Pride and Prejudice: A&E vs. Joe Wright

If there is one thing that many Jane Austen fans disagree on, it’s which Pride and Prejudice adaptation is better- the six hour A&E mini-series or Joe Wright’s feature film starring Keira Knightley.

There are some who say there is no competition among REAL Jane Austen fangirls. The A&E One is OBVIOUSLY superior. It stays truer to the book!

However, there are others who fight for Joe Wright’s adaptation and dislike having their dedication to the Jane Austen fandom looked down upon.

So, instead of just flat out telling you which one I prefer and why, I have interviewed Jane Austen fans from both sides of the spectrum to find out why they prefer one to the other.

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Celina: A&E

I prefer the A&E Pride and Prejudice for three main reasons. First, I think the acting is far better. Second, I think a six-hour series is a better medium than a two-hour film for capturing the subtleties and details that make the plot, setting, and characters so excellent. Third, I think the spirit and tone is truer to the understatedness and proprieties of the regency period.

Sophia AKA The Thief Lord: A&E

The star power of Keira Knightley in Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice is the biggest asset that accompanies this severely abridged version of the Austen classic. While his cinematography was absolutely breathtaking, its downfall is the abrupt and choppy pace of dialogue and speed of the plot.

With the A&E rendition of the early 1990’s, Jennifer Ehle delivers a sweet performance as Elizabeth as Colin Firth bathes in the masculinity and propriety of the English upper class. The viewer is invested in Mr. Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s relationship in A&E’s adaptation as opposed to the feature film because the length of the mini-series allows more time to be spent on both background of the characters and the world they are in.

McKinley: Joe Wright

I prefer Joe Wright’s version of Pride & Prejudice because it’s a better adaptation. The A&E version is a visual rendering of the text. It doesn’t add anything to the experience of the story. If I want to read the book, I’ll read the book! (And honestly, that won’t take me as long — I’ve timed it) Joe Wright’s version is far more worthy of my time as a cinematic experience. I appreciate the more casual rendering of a costume drama because I feel like it more effectively translates what the characters experienced to a modern audience. Not to mention that Matthew Macfadyen’s Mr. Darcy is, in my opinion, a more faithful interpretation than Colin Firth’s. Everything about it is more intentional. Wright understands the True things communicated in Austen’s work and translates them in a new way. That’s what makes it a true adaptation. And I think it’s a good one. 

Anna: Joe Wright

Everyone’s opinion depends entirely on how a person reads the novel and is therefore totally subjective. However, I think the purpose of film adaptations of novels is to, well, adapt. NOT to retell. An adaptation should allow a new medium of storytelling to add dimension to the story that it couldn’t have had in its original form.  

For this reason, I think the A&E version adds nothing to the story, while Joe Wright’s 2005 version (which I think captures the everydayness pervasive in Austen’s novels and paraphrases the story brilliantly) takes the best parts of the story and adds artistic nuance with beautiful direction, cinematography, and scoring.

Tiffany: Both both adaptions have their faults and strengths

When I read Pride and Prejudice I find myself picturing images from both movies – a conglomeration of Colin Firth, Keira Knightly, the balls in Meryton and Mrs. Bennett in both versions.

The A&E version does not simply stick closely to the plot but adds tremendously it to – mostly dialogue here and there – creative liberties filling in the gaps that Ms. Austen only summarizes. I think the strength of the A&E version is that is it memorable and is rewarding to get through – a small accomplishment, as Elizabeth would put it.  Mostly my love of the A&E version comes from the complete fun of it, the “floating heads” that appear whenever Elizabeth or Darcy get into a carriage, the very memorable soundtrack, the tight ringlets of all the girl’s hair, and the very beautiful Pemberly. It’s the movie you watched after you discovered the book when you were ten and felt very intelligent and in love with Colin Firth afterwards and also pleased at the adaption because it felt very faithful. 

 My love of Joe Wright’s version stems from the completely beautiful nature of the film.  Every single element of the movie is simply stunning, thought-out, and mesmerizing. Here, The creative license is quite creative. Mostly, I think the film is highly edited from the book. A lot is cut out, slashed, and completely ignored. But what it keeps is magical.  It doesn’t follow the book exactly but that’s okay because it’s a different medium. It’s my grown-up version of Pride and Prejudice. It feels timeless, stands on it own, and can be enjoyed by anyone – not unlike Ms. Austen’s delightful book.

Kara: Why can’t we be friends? 

Pride and Prejudice is a great story, and it’s pretty hard to mess up. I saw the A&E version, then read the book, then saw the Joe Wright/Keria Knightly version. Guess what? I like them all! Sometimes I want a six hour saga to sit and drink tea and knit through. Sometimes I just want two hours of what feels like a moving painting of gloriousness (also can we talk about the gazebo scene?!). I enjoy both versions and I don’t think that enjoying one should mean that I hate the other version. Everybody just needs to calm down. 

My Thoughts

My first exposure to the story was  at the age of 13 through the Joe Wright version of the film and I fell in love with it.

Even after reading the book, I still loved this adaptation.I think that they did a beautiful job condensing the novel into a two hour movie. My only fault with it was that they gave some of Mr. Bennet’s lines to Lizzie to make her seem more clever which I find unnecessary. She’s already one of the most clever characters in English literature. Do they really need to give her someone else’s lines to make her even more so?

I first attempted to watch the six hour A&E version a few months after first seeing the Joe Wright version and reading the book. I couldn’t get through it. It was far too long and I thought that the characters were caricatures.

I re-watched it recently was surprised to find that I actually enjoyed it this time.  I found the characters to be fun and the world to be rich.

I ultimately prefer the Joe Wright movie adaptation to the A&E one. It was my first exposure to the story (imprinting) and it is a beautiful film to watch. And when it comes down to it, if I want to spend six hours on Pride and Prejudice, I’ll just reread the book. However, I now have a new appreciation for the A&E version and will no longer say that I dislike it.

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