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The 2005 'Pride & Prejudice' is a fantasy film, actually
Impossible standards are more fantastical than wizards and elves.
It is an opinion that will soon be universally acknowledged, that the 2005 version of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice is a fantasy film. Not only is it a fantasy, Joe Wright’s imagining of the love and formality of the 18th century is one of the best fantasy films there is.
It is far easier to look at it this way, because if we were to look at the film (or the book it is based on, really) through any kind of realistic perspective, we would be burdened with standards that could never be met in the real world. The “love” depicted in this story is the stuff of fantasy. Reality has no place here. It is for our own safety (and yours) that we write that.
Currently streaming on Peacock, Wright’s 2005 film is mostly loyal to Austen’s novel. It doesn’t have the runtime to go into as much detail as the classic Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version, but that’s okay. Wright immediately conjures sweeping windswept landscapes that he stole from the brain of a dead giant.
Lush green vistas, foggy vistas, windy wet vistas, this movie has them all. The scenery changes to match the story, and normally we’d think that this is something that the filmmakers put in because the story requires it. Jane Bennet (Rosamund Pike) has to be taken ill because of an ill-advised journey through some nasty weather, all so she can crash at Casa de Bingley. The story has decided that, but not so fast! Could the land itself have conspired to get Jane to the Bingleys? The movie is three seconds away from bringing in some the Ents to make sure she ends up there. Biting, breaking, hacking, kissing, hugging, booraroom!
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet (Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethyn) want a good match for Jane so it can be a tax write-off. Jane doesn't care about taxes and she believes in true love. She looks like she could bust out singing a song from Enchanted at any moment. It helps that Rosamund Pike is Rosamund Pike, because she has a bit of real magic about her and this could be her The Wheel of Time origin story. It’s not, but whatever.
Let us address the cast, because Pike is merely the beginning. You have the aforementioned Sutherland and Blethyn, with Sutherland’s Mr. Bennet looking like a wizard and the Bennet house at Longbourn appearing like it is held together with wishes. Who else do we have? Cutler Beckett from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (Tom Hollander), Sally Sparrow from Doctor Who (Carey Mulligan), a Donnie Darko alum (Jena Malone), a Carnival Row alum (Tamzin Merchant), and the Grand Inquisitor from Obi-Wan Kenobi (Rupert Friend). That’s hardly all of them. We haven’t even mentioned the presence of both Penelope Wilton and Dame Judi Dench. If you don’t know who either of them are, shame on you... shame shame shame.
Where would we be without our starring couple, the couple that makes everyone, whether they are in a happy relationship or not, want to die a little? There is no higher bar for fantasy romance than Elizabeth “Lizzy” Bennet (Keira Knightley) and Mr. Fitzwilliam Canape "Mr. Darcy" Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen). Both are played to perfection of course; there will be no slander of Keira Knightley in our presence. The fact that Macfadyen can do something like this and then turn around and do what he does on Succession proves that he’s a devil, nay, that he may actually be THE devil.
For the sake of our mental health, we try not to think about Keira Knightley's Lizzy too much. Certain online quizzes that are titled "Who is your literary soulmate?" may have convinced some of us she is involved in our destinies, but destiny is the stuff of fantasy after all. It is beautiful underneath the sea, but if you stay too long, you drown.
Lizzy loves her books, and instead of singing herself, you always expect animated characters to start sing-screaming “Bonjour” to her at any time. She has no interest in love! Fitzwilliam Darcy P.I. has no interest in love either. He makes a good living being a professional prick.
No time for love for either of these perfectly content people! Yeah right. You might say that their enemies-to-lovers journey contains both pride and prejudice! Their dance of ankles and hand-flexing was originally discovered by Austen in a half-burned book of spells. Lizzy traverses the magical moors in long dresses, bangs always askew, and she looks like Freya, Aphrodite, and Galadriel asked what would happen if they all became one person.
On one of these foggy jaunts, Mr. Darcy comes walking out in a long coat. Is he going to blast her with Sith lightning, or are they finally going to give in to their feelings? They give in, and the result is something that could resuscitate a body that was run over five times with a dump truck.
If you watch this movie as a period story (or as something historical, heaven help you), then you are screwed. You’re done. You will never match this standard, and that’s because Lizzy and Fitzwilliam ("Fitzlizzy") are more like Aragorn and Arwen than any other couple. They are fantasy. The gorgeous woman who reads so much and the handsome windy jackass, tale as old as time. Resentment, jealousy, and madness are as old as time too.
It is in your best interests to watch this movie as a fantasy. It will still hurt, just as Aragorn and Arwen hurt. Fitzlizzy hurts. The only semi-realistic thing at play here is that the movie doesn’t throw the awful Mr. Wickham (Friend) into a volcano at the end.
The 2005 Pride & Prejudice is a powerful and magical fantasy film. If you watch it through a different lens, you are in for a world of pain.
Pride & Prejudice (2005) is currently streaming on Peacock. Fitzlizzy.