Better On The Page or The Screen? Pride and Prejudice

You’ve probably heard it before out of the lips of some well-meaning bookworm: “The book was better”. But is it always?

Today’s post will offer up a book to film adaptation and consider which is actually better… the book or the film. To give us some consistency and help determine whether the film or the book was better I will be using a method Rory Gilmore would be proud of. The humble pro/con list (any Gilmore Girls fans out there?)

I will also be attempting to determine which of the films and TV shows is the best.

Prepare for the controversy and weigh in at the end of the post by leaving a comment!

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Let’s get right into the heart of it with some adapted eighteenth century romance. When I was preparing for this blog post this was one of the books I thought of that seems to have been adapted many times over.

I won’t be going into every film adaptation, as there’s too many! I will be touching on a few favourites and some you may wish to explore if you haven’t seen them already. Enjoy!

Thank you to those who follow me on instagram who helped me make these pro/cons for each of these films, tv shows and of course our dear book.

The Book Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Published 1813

Pro
  • Austen’s creation of the couple arguably to thank for the enemies to lovers trope in Romance.
  • Witty prose.
  • Questioned the patriarchy and political situation of her day.
  • One of the most dramatic proposal scenes created.
  • The book has now been printed in hundreds of editions. There’s a book cover to suit most tastes!
  • Romantic.
Con
  • Language used is different to that used in modern literature.
  • Classic books are intimidating.
  • Can be difficult to read without referring to the various adaptions.
  • No kissing. Limited physical affection generally.

In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.

Mister Darcy Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Whilst not everyone finds the language and style of Pride and Prejudice off putting, it’s certainly something that can make the book less approachable for many readers. From those I’ve spoken with, many pick up the book after seeing one of the screen adaptations and therefore have different expectations. While this isn’t Austen’s fault, it changes how we interact as readers with the story.

While Austen was a fan of dramatic declarations of love, don’t go into the book of Pride and Prejudice expecting any kiss scenes! Physical affection is absent entirely or very restrained between characters.

Pride and Prejudice (1995) BBC – TV.

While there were several adaptations of Pride and Prejudice that were made for film and television prior to this, the BBC 1995 Pride and Prejudice is perhaps one of the most well known.

Pro

  • Colin Firth stars as Mister Darcy
  • Jennifer Elhe as Elizabeth Bennet
  • The famed ‘lake scene’ which definitely doesn’t appear in Austen’s work.
  • Faithful to the plot of the original novel.

Con

  • This is a long series. Each episode goes for nearly an hour each.
  • Casting?
  • The famed ‘lake scene’ wouldn’t be Austen approved.

As is often the case when bringing books to the screen, casting is controversial. It is impossible for casting to please everyone, as when reading a book we build up our own imagination of what the characters must look like. For me, those in the BBC version look the most like those in the book. This may be partially due to experiencing the show before I read the book.

Pride and Prejudice (2005) – Film.

Pro

  • Keira Knightly as Elizabeth Bennet.
  • Matthew MacFadyan as Mister Darcy
  • Visually striking cinematography
  • Musical score.
  • Mister Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet have a romantic tryst in the rain.
  • Some characters such as Mister Bennet and Misses Bennet vastly different to the novel

Con

  • The Bennet Family is depicted as more obviously poor in costuming and set choices.
  • Leaves some scenes from the book out.
  • It’s a modern day take of the story.
  • Casting?

What is it with adapting Mister Darcy to film? He has to be doused in water at some stage. Following the 1995 Pride and Prejudice the lake scene has been commonly referenced in other adaptations. Getting caught in the rain in the 2005 adaptation seems to be their take on it.

Lost In Austen (2008) – TV.

Pro

  • A modern take on the classic story
  • Beautiful set and costuming
  • Comedic value
  • Eliot Cowan as Mister Darcy
  • Gemma Arteton as Elizabeth Bennet
  • New characters. Jemima Rooper as Amanda Price
  • Romantic

Con

  • Alters the storyline from Austen’s original
  • Casting (?) and the invention of new characters.

If you want a show that verbalises many of the thoughts and emotions you may have when reading Pride and Prejudice this is it. Amanda Price is a woman from modern day London who has accidentally swapped places with Elizabeth Bennet. Her efforts to restore order to the world and story she’s found herself in go awry when Mister Darcy begins to fall in love with her.

Guy Henry’s portrayal of Mister Collins is one of the best of all the adaptations I have seen. The score for the show is wonderful and the show feels like some fantastically romantic fever dream. Whilst many fans of the original book find the show to be too far from the original, I think it’s a unique story.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016) – Film.

Pro

  • A fresh take on the classic story
  • Zombies
  • Casting -Lily James as Elizabeth Bennet
  • Action packed
  • Romantic
  • Retains some of the iconic dialogue.
  • Cinematography
  • Scoring

Con

  • Zombies
  • Doesn’t interact with many of Austen’s original ideas
  • Cuts out much of the original novel

A relative newcomer on the block when it comes to Pride and Prejudice adaptations this action packed film is one of the most entertaining adaptations I’ve come across.

If you find yourself wishing your regency romance had a few more fight scenes and a bit more gore this is the adaptation for you! This amusing film changes much from the original novel, but I enjoyed the fresh take. This film is actually an adaptation of the novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith which is adapted from Austen’s novel.

So which is the best?

Ah, now the hard part. Picking between these stories feels difficult! My pro/con lists have helped me sort out some of my feelings and thoughts regarding Pride and Prejudice.

I think that the best overall has to still be the novel, without which none of the adaptations would exist. Jane Austen’s wit, romance and politically nuanced ideas are carried across in part by several of these adaptions but none of them capture it in its entirety.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that these films don’t capture the entirety of the book. Afterall, what works in a book doesn’t always translate well onto screen.

No, I think it’s great many of these adaptations have used Austen’s work as a launching place to bring the story of Pride and Prejudice to new audiences.

Enough stalling. Which is best adaptation?

When it comes to accuracy and capturing the book closely: Pride and Prejudice (1995) is the closest to Austen’s work. If you can’t be bothered (or struggle) to read the book, this is the adaptation you should check out.

Whilst Pride and Prejudice (2005) has a lot going for it, the variations in character and story let it down as a faithful rendition of Austen’s story. It is however a beautiful film in its own right and well worth watching.

Both Lost in Austen and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies are fresh variations of Austen’s story. They both offer comedic value, great acting and are vastly different from one another. I like these adaptations because they feel like true adaptations, rather than translations of the story onto film. They’re not a ‘reboot’ of Austen’s story, but offer a new angle for a new audience. I appreciate the creativity that went into both of these projects.

Here’s my verdict – take it or leave it. No offence intended to any Austen fans who may disagree with me…

In my humble opinion the best Pride and Prejudice adaption is…

Pride and Prejudice (2005) this is easily the best film from the list we’ve discussed today. The acting, cinematography and score are what ultimately edges it above the other adaptations. It is a true adaptation, not just a mere repetition of the same story in a new art form.

Runner up?

Sorry Pride and Prejudice (1995) but Lost in Austen (2008) is the next best adaption. It interacts with the ideas and cultural phenomenon that Pride and Prejudice has become. It changes Austen’s story to something modern audiences can easily relate to. Anyone who has dreamed of falling into one of Austen’s novel will appreciate this adaption. It offers a sense of humour that I think Austen would have appreciated, as the wit of the author is lost in many of the other adaptations. The casting for many of the characters is phenomenal.

Honourable mentions

There are too many adaptations of Pride and Prejudice for me to mention in one post, so here are a few of those I didn’t get to but are still worth a watch:

  • Bridget Jone’s Diary (2001) – bonus points for the return of Colin Firth
  • Bride and Prejudice (2004) – A bollywood musical adaptation.
  • Death Comes to Pemberley (2013) – A murder mystery set on the grounds of Mister Darcy’s home? Yes please.

Final Thoughts

Thank you for reading today’s post, I hope you enjoyed it! Comment on this post to share what is your favourite Pride and Prejudice adaptation and why.

Today’s post featured some fun Austen themed gifs. While this isn’t something I regularly include in my posts, I hope you were amused by these little moments.

Haven’t had enough books? Come say hi to me on social media by searching @stephhuddlestonwriting or by clicking the buttons below.

Hi! I'm Steph, a freelance writer for hire based in Australia. I'm an avid reader and love all things bookish! My blog is all about the written word.

4 thoughts on “Better On The Page or The Screen? Pride and Prejudice

Leave a Reply to Sara Ormsby Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.