I heard on the radio this morning that today is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. So, how can I post about anything else?
I would read it again, but since I'm in the middle of two or three books, it's probably a bad idea, so I'll say something about the film versions. I have three (the Laurence Olivier isn't worth mentioning, it's so bad); and my introduction to Jane Austen began with the BBC/Masterpiece Theatre program from the early 1980s, which made me pick up the book and that's where my acquaintance with Jane began.
That early version is very faithful to the book and is still my favorite because of it. The acting is rather formal, Mr. Darcy is very stiff, the costumes were what the budget could afford, but for clever dialogue you won't be disappointed. Elizabeth Garvie played Lizzie and she's very lovely. The scene where she gives Lady Catherine her well-deserved set-down is priceless. The characters of Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins are very well played, I think - without any going overboard, as often happens (e.g. as in the latest film version).
The A&E version from the 90's is very well done, and Colin Firth is the best Darcy so far, but I was always disappointed at some of my favorite lines being left out.
The Keira Knightly film was a most excellent movie - beautiful photography, clever directing, excellent acting; but it took so many liberties with the story that while I love it as an entertainment, it lacks that Jane Austen air - the more atmosphere you add to Jane Austen, the less Austen-ish it seems to me. When you read her books, the thing which stands out so much is her cleverness of speech - her own, in her descriptions, and the characters' dialogue. There really isn't any "atmosphere" - certainly nothing like a Bronte novel, which is the feel you get from watching the latest P&P film. Still, I do love to watch it, and I think Joe Wright (the director) did the best he could in squeezing a complicated story into a two-hour film; it really can't be done properly, which is evidenced by the barely-touched-on Wickham episode.
What would Jane think if she could see all the spin-offs of her work? Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - good grief! I haven't read any of them (except the Stephanie Barron mysteries, which I've blogged about elsewhere). I did try P.D. James' - it was so wordy I didn't get far at all. What I really want is not for someone to continue one of her stories, but for someone to write just like she did - and that's impossible. (Although S. Barron very cleverly imitates it - try them, if you like an amusing mystery.)
I will leave you with the eminently satisfying scene in which Lady Catherine de Bourgh visits the Bennet household - the source of my favorite line in the book - "The wife of Mr. Darcy must have such extraordinary sources of happiness necessarily attached to her situation that she could, upon the whole, have no cause to repine." A very clever girl, our Lizzie!