But I think it's in the supporting cast as well as the two lead roles where P&P'05 has the edge. Several of the characters in P&P'95 - especially Mrs Bennet, Mr Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourgh - seemed to have been over-acted, to the point where they almost seemed to become caricatures, stereotypes rather than real people. The portrayal of these characters in particular was, I thought, more natural and relaxed in P&P'05.
All of the cast seemed to meld together seamlessly. This is something that the actors talked about in video interviews on the DVD - that those who played the Bennets really did become like a family of sorts during shooting. I know that sounds dreadfully cliche, but watching the onscreen chemistry between all of the actors, one almost has to believe it!
The other thing I wanted to highlight was the 'look' and 'feel' of the film.
The director of P&P'05, Joe Wright, would have been used to working with minuscule budgets and making the most of what he had, so when he was finally given the opportunity to make P&P'05, his first cinematic release, you can imagine what the result was bound to be. Breathtaking, stunningly beautiful scenes rich in detail. The scene of the Ball at the Assembly Rooms near the beginning of the film is a good example of what I'm talking about.
Masses of people dancing, talking, eating and drinking. It's an assault on the senses - the music, the heat, the smell - it does manage to convey the thrill and excitement the young Bennet sisters would have felt. (Of course we don't actually feel the stifling heat or smell anything, but the movie makes us imagine that we do - that's the whole point.)
The setting for film is the late 18th century. This is around the same time Austen wrote the first version of Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions, in 1796-7. Most other screen adaptions of the novel have been set in the 1810s, the time when P&P was finally published in 1813.
The variance in historical period is noticeable particularly in the costumes. In 1797, the empire line had only just begun its period of domination of women's fashion. Caroline Bingley wears wears high-waisted empire line dresses, the latest fashion from London. Most of the other female characters, however, wear dresses with lower waists. Also, compare the clothes and short hairdos of Darcy and Bingley with the more out-of-date outfits worn by many of the other men. And also the hairstyles of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mrs Gardiner - it's definitely the 18th century!
P&P'05 gives a much dirtier, grittier, and more down-to-earth picture of the world in which the Bennet family lived. I know that this has become a bit of a cliche, but in this instance I think the film really did capture the 'spirit' of the book.
One review at ChristianityToday.com sums it up nicely by likening P&P'95 to a beautifully detailed portrait of the Bennet family and P&P'05 to a dazzlingly colourful impressionist painting, beautiful in it's own right. (For the record, Christianity today also included P&P'05 in it's list of the 10 Most Redeeming Films of 2005. They even put together a Bible study for it!)
But what do you think? Which is you're favourite adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, and why?