From the melodical opening salvos, camera coiling its way through the twisting corridors of the Bennett household like an unseen, yet friendly intruder, to its final moments, full of the score-soaring romanticism of the golden age of Hollywood, first-time director Joe Wright plays his version of Jane Austen's classic novel with the impeccable timing of a waltz.
Some of those in literary circles consider Austen's work to be nothing more than fanciful soap opera, and I am inclined to agree with them - to a point. Lyrical and funny, Austen may not have the reconditecal force of a Dickens or a Dostoyevsky or a Melville, and she may not have the emotional ballast of a Bronte or a Proust, yet still she manages to enchant - even if it is on a rather superficial level. But then again, is there anything less superficial than love, Austen's most trusted literary ally? It was love that gave Austen her biggest inspiration and it is love that gives this film its quiet beauty and seemless pulchritude.
But then again, the soft-focused cinematography and gorgeous art direction may have something to do with that as well. With the hands of a seeming master, Joe Wright entwines his camera through crowds and corridors like a snake charmer selling his wares to a totally seduced public. With the magic of the lens, the words of Jane Austen and the cast full of stellar acting - Keira Knightly, Donald Sutherland, Jena Malone, Brenda Blethyn, Matthew MacFadyn and especially Tom Hollander as the insipidly enigmatic Mr. Collins all delight thoroughly - Pride & Prejudice is a welcome surprise from the depths of the usually bland literary adaptaions that abound year after year.
In the end though, it is the thickness of the love and the heaviness of the passion that makes this film swirl faster and faster and faster. Sure, Jane Austen may not be the most intellectually deep of the great writers, but she does have more than enough emotional heft to keep the story at the level of the bohemian desire of truth, love and beauty. [12/08/05]