It is a truth universally acknowledged, that every article written on Pride and Prejudice starts in the same way. Being a huge fan of the book myself, I have looked forward to sharing some of my views on the story for quite a while. Perhaps contrary to expectations, this will not be an article concentrating merely on the novel and the (I can safely say) most beloved BBC production featuring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. I decided to put my own prejudices on hold for a while, and to watch the cinematic adaptation of the 2009 novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I shall write down some of my thoughts on this adaptation in comparison to the original novel, the BBC series and the 2005 production of Pride and Prejudice featuring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen.
Let me begin to tell you all that I was most pleasantly surprised by Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. My skepticism faded almost directly at the beginning, caused by the nicely animated short history of England. In a few minutes time, all essential information about the zombie invasion in eighteenth century England is brought in a most charming way to the audience. By this time, all the questions I could possibly have were answered, allowing me to sit back and enjoy the rest of the movie.
One of the aspects I really liked, was the effort that was clearly put into the adding of the zombie-storyline to the original story in the most natural way. For example: Darcy admires Elizabeth’s figure while she is killing off zombies (as opposed to admiring her figure while she takes a turn across the room), and Jane riding on horseback in the rain is considered quite shocking – only this time it is because the rain will attract zombies. In these cases you can almost say that the zombie version just adds a few parts for the adult audience – like Roald Dahl did for some fairy tales: it tells us what could have really happened, as opposed to the ‘censured’ version by Jane Austen.
The interpretation of Lady Catherine the Bourgh is another thing I quite approved of. The character of Lady Catherine considers herself to be exactly as every woman should be. In Austen’s world, this means that she is of high rank, extremely wealthy and proficient in every ‘proper’ skill. The Lady Catherine portrayed by Lena Headey in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is – there is no other word for it – badass. She is an extremely skilled zombie slayer, who received her training in Japan – which is obviously better than China – and swaggers through the scenes accessorized with shining swords and an eye patch. In both interpretations, she is the most self-centered and over the top character imaginable.
Now the time has come to point out a negative aspect; and it is quite an important one. I did not enjoy the way in which Elizabeth was portrayed. I consider Elizabeth to be the ultimate role model. Not just for the other female characters or women living in the nineteenth century. In my opinion, she should be the role model for all people – then and now. She is a strong woman, by means of her independence and her intelligence. On this point the performance by Jennifer Ehle far outstrips both the versions by Keira Knightley and Lily James. Keira Knightley acts as if Elizabeth is supposed to be a frivolous high school girl (and why does she never close her mouth?) and Lily James’ Elizabeth is – despite the use of weapons and fighting skills – in my opinion not a strong woman. Throughout the movie, there seems to be a constant need to point out how intelligent Elizabeth is, rather than letting her actions and observations speak for themselves. Her use of language shows a disappointing lack of intellect and she does not seem to be able to stand by her own choices. This actually points in the direction of a rather positive conclusion: you have a better chance of dazzling me (and by extension lots of others – I dare say) by the casual usage of a philosophical citation than by pulling out your firearm.
I would have liked to compare the portrayal of all the characters, the sets, the use of language and the storyline of all three adaptations in contrast to the novel, but sadly that doesn’t quite seem to be possible, seeing the average length of an article. Furthermore, I had promised myself to limit my commentary as much as possible to the zombies-version. That being the case, I shall enlighten you with some of my random thoughts while watching this movie: ‘Omg, Matt Smith as Mr. Collins is even more adorable than I anticipated!’, ‘At least Mr. Darcy has been made to wear a wet, white shirt (although he is of course by no means able to reach the level of perfection of Colin Firth)’, ‘Nice of them to have included the British pronunciation of the word “scones”’, ‘Where did the zombies go at the end of the movie?’ and, most important of all, ‘What the hell is wrong with Darcy’s voice?’.
Concluding, I can say that, even though I have quite a few suggestions for a new Pride and Prejudice and Zombies adaptation (for example: try to stick more to the decorum described in the original novel to enlarge the bizarre contrast with the zombies), I am most pleasantly surprised by this one. This comes to show that even a very proud, snobbish girl can sometimes open herself to embrace the beauty of zombies and gore.