After reading the Andre Bazin essay on “Film Adaptation”, which was edited by James Naremore, I decided that I would look at one of Jane Austen’s novels which was adapted for the cinema in 1941 as well as several times post 1975. The first adaptation of the novel “Pride and Prejudice’ offered Laurence Olivier, an icon of British culture and one of the most famous actors of his day in the leading role of Darcy. This was a classic novel that was well-known to the average cinema-going public as many may not only have read the novel but had some knowledge of the original and so expected its theme to be faithfully produced on the screen. Famous actors were used by the producers to ensure commercial success with the public.
Although it is alleged that most films that are based on novels merely usurp their titles, this was not one of them. This is one of the film adaptations that tells its audience about the culture of its times and prepares the way for the adaptations of Austen’s other novels. Jane Austen is forever associated with ideas of a once golden age for country gentry in England. The Austen films made after 1995 compare favorably with those made before that period. The post 1995 film produced by the BBC with Colin Firth as Darcy, spares no expense in order to give the right impression of the dream world with sophisticated camera work, and its well-known stars. This story quietly emerged from a group of intimately connected individuals and most often focused the audience on the external appearances of some secret humiliation. The camera proceeds to regale us throughout the relationship of Darcy and Elizabeth from his refusal to dance with her at the first party, thus shifting his judgment of Elizabeth’s personal qualities to her social origins; and continues with sidelong glances to direct contemplation and eventually to mutual admiration. Moreover, Basin asserts, that adaptation for the public is inseparable from adaptation for the cinema, insofar as the cinema is more “public” than the novel.