Joe Wright’s interpretation of Pride & Prejudice is so successful because of the close attention to camera shots, angles, and camera movement. All of these support the film, and add subtle ways to enhance the message behind each scene.
One scene that exemplifies how the film brings the novel to life is in the first ball scene, which is public. The film shows the difference between the public ball and the private ball later on in the film. When the scene opens, the music can be heard from behind two main doors before the doors open to the camera. Once the doors open the music gets much louder. The dolly camera movement going through the doorway gives the viewer the feeling as if they themselves are walking into the crowded and noisy room. There is a long establishing shot to show the entire space where the ball is taking place. The people dancing are all clapping loudly, including the two youngest sisters and there are also many onlookers to the dancers. The music is diegetic, which we know for sure because there are people dancing along with it as well as the camera moving up to the second level where a band of people are playing.
To show the chaos of the room, there are quick cuts from person to person. The viewers see Kitty and Lydia dancing and trying to speak a few words of their conversation before spinning and continuing the dance. The focus is on the two sisters dancing, while the rest of the dancers have a softer focus to draw the eye to the main people of the shot, and to keep viewers from losing the sisters among the crowd. When the camera cuts to Elizabeth, her friend Charlotte, and her older sister Jane, they are trying to speak over the loud music. The three girls are laughing and talking while they keep an eye for the people, and especially the men in the room.
As soon Mr. Bingley, his sister, and Mr. Darcy arrive at the ball, we only see their three still outlines from the back and the rest of the dancers in front of them. The camera stays at eye level at this point, and although the dancers keep dancing for a moment, when many see that the three have arrived, the dancers stop and the diegetic music comes to an abrupt end. Jane and Elizabeth are in focus, while a few dancers in front of them are out of focus, as they try and see who has just arrived.
The dancers part and back away as the three make their way to the opposite side of the room, clearly showing the intimidation of the new arrivers. Mr. Bingley, his sister, and Mr. Darcy are more wealthy than any of the people attending the public ball, which is enhanced by the silenced music, and the quiet murmuring and attention they receive. As Mr. Darcy walks by Elizabeth he sees her and continues to stare as she bows her head down. There is a close-up shot of Elizabeth as she lifts her head and sees that Mr. Darcy is looking at her. A quick cut to a close-up shot of Mr. Darcy shows the viewer how he quickly averts his glance so Elizabeth will not see. The quick cut of the two close-up shots shows Mr. Darcy’s avoiding of eye contact.
When the three guests finally reach the opposite side of the room, there is one long shot showing the people attending the ball all staring before the diegetic music begins again and the dancers return to dancing as usual. When the Bennetts come to the Bingley’s to be introduced, the camera switches to a high angle looking down from over the shoulder of Mr. Bingley. This high angle puts the Bennetts in a subordinate position, reflecting their status in society compared to the people they are meeting.
This scene, while some components are obvious, other film additions require a second look. The various camera angles and movement add depth to the scene as well as changing what is seen in the mind while reading the book to what can be seen in the movie. The book is not lost in the film because of the close attention to what meaning can be shown through the screen.
For this analysis of the film Pride & Prejudice, I found it to be much easier than a text analysis, especially when I was given a simpler sheet of terms that include framing, focus, camera angles and movement, sound, and lighting. These terms were definitely new to me, but once I could read them over I was able to immediately recognize some of them by just seeing the scenes for the first time. I think that because I am a more visual person, the movie analyzing was easier than text.
When I wrote my paper about the ball scene, I replayed the scene over and over, sometimes only paying attention to one thing at a time. First I paid attention to only how the camera moved around the room. Next, I only tried to listen to the sound; loud or soft, and what feeling it gave. Next, I turned the sound off of the clip so that I could focus only on what the camera was doing to tell the story.
This was a great opportunity for me to see everything that goes behind what many can overlook in a movie. How intentional many of the scenes were with how the camera was positioned or how the camera moved astounded me, and I really enjoyed being able to pick up on these differences.
I think that there are some similarities between text and film in terms of analyzing, like how short sentences can convey a mood just like quick camera cuts can. A long flowing sentence can be just a meaningful as a dolly movement moving throughout a room. I think this paper allowed me to find something I enjoyed besides just watching the film.