I just posted the latest entry in the Fraser Correspondence, Simon Tanner’s reply to Mélanie’s letter of last week. When I sat down to write it and pondered what Simon might discuss, I realized that of course 1813 (he is writing in May of that year) is the year “Pride and Prejudice” was published. So Simon writes to Mélanie having just finished reading “Pride and Prejudice”. The book has left him filled with admiration and feeling rather inadequate about his own writing (a bit of my own perspective as a writer creeping through here).

As I mention in my recently expanded bio, the 1940 movie of “Pride and Prejudice” was my first introduction to the Regency. Yes, the costumes are updated to something more like the late 1830s, but the movie sent me to the book and then to other Austen books. I fell in love with Austen’s novels and with the era in which they were written. The time period continues to fascinate me, and I keep going back to Austen’s novels and to the film adaptations.

I’m still very fond of the 1940 Laurence Olivier-Green Garson movie. I know the costumes are the wrong era and the story is truncated and rearranged. But to me, the Aldous Huxley-Jane Murfin script captures a wonderful dry, satirical note that I love in the story (while at the same time having some beautifully romantic moments). I also love the A&E version with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth and the recent movie with Keira Knightley and Mathew McFadyen. All of the film adapations capture different things I like in the book. None is precisely and completely my vision of the story. I think because the book is so rich and has so many layers and complexiites to explore. It’s a bit like seeing different productions of a Shakespeare play and getting new things each time one sees it. Each adaptatin has made me see new things in the book. For instance, in the Keira Knightley version, in the scene where Elizabeth insists she won’t marry Mr. Collins, for the first time I had a sense that she is actually afraid her father may take her mother’s side and insist on the marriage. This really drove home the precarious economic circumstances of the Bennet family.

I have videos or dvds of all three adaptions and of many other Austen film adaptions, which I watch frequently. I’m writing this with the score for the 2005 movie playing in the background. And I’m planning a reread of “Pride and Prejudice” and then “Persuasion” or “Emma” this summer.

What about you? Was your first introduction to Jane Austen from reading one of her books or seeing a film adapation? Do you have a favorite film version of “Pride and Prejudice” or another Austen novel?