Lolling about idling away Christmas Day, I stumbled on a a screening of the Keira Knightley version of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which I watched again with the greatest pleasure. The most famous version is of course the 1940 Lawrence Olivier/Greer Garson vehicle, but immortal as those two are in Hollywood Heaven, that film cannot hold a candle to the 2005 re-make. I think the single feature of the 2005 film that I like the most [aside from the Bennett-Darcy love story, of course, for which I am a total sucker] is the success of the Director, Joe Wright, in capturing the class distinctions without which the story makes no sense.
The Bennetts and Darcy are both members of the landed gentry, to be sure, but they are worlds apart in wealth and status. As represented by Wright, Darcy lives in Pemberly, an authentic Stately Home of England, complete with elaborate grounds, ornamental fountains, and a hall filled with marble scultpures [including one of Darcy himself.] The Bennetts live in a modest house with several non-liveried servants and pigs and cattle wandering freely in the yard just outside the front door.
The two families occupy the same social milieu, as evidenced by the way they greet one another and the fact that it is at least conceivable that they should intermarry. But Darcy's dismay at the "unsuitability" of a marital alliance with the Bennetts depends completely for its cinematic plausibility on the immediate visual distance between their two households. In the 1940 version, Greer Garson is so elegantly dressed and installed in a house of such manifest wealth that Olivier's prejudice against the Bennetts is incomprehensible.
It also helps that there is some real on-screen barely contained heat between Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen. Judi Densch is splendid, as always, in the rather undemanding role of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, but Tom Hollander is not nearly servile and creepy enough as Mr. Collins.