in the background of the retreating rump of a huge black workhorse -- I Shire I suspect. Shire.
{As usual, click images to enlarge.}

Temple of Appolo, StourheadThough I thought the directing was imaginative, there are some film clichés that, I suppose, are almost required; for example, it was almost always sunny -- sunrise, midday, and sunset all casting interesting light (even within windowed rooms). Except, of course, when Lizzy and Darcy have their pride and prejudice spat, he showing the latter in his proposal of marriage and her showing the former in her refusal. Then it's raining, a heavy evening rain which drenches them both and out of which they find refuge in a highly romantic Palladian neo-ruin (Stourhead).

Last summer I did a comparison of the Elizabeth Bennet actresses. You can find it here -- it's one of the most popular posts I've written, having been picked up by "Jennite" in a post on the Jennifer Ehle fanblog.

I thought then that Keira Knightley probably wouldn't better Ehle's performance and Knightley's acting ability was thus a bit of a surprise. The camera, costume, settings, and other context do most of the work for her, but she says her lines well and her body language is apt. I expected I'd think her too slender for the part and I still do. Ehle looks more as Lizzy should. All the same, looking at the other actresses who've played the part, Knightley isn't worse than most and better than some.

Matthew McFayden as Mr.Darcy, Judi Dench as his aunt, Brenda Blethyn, as the insufferable mother, and Donald Sutherland as the distracted, loving father are all very good. How can one not like a film that has Dame Judi and Donald S. in it, he asked rhetorically. The Bennet sisters are a suprise: all superbe, particularly Rosamund Pike as Jane. The web pages devoted to Judi Dench's career have extensive coverage of her involvement with the film. It gives some nice anecdotes, such as this one from an invterview: "[Kiera] said that both Judi and Donald S. were just as excited the first day of filming as were the two girls playing her sisters who were in their first film. She thought that was great. She said that with so many young actors in the film that there was a great social life during the shoot, which was entirely on location. Donald Sutherland won't let anyone smoke around him. They finally got him to come to one of the parties, and he showed up in a full gas mask so that everybody else who wanted could smoke!" photo credit

The music is good, both composition by Dario Marianelli and performance (mostly solo piano by Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

The filming locations, all in England, and the reverential treatment they're given are the film's greatest strength. IMDB gives the list of places. There's also a good tour of them at this site and Working Title Films give some stills of the main ones.

Chatsworth House - "Pemberley"

Groombridge Place used as "Longbourn" (notice the magnificent trees)

Of the Longbourne transformation by Production Designer Sarah Greenwood, the Working Titles site says: "[She] and her art department were able to transform the house interior to late 18th Century shabby chic. 'Longbourn' became a house overrun with young women. The home of a genteel family but not a wealthy one, where the only tranquillity is to be found in Mr Bennet's library. On the exterior, Lizzie's duckboard bridge was built across the moat, windows were changed to match the period portrayed, and the tidy courtyard became the manure-rich, animal refuge of the various farmyard creatures kept for the family table."

There's a good set of Longbourne photos at the GroomBridge Place web site.

No comments: