Pride and Prejudice (2005): Review
When given the name Pride & Prejudice, a great number of people tend to automatically think cheesy, boring love story. However, the depth and beauty of Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice goes so much more beyond that. Wright transforms this classic 19th century love story into a heartwarming and fantastic cinematic experience. A tale of a typical 19th century family with five sisters intertwined with a touch of modern drama makes this film relatable in many ways. Elizabeth Bennet (Kiara Knightly) is a beautiful yet strong willed girl surrounded by her very bubbly sisters. All these girls basically have to do in life is to get married well. Lizzie’s closest confidant and sister Jane, played by Rosamund Pike, falls in love with the amiable and rich Mr. Bingley. However, the story seems not so simple when a prideful Mr. Darcy and Lizzie clash with drama all along the way.
There are many fantastic elements to this film. A very prominent one is the use of light. Lighting for a time where there wasn’t electricity can be tricky. Yet this film does a great job of giving as natural an air as possible. Though if looked at with a critical eye, some of the lighting might seem unrealistic, but because of the feel and look of it sets, it is not a problem at all. There are many beautiful examples throughout that cannot be missed.
Pride & Prejudice is a combination of great high-key lighting and the use of “golden hour” throughout the film. Right from the beginning a bright warm mood is set as we watch Elizabeth reading and walking in the early morning glow. We see a gorgeous lens flare aura around our main character that should be appreciated. This bright, golden lighting makes the atmosphere happy and cheerful which is perfect as we are introduced to this happy bubbly family in their countryside home. Since this film is set in the early 19th century, a typical home had very large windows throughout the house to let in as much light as possible. Netherfield Hall, the residence of the charming Mr. Bingley, is always very well lit because of its massive windows. This film does a fantastic job at keeping the feel of the lighting as natural as possible.
In this first scene, the inside of the house is very well lit with bright natural lighting that contributes to the excitement of the girls as they are told of a great marriage prospect. It is clear they made the most of this bright morning light. Though there are many shadows, the brightness created throughout the house keeps you from focusing on the shadows. The use of both the high-key lighting and the golden hour light helps it stay true to the lighting of the time period. These lighting techniques help keep the atmosphere happy, upbeat, and exciting. If they had shot this scene on an over cast day and had to use unnatural lighting to create brightness, it would have lost that bright happy mood. There would have probably been more shadows for the inside shots which would be distracting. Even at the end of the scene we see a great wide shot of the house with the golden light spilling over it to reinforce that lighthearted feel to kick of the film.
There are some other examples of the great use of that golden hour. For instance, to introduce the fact that Lizzie is dreaming while riding in a carriage, we see a very bright, orange, and out of focus flickering glow as in what you see when your eyes are closed but the brightness of the sun is on your face. This transitions to a beautiful very close up shot of her closed eyes. Because she is traveling through the country side, the use or a branchaloris is put in place as the shadows of the passing trees above her. The all time favorite golden hour scene is no doubt where the prideful Lizzie finally confesses her love for Mr. Darcy in the mist of the very early morning. You see the handsome Mr. Darcy walking from the blue morning haze with the hint of the orange sunrise in the distance. This shot is a brilliant use of complementary colors that greatly affects the whole feel of this moment as well as being very symbolic. As Lizzie warms up more and more to Mr. Darcy, so does the rising sun behind them. The scene finishes with an absolutely gorgeous sunrise with a lens flares in-between them.
The inside evening scenes were also illuminated quite nicely. The main lighting sources of the time were candles. The evening scenes in this film were probably not entirely lit by candles however, it does a fantastic job at making it seem so. In the first ballroom scene, the room is very big with a balcony over the edges of the room. The only visible light source would be a few scattered candles on the edges and then a big candle chandelier in the middle of the room. Realistically, this would most likely not be enough light to illuminate what is going on in the scene. If you pay attention to the angle of shadows, it becomes clear the light is set up very bright from above. The shadows are not noticeable at first glance because of all the movement in the room. The main character are also very well lit at all times and definitely have some sort of fill in their close up shots. The color temperature is almost always very warm to emphasize the fact that the room is lit by candles.
As mentioned before, if you think of a lot of the scenes lighting realistically, it doesn’t make sense. That fact is brushed aside, however, because of the feel the lite sets. For example, the scene of Lizzie and Jane having a late nigh chat under the covers. They are beautifully illuminated by a bright, flickering warm light directly above their heads. The light used is obviously very bright but it is defused very nicely by the white sheet over there heads, creating a soft bright glow on their faces. This realistically doesn’t make sense, however you don’t even notice because you are very in the moment of the giggling girls. In an outside wide shot we clearly see the light source is from the candle on the nightstand.
The use of shadows from the affect of low-key lighting creates a serious mood. Many times throughout there is a great use of shadows with just a slight fill. There is a point where Lizzie goes from the bright white ball to hiding in a hallway that gives the impression she’s illuminated by a simple moonlight from one of the many big windows. The slight blue tint as well as the very low-key lighting creates fantastic shadows and shows a significant contrast from the ball. The use of firelight is more prominent in these evening scenes as well. One example is the brilliant time-lapse of the day when Lizzie is lost in thought that is literally just shown with light. The usually golden hour glow is different in this scene. It starts with a cold backlit shot that simply shows the silhouette of Lizzie then transitions to a very cool color of blue, reflecting the mood of Lizzie. The day comes and goes in one shot shown by the moving shadows to finish off with a moonlight on her left cheek and an orange glow from the fire on her right.
Pride and Prejudice is a gorgeous underrated film that should be watched more. The depth visually and symbolically is something to be appreciated. I highly recommended this film to watch with an open-mind and an open heart. This film can be said to have “bewitched me body and soul and I love.. I love you” and that is the feeling from a filmmakers perspective.