When I first heard that a new Pride and Prejudice film was in the works, I was both apprehensive and excited. I had seen every single film adaptation made of my favorite Jane Austen book and considered the A&E version starring Colin Firth as Mr Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett the end-all. As a miniseries, it was able to closely follow the book and not omit any of the wonderful parts that made the novel a classic. With a movie made for the big screen, important plot twists and scenes would have to be removed to fit in the allotted time. It was with slight trepidation that I watched the new version, but I quickly found myself caught up in the breathtaking scenery and the witty repetoire between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. At first, I felt I was betraying Colin Firth by enjoying the new film. However, I have managed to come to terms with my love for both movies.
As for my love of the 2005 version, let me start by saying that Colin Firth will always be Mr. Darcy. He can play as many roles as he wants, but that man is forever stuck in my mind as Mr. Darcy. Keeping that in mind, however, Matthew Macfadyen was an excellent choice to follow in his footsteps. I even have discovered I prefer Keira Knigthley as Elizabeth. She brings a lively and defiant air that surpasses that of Jennifer Ehle. I also approve of Claudie Blakley as Charlotte Lucas, who is more homely and reserved than the actress who portrayed her in the previous film. Charlotte is a plain girl, who has become a burden on her parents because she can't find a husband. She is so scared of her situation that she will accept the proposal of the foolish Mr. Collins. The 1995 Charlotte is well-spoken and pretty. It's not believable that she wouldn't have had any marriage offers yet. As for the lovely Jane, Rosemary Pike is perfect, clearly upstaging her younger sisters with her grace and beauty. While the 1995 version was less beautiful than Elizabeth, it's clear with Rosemary Pike that men would have flocked to her over her sister.
One of the new film's greatest strengths is that it has a much more realistic appearance in the set design and clothing. The Bennetts are not of extensive property or wealth, but you wouldn't know that from the 1995 film. The 2005 film has Elizabeth and her sisters dressing in plain, brown frocks and living in a small house where the pigs walk through the kitchen and clothes are drying in the sun. The stately home in the 1995 version gives the impression that the Bennetts are well-to-do and the girls always have something new to wear, which was not how Jane Austen wrote them to be. Netherfield and Pemberely are also more grand in scale and beauty in this film. They literally take your breath away, just as Jane Austen described them in her book.
I can't stress enough how perfectly suited Colin Firth is to the role of the pompous yet amiable Fitzwilliam Darcy. When you first see him in the 1995 version, you know you are looking on an important and proud man. The look on his face when he stares at the object of his affections, Elizabeth, is perfect in every respect. Along with Colin Firth, there are other actors that perfectly fit their roles. Alison Steadman is absurdely funny as the conniving Mrs. Bennett whose only concern, apart from her health, is getting her daughters married. As for the sleazy but sophisticated Mr. Wickham, Adrian Lukis is the far better actor for the part with his blend of charm and pitifulness. You feel for Wickham and just as quickly hate him. The other roles are superbly acted by both sets of actors, who each give them depth and heart.
To summarize, it's not a crime to love both films. It's hard to compare the two because one is a miniseries and one is a regular film, but they each have their good points and their lows. I would advise everyone to look on each as a seperate entity and not to judge them too harshly. Just remember: if you want the best...go read the book.