For generations the question of what it is that allows Pride and Prejudice to be transcended through not only time but also the generations of women from these times has been asked. The answer is not, as some are quick to assume, the attractiveness of our Mr Darcy’s. Instead, the truth of the matter is that for the generations of women from across the world, Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet is the answer to their question when they are asked who they would be if they could live their life over again. Elizabeth is the perfect alter ego because she does not embody the qualities of the attractive, perfect and moderately tempered Jane Bennet. She is not the inconsiderate, man-seeking Lydia and she is neither anti-social nor uneasy Mary. Instead, Elizabeth is modernistic, intelligent and wilful, and this is despite the fact that she is a figment of the imagination, living only in Austen’s English Regency novel where she had never experienced anything remotely modernistic like make-up or mobile phones. It is for this reason that over the past two hundred years, Austen’s conventional plight of Pride and Prejudice continues, with her social union of the Bennet family becoming such a popular phenomenon in romantic fiction that her universal themes of love, reputation, class and duty, coupled with the plot of heroism and the pains-taking love story has engendered multiple adaptations.
Critically speaking, the film was well received. In a 1940 review in the New York Times, critic Bosley Crowther gave an account of the film, describing it as the most deliciously pert comedy of old manners, the most crisp and crackling satire in costume that we in this corner can remember ever having seen on the screen”. Crowther’s review also gave commendation to the cast, particularly the Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier who played the two lead protagonists – Elizabeth and Darcy. He noted that Greer Garson was the ‘dear, beautiful Lizzie’ who looked as if she had “stepped right out of the book, or rather out of one’s fondest imagination: poised, graceful, self contained, witty and spasmodically stubborn and as lovely as a woman can be”. Meanwhile, he stated that when it comes to Laurence Olivier “that’s all there is to it” – he was the arrogant and sarcastic Darcy who put his pride first before exhibiting his “felicitous demise”. 
Further reviews, such as that from TV Guide, have commented on the transformations made to the original source by Leonard’s adaption, proclaiming the film an unusually successful adaption of Jane Austen’s most famous novel. Although the satire is slightly reduced and coarsened and the period advanced in order to use more flamboyant costumes, the spirit is entirely in keeping with Austen’s sharp, witty portrait of rural 19th century mores”. 
However amidst the fanatics of Jane Austen’s original Pride and Prejudice, this 1940 film adaption is infamous for rapidly extending in different directions from the novel in multiple ways, the most obvious of which is the characterization of both Darcy and Lady Catherine de Bourgh, followed by the excessive “Hollywoodized” style which saw the placing of women in fashions and dress that was based on styles from the 1820’s and 1830’s that were distinctively different from the Regency fashions that are appropriate to the novel’s setting.
Austen’s Pride and Prejudice novel has became the subject of numerous television adaptations which included five BBC television series including the 1938, 1952, 1958, 1967 and 1980 versions. However, Sue Birtwistle and Andrew Davies felt these versions were too “undernourished and unpoetic”  , which inspired them to set about creating a new film adaption of Pride and Prejudice. Birtwistle and Davies sought to remain as faithful to their source material as possible although they said that whilst they “treated the story with great respect, if we had wanted to be utterly faithful, we would have got someone to recite it over the radio.” 
Stressing sex and money as their themes, Davies chose to manoeuvre the focus of the story from being on Elizabeth to both protagonists – Elizabeth and Darcy, providing a clue to Darcy’s role in the narrative’s resolution at an earlier stage. Davies’ biggest challenge was modifying the long letters from the second half of the novel. To adapt these letters Davies chose to use techniques such as voice-overs, flashbacks and narration, with characters reading the letters to themselves and each other. Although Davies left the novel’s dialogue almost intact, he did add his own dialogue which allowed him to demystify some of the novel’s events to modern audiences.
In 1952 the first of the BBC versions premiered. Becoming well known for its costume and set drama, this series created the capacity for further BBC productions to be created over the next forty years. The next of the BBC miniseries aired in 1967, with this version being filmed in six episodes just as its predecessor was. However, this version faded into oblivion with the release of later adaptations. The next BBC sequel of 1980 was only five parts and was distinguishable by its costume drama. However, despite all of these Pride and Prejudice adaptations, it was the 1995 adaption, that was a collaboration between BBC and A&E which became the best known of all.
Generally, deviations from Austen’s plot are minor. The series begins with both Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley galloping across fields to observe Netherfield, where Bingley decides to rent the estate. Although this scene does not appear in the novel, it appears to closely resemble the events which are believed to have taken place shortly before the first chapter opens. It is for this reason that it is easy to forgive the addition of this scene. Moreover, preceeding Mr Collins’ discovery of the news about Lydia’s elopement, he visits Longbourne immediately as opposed to writing a letter. However, the writing and reciting of letter on television can grow tiresome when excessively used, so it appears that this is a necessary discretion. The majority of the extra scenes are intended to overcome the difficulties of Austen’s style.
At a duration of three hundred minutes, it is the longest and most extensive of all movie versions. Impressively, Andrew Davies’ screenplay is faithful in following the novel, despite his comment that only a radio version would have been as faithful. The protagonists Elizabeth and Darcy are played by Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. This television serial was the first to realise Jane Austen’s vision. This 1995 television serial was a revolutionary BBC production with nothing of the “restricted studio-bound portrayals which have characterized the production of previous costume dramas.”  Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was famous for her light use of sensual language. The description of details such as the houses and estates, the surrounding scenery and the costumes, and furthermore the physical appearance of particular characters are limited in quantity, allowing for the imagination of the reader. Remarkable, however, would be the imagination that could evoke a more stately Pemberley, a more daunting Rosings Park or a more charismatic Mr Darcy, than those conjured and presented to us in Andrew Davies’ splendid BBC adaption of Pride and Prejudice.
Austen’s Sense and Sensibility became a screenplay Academy Award winner after being cinematically composed by Emma Thompson, who was consequently brought in to write an unsalaried and uncredited revision of the 2005 adaption of Pride and Prejudice. This version was directed by Joe Wright, who was originally fearful that Keira Knightley, who had been cast as the lead female protagonist, was far too attractive to play the intelligent Elizabeth Bennet. However, after observing Knightley’s boyish ways and attitude, Wright became convinced that he could maximise her tomboy attitude and manner in his film adaptation. Knightley’s characterisation of Elizabeth earned her an Academy Award nomination for her superior portrayal, which is seen as even more remarkable when we consider that at the time of filming she was the exact age as Austen’s Elizabeth which authenticates the characterization of Knightley.
A lot of the language was modified so as to make this adaptation more modern, which was to the vexation of Jane Austen admirers. The characterization of Elizabeth resembles the “modern woman” and was consequently provided dialogue to accommodate. For a majority of viewers, this is their first introduction to Jane Austen and this adaptation gives them an ease of entry into the world that was the Regency period.
Wright’s film offers a few contrasts to Austen’s initial story. One incredibly noticeable difference in the film is that it takes place in 1797, the year Austen actually wrote her novel, as opposed to being taking place in 1813 and being set around the time of publication. Furthermore, the film also provides a more accurate illustration of the characters, portraying the middle class Bennet family as vigorous and crude and utilising dim lighting that is more genuine to the setting. The alarmingly unpolished family, with their dull fashions is a considerably unique representation compared to the refined Bennets presented in other film versions. Offering a distinct contrast to the humble Elizabeth Bennet is the vanity of Fitzwilliam Darcy that Wright magnifies through the character’s deviation from the simplistic and fearless hero, with Darcy taking pleasure in a deliberate and stern dialogue. Darcy’s portrayal makes it more alluring for the audience to learn that Elizabeth may have indeed been wrong in her assumption of Darcy as devoid of emotions. Just as Jane’s sincere and modestly-natured character represents a picturesque contrast to Elizabeth’s often sceptical prejudices about men and courtship, Bingley’s character is presented as foolish and unwise in this version, fumbling his role and therefore it is a real surprise to find the stupefied Bingley is Darcy’s best friend.
Wright’s editorial direction allows the audience to be privy to several scenes presented from male characters’ perspectives that weren’t obtainable in Austen’s novel, which according to many critics, relates to women “in a way that men will never understand”. A favoured scene which is indicative of this is when Bingley and Darcy role play, over-analysing scenarios by the river bank. The preceding scene was one which showed the women’s point of view but as the dialogue of the men proceeds we realize that the pair’s visit to the Bennets, to make their intentions with Jane and Elizabeth known, have been halted by the fact that their host Mrs. Bennet never extended them an invitation to be seated, which in terms of mannerisms gave them no choice but to deviate from their plan and depart the household. Any man who walks away cursing themselves for their failure to attain the more favourable outcome in asking someone out will be identifiable, with women recognising that like them, men too, excessively obsess.
Perhaps the most acknowledgeable feature of this cinematic version is the romantic fashion that the producers have adopted; revelling in the classic structure and style of which Austen fans are so fond. Of the three cinematic adaptations this is the only memorable film of the three, having kept with the alluring, grand and symbolic illustration of Pemberley. It is during Elizabeth’s tour of Darcy’s estate that she recognises her feelings for him are evolving. The tension of this scene is heightened by the coincidental return of Darcy, Elizabeth having mistakenly believed he was away. The “wet-shirt” scene was a cheeky addition by the writers and has become an iconic element of popular culture and later satirised in Lost In Austen.
Furthermore, the film also remains accurate in the characterisation of Darcy; his unselfish love for Elizabeth and the dignifying way he accommodates her aunt and uncle are further trumped by his valiant and selfless rescue of the Bennet reputation, demonstrating that not only is his love for her both pure and unconditional but that his concern is for the happiness of both her and her family.
Eventually, Elizabeth accepts Darcy’s hand in marriage, complying with the social norms of the time. This delicate reciprocation of emotions was illustrated without any physical interactions other than the holding of hands and the actors’ foreheads gently touching. However, this portrayal of restraint only intensifies the romance, with the audience made painfully aware that for all intents and purposes the physical chemistry will eventually be realised.
There have also been several movies inspired by the novel but filmed with modern characters. Fielding has admitted that Bridget Jones was “loosely based on Pride and Prejudice”  , with a romantic hero named Darcy and the main character, Bridget, torn between a pompous hero and a handsome villain. Meanwhile, 2003’s Pride and Prejudice: A Latter Day Comedy is an adaption with a modern editorial approach similar to that of Bridget Jones, whilst 2004’s Bride and Prejudice is an adaption with a modern story utilising the features of traditional and modern Bollywood. The quirkiest adaption is that of the British Lost In Austen miniseries which was made in 2008 and narrates the adventure of Amanda Price, a modern woman who is in love with the Jane Austen phenomenon of Pride and Prejudice. When Elizabeth Bennet appears in Amanda’s bathroom, the two subsequently exchange lives: Amanda taking Elizabeth’s place in the greatest love story.
Just as Austen enticed viewers with her treatment of love and courtship, Helen Fielding took a zestful interest in the revolutionised and social convention given to female writers during the 1990’s when she put a modern perspective on Pride and Prejudice with Bridget Jones’s Diary. The acclaimed novel, produced in the form of a comical diary written by a compulsively overweight, single British woman, became one of the most renowned chick flicks. The inspiration for Fielding’s modernisation was her own friend Sharon Maguire, who in the novel was portrayed by Bridget’s friend Shazza and was favoured to deliver the book to film. Fielding, who adapted her novel for the big screen, produced this adaptation with two key similarities to former versions. Fielding worked alongside reputable screenwriter Andrew Davies, who had adapted the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice and the casting of the lead male protagonist as Colin Firth. Firth’s fine portrayal of Fitzwilliam Darcy in the BBC mini-series helped to determine the Darcy prototype and just as women came to worship the actor, so did Fielding, who became captivated by his portrayal so much that she used Firth as her inspiration for Mr. Darcy in Bridget Jones.
In keeping with Fielding’s decision Firth was cast in Maguire’s film, starring as the modern Darcy, today better known as Mark Darcy and depicting “the archetype of Atticus Finch as a human rights barrister and a champion of justice.”  His character is a contrast to that of Wickham which was personified by Hugh Grant, as the rugged and brooding Daniel Cleaver, boss at the publishing company Bridget worked for. The company name Pemberley Press is a subtle acknowledgement of Darcy’s great estate in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. After an extensive search to cast the role of Bridget, Renee Zellweger was cast and having added twenty-five pounds and adopted a convincing pommy accent, earned an Academy Award nomination for her convincing role.
Although attempting to remain as true as possible to the original reference novel by Austen, the counterplot that sees Lydia elope with Wickham in the initial version was obliterated by Fielding and the Bennet family is transformed into Bridget’s supportive clan of thirty something single friends. Fielding replaced Lydia with the character of Bridget’s mother, however, she stays true to her source material with Bridget’s mother having a midlife crisis, leaving her husband for the smooth moves of an infomercial spokesman with an endless sex drive. Unlike Lydia in the original, Mrs Jones realises her mistake and returns home to her husband. This alternative plot adds a feminist twist as we watch a mother and daughter both seeking independence and a sense of place in their life. Bridget’s mother was seeking power, a career and a satisfying sex life that as a housewife she had so desperately longed for, in the same way that women today seek freedom. Meanwhile Bridget offers a contrast, appearing to already have everything it is her mother seeks; already being financially independent with a steady career and having a great sexual experience with her boss, Daniel Cleaver. However, just as her mother did, she too comes to a realisation after Cleaver announces his engagement to his young American lover from the New York office, realising that she wants more than just sexual experience – she wants a steady relationship which is probably most indicative of the one she experienced while growing up.
Despite the film being similar to that of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones’s Diary is told through a comical illustration that without a doubt results in an alteration of the spirit of Jane Austen’s novel. Bridget’s dignity suffers many public humiliations compared with Austen’s subtle treatment of Elizabeth Bennet. Whilst it makes a change to see that Bridget can still be idolised despite being a heroine with identifiable flaws, Bridget stupefies the beloved Elizabeth archetype into a smoke and alcohol guzzler who is blunt and clumsy, making the whims of men her priority, thus cheapening the values of Austen’s novel. Bridget eventually wises up and tries to rid herself of her bad habits, buying herself multiple self-help books that offer little advice about her problems with men. Bridget’s character is seen placing a new book on her shelf entitled Women Who Love Men Are Mad but we understand that like many self help books this one will be of little use.
Despite the daydream fantasies of marrying Cleaver, it is Darcy with whom Bridget eventually finds happiness. As opposed to Austen’s stylised marriage proposal, Darcy provides Bridget with the most sincere compliment he possibly could, saying “I like you just the way you are”  after the pair keep meeting each other in a series of awkward and embarrassing scenarios. Replicating modern and comical romances, Bridget Jones’s Diary has a typical ending, although instead of Darcy and Bridget agreeing on a traditional church wedding, we as viewers are left to our own imagination. We realise that because the intention is present, they’ll eventually get around to it but that first Darcy has made a heroic gesture and met Bridget on her own terms on her side of town. Clearly Bridget’s time is a lot more accommodating than that of Elizabeth Bennet’s.
In Bride and Prejudice, the Bollywood film by Chadha, the Bennets have been renamed, now becoming the Bakshis who are a middle class family of Indian ethnicity. Differing to the source material, Chadha’s version is without one daughter, with four singing and dancing sisters fulfilling the roles of the original Bennet sisters whilst also making the family and ensembles more symmetrical. At first, critics were sceptical that Jane Austen could be told through a musical, however, critics were impressed by Chadha’s use of music as a vocal expression of the women. The songs serve a narrative technique of the women who are initially submissive because of their existence in the male dominated society of India where a woman’s value is determined based on the type of husband she takes and thus each song adds to the narration.
In this production, Elizabeth’s archetype is renamed Lalita and is portrayed by Aishwarya Rai, who was enchanting in her first one hundred percent English performance. Rai sought for it to be her natural beauty that shone through with her volatile wit as she contests millionaire hotel owner Will Darcy, who was played by Martin Henderson. Chadha’s script is celebrated because of the take on romance and because it is one of a minority of Western films which depicts the sassiness of the Elizabeth character as opposed to the innocence. Henderson was drawn to the chance to portray the Darcy archetype already established by other adaptations which starred actors such as Colin Firth, saying he was “excited at the prospect of portraying Darcy in a setting that was unique”. (make point here about what new cultural insight this version brings)
“Ridiculous, but immensely enjoyable. Jane Austen’s most enduringly popular story done as a Bollywood musical comedy, with a callow American millionaire, and the ravishing and smartly alert Elizabeth Bennet. The ballroom scene is turned into a sprightly Bollywood production number; in the street bazaars, cross-dressers and goofy guys with turbans break into dance. It’s a travesty, of course, but also an exuberant, good-hearted movie, and it won’t corrupt you or Jane Austen.” 
Reviewing the minor movie premiere of Pride and Prejudice: A Latter Day Comedy, may appear unnecessary. However, this Pride and Prejudice adaption is perhaps relevant as it has the exact title of Jane Austen’s novel. Although, with this as its tag line, this film appears to invite impulse purchases from Pride and Prejudice fans, who might find it useful to have some prior intelligence of the film.
Pride and Prejudice: A Latter Day Comedy copies its title one hundred percent, although only mimics sixty percent of its storyline. This adaption also removes Austen’s fundamental themes to leave only the theme of prejudice. “The film deals, in detail, with the dangers of making rapid first impressions. However, the film fails to elevate itself above the bargain bin status which it currently holds”.
With a modern day Utah setting, thus its “Latter Day” title, this film is just as Jan Austen’s Emma was when it was Hollywoodized into Clueless. With its modern setting, director Andrew Black, is able to bring to life a new Elizabeth Bennet, who is now a striving student and ambitious writer. The romance between Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy, who is a British publisher, is the vertebrate to the story, despite the large role of the malicious Jack Wickham. In the place of four sisters, Elizabeth now has four housemates; Jane, Mary, Lydia and Kitty. Similar to previous Pride and Prejudice adaptations, Elizabeth is ignored by Darcy just as Jane is captivated by Bingley and Caroline, who is Bingley’s sister, is keen on Darcy. However, we also have our new versions of ns of characters such as Jack Wickham, Charlotte and Collins. As well as being confronted with changing characters, we have also lost some characters including Mr and Mrs Bennet and Lady Catherine. Furthermore, the appearances of Collins have also been unified.
The confrontation between Darcy and Elizabeth takes place in a bookstore when Darcy insults Elizabeth. The relationship between the two further decays when Darcy criticizes the book Elizabeth sends to his firm for publication. It isn’t until Elizabeth is forced to take shelter from a storm in Darcy’s cabin that she warms to him. Darcy extends an invitation to Elizabeth to dry off and it is here that Elizabeth first meets Darcy’s little sister. This scene had the potential to be nice, except for the fact that Georgina was in the routine of aligning random vowels together in a sort of whale-like imitation that makes it almost impossible to understand what it is she is saying.
Excerpts from the novel are flashed at intervals across the screen. The con to this technique being that the context of these excerpts is then lost, with the relevance of several quotations becoming rather insignificant. This adaption would have been more significant had only a few of Austen’s plot details been borrowed, especially considering that the most entertaining scenes of this adaption are original scenes. Andrew Black would have perhaps been best off forgetting the idea of making this an adaption and instead just changing the title of his film. However, this adaption might just make younger generations become inclined to pick up and read Jane Austen’s novel, which can only be a positive thing.
The result of this film is that it is an enjoyable family movie that relates something of a positive message about ” “clean” romantic comedies that never tries to sanitize the story or get as zany as what happened with “Clueless.” . Undoubtedly, Austen fanatics will take offence, but then again true purists can just opt to watch the BBC and A&E adaption again for the hundredth time.” 
On a striking note, Bride and Prejudice presents India’s economic status, illustrating the struggle between classes, of which the Bakshi family are symbolic, with the display of Lalita’s pride for the disadvantaged and impoverished native Indians who have chosen to battle on instead of rolling over to America being intensified greatly. As an audience member who is amongst a performing population and who has a sense of one’s self-respect, Chadha’s adaption is the first that makes Elizabeth real, bringing the character home, creating a sense of distrust towards the vulgarly privileged and wealthy. Majority of the misunderstandings that occur between Lalita and Darcy are centred around opposing cultures, Eastern and Western perspectives, with over half of them having a centre of economic status which illustrates Austen’s Pride and Prejudice source material as relating more pivotal than just a simple telling of comical manners. Balraj, Darcy’s renamed Bingley, is finally given validation with his appearance as handsome and intelligent but what is more impressive is the justice he is given with his role more specific, having been given more to work with than the usually fumbling and charitable contrast to our snobbishly privileged Darcy. Balraj’s character also acts as a mid way point between the two extremes of East and West. Once more, yet another character, the boring Mr. Collins has been renamed Mr. Kohli. Mr. Kohli, the distant cousin of the Bennet’s is still represented as a trivial and stupefied character but this time in the form of a comical element, an accountant that left India in the hopes of becoming wealthy, moving to Los Angeles.
The admitted distrust of Wickham is also heightened when Darcy tells Lalita of the danger he poses to young women, informing her that not only had he attempted to elope with his younger sister but he had also gotten her pregnant. Although the results of the pregnancy aren’t spoken of and a baby is never heard of, makes Chadha’s viewers jump to the assumption that Darcy’s sister chose to have an abortion.
Increasing the attraction of Lalita to Darcy, Chadha illustrates yet another connection, replacing the role of Lady Catherine De Bourgh, Austen’s aunt who wishes her daughter to marry Darcy, with Darcy’s domineering mother who is equal to that of Lalita’s mother. The variable between the pair is that although Lalita’s mother acts foolishly in trying to marrying off her daughters, she has their welfare at heart whereas Darcy’s mother is overbearing, trying to arrange his marriage to a non-ethic blonde, which intensifies the underpinning theme of racial prejudice. This undercurrent is perhaps indicative of Chadha’s personal relationship, her marriage to a man of different ethnicity to herself. Bride and Prejudice isn’t the first film by Chadha to highlight interracial romances, her earlier works which included What’s Cooking and Bend It Like Beckham also deals with the issue, making some good points regarding the problems that both families could potentially face with interracial relationships. However, the two, Lalita and Darcy realize that their love is worth facing the prejudices, the parental and societal pressures, which sees the two finally commit to one another at the end of the film.
Lost in Austen premiered in Britain in 2008 and stars Jemima Rooper as our lead female protagonist Amanda Price. Amanda is a woman who is captivated and contented by Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. After a confronting look at her life, she questions her decisions and reflects on her aspirations. Upon entering her bathroom, she sees Elizabeth Bennet who has come to her through a secret passage way in her bathroom wall. Amanda switches places with Elizabeth and arrives in Longborne at the beginning of the story. As expected, her presence continually alters the course of the story; with her attempts to correct all of the mishaps she has caused becoming the centre of the film. A comfort to Jane Austen fans is that thankfully, Amanda does not try to fulfil the role of Elizabeth but instead is announced as Elizabeth’s visiting friend. A commendation must be paid to this miniseries for it is impeccably produced and does not make a mockery of Jane Austen’s work, despite its comical plot.
The miniseries itself is the definition of impulsive, producing a common occurrence of laughter. However, as a viewer one does have to accept that Amanda has unexpectedly travelled through time and therefore one must be able to forgive the social blunders made by Amanda as a modern day woman who is uneasy about whether or not her journey is exciting or filled with terror as she fears her predicament is a result of medical reasons. Although, the modern responses to the offences and societal slights are enabling and the kind of occurrence that for just once, one hopes to observe a modest character of Austen’s to act. Overall, it is the kind of film that one wishes to emerge oneself in, losing themself in an unknown world that is both simultaneously familiar and strange, that will allow for laughter along the way. Naturally, knowing the story of Pride and Prejudice only adds to the vexation of viewers.
Lost in Austen is not a suitable film for Jane Austen or Pride and Prejudice enthusiasts. The BBC and A&E provided the world with an accurate and comprehensive portrayal of the Pride and Prejudice story in 1995 when Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle starred as the protagonists, which in 2005 was followed by Helen Fielding’s shortened version which starred Keira Knightley. Lost in Austen is a film for viewers who love the original characters created by Jane Austen and who wish to see these characters in both new light and scenarios. It is assumed viewers will have some sort of comprehension of the narrative, just as both previous adaptations and Amanda did as they channelled their way through the story. Lost in Austen has taken liberties with the story, which Austen would perhaps dislike, but nevertheless the central message and the spirit of Austen’s original characters have been accounted for.
In You’ve Got Mail by Nora Ephron, which was influenced by Pride and Prejudice, Meg Ryan informs Tom Hanks that “Elizabeth Bennet is perhaps one of the greatest and most complex literary characters ever written” [