Further Musings

Beauty smote his heart, he looked up from the forsaken land & hope returned to him

Pride and Prejudice; Movies & Novels

with 4 comments

Very early Thursday morning I finished Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Charity gave me a copy before we married as the BBC version holds a special place in our hearts because it was the subject of our first, long phone conversation nearly five years ago.*   For years the BBC version has been the standard background TV for our cleaning and cooking.

Reading the book was an interesting experience because I knew many of the lines from the movie and all of the plot points that what was left to be surprise by was the analysis of the narrator.  As usual, the book surpassed the movie, mostly because it did a sharper job of displaying and evaluating the motivations of the characters.

Being so familiar with the movie I was surprised to learn that the title, Pride and Prejudice, is not simply a vague title but the words are, in fact, the major themes of the book.  The chapters where the main character, Elizabeth, evaluates herself and the other main character explain her prejudice and his pride in a way that the movie fails to.  The storyline is the same but the insights are much sharper, and consequently the book is more interesting.

This has me wondering about what the medium of the novel does better than the medium of the movie and vice-versa.  Movies, by the nature of the medium, do a better job of displaying color and detail and emotional pace to the story (especially through the soundtrack) and, for me, laughter, which I seem nearly tone deaf to in text.  Movies are great at displaying spectacle: the big, the colorful, the sweeping.

Novels, though, I think are the realm of insight for it is there that authors can elucidate the thoughts behind the looks, the values behind the actions, and the hopes behind the tears.  Where a movie shows human action, the novel explains, and it’s this wisdom, insight and depth that I’m hungry for.

Off to Love in the Time of Cholera.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

*I had recently return from the Balkans and was struck down by giardia.  When I wasn’t violently worshiping the porcelain king or laying prostrate at his feet, I had plenty of time to watch the six hour BBC version.


Written by furthermusings

August 15, 2009 at 10:04 am

Posted in Reviews

4 Responses

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  1. A major reason my wife and I got a DVD player years ago was for the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice. Our one major complaint is that Mr. Collins looks too old and didn’t have quite the serious-acting foolishness in the book. Pretty much everything else was fantastic, and it is the usual viewing choice when one of us is sick.

    On your main point: I think time is a huge constraining factor. The novel just has more time to do things – we’re willing to work through a long novel where the author can take time for introspection and put depth into the characters and their motivations. A movie is expected to take less time and has to establish the characters and setting much faster. They are perhaps more analogous to the short story – having less time they must be more vivid presenting the core and leave out many details. Yet, the movie also has the advantage of giving visual/audio cues you can pick up very quickly – the movie can just show you Lady Catherine on the “throne” in her sitting room (with that great introductory music for her) and you already know she’s haughty aristocracy before she says a word.


    August 17, 2009 at 8:18 am

  2. Fair points Lee, especially about the visual and sound cues but I think it’s not simply a matter of time. Even given the six-hour length I think it is difficult to give voice to the complex though process of Elizabeth without either creating lengthy dialogue or voice overs, neither of which work well in the movies.

    P&P is also a sick day/cleaning day movie for us (alongside the LOTRs for Charity).

    (and can I just add I love it that two men are debating P&P on the blog).


    August 17, 2009 at 8:26 am

  3. To Lee’s point, the only “movie” I have seen that does an where near an adequate job reflecting the novel was the mini-series Lonesome Dove. Six hours of TV time left plenty of room for following dialogue word for word, etc. Of course, a cast that included Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Duvall, Angelica Houston, Danny Glover et al didn’t hurt in terms of adding the texture and tone that is sometimes missed in reading.


    August 17, 2009 at 10:42 pm

  4. Point taken – it is difficult to reveal the inner life in a movie.

    (and I agree with your last parenthetical comment)


    August 18, 2009 at 6:11 am

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