Why Joe Wright’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Remains a Period Drama Staple

Elizabeth Bennet standing before a lake in Pride and Prejudice 2005

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when regarding Pride and Prejudice adaptations, fans will consistently argue which Mr. Darcy is the best. The answer here is a simple one—all of the above. Whether it’s Colin Firth, Matthew MacFadyen, Matthew Rhys, or Sam Riley, they’re each astounding in their right. And while we individually have our favorites, various factors in the adaptations make them all period drama staples. However, when it comes to the scenery and depiction of pure escapism, Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice 2005 takes the crown.

No woman (or any person from a minority group) would travel back in time to Regency England to live in a state of hopeless oppression. Yet, Wright’s Pride and Prejudice fully displays the essence of romance and dream-like landscapes that we long for when reading historical novelsWhat he captures here isn’t the raw truth, but it’s a perfect kaleidoscope that brings to life reverence, ease, and an indescribable comfort for which there are no words. Pair his visionary direction with the phenomenal cast and Dario Marianelli and Jean-Yves Thibaudet’s original score, and we’re in for an amazing form of escapism.

Joe Wright Captures Settings Perfectly in Pride and Prejudice 2005

Elizabeth standing on a clifftop in Pride and Prejudice 2005.
©Focus Features

In more ways than one, the setting plays a crucial role in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Pemberley alone is significant for Elizabeth Bennet’s ability to see Mr. Darcy in a new light. And in Pride and Prejudice 2005, Joe Wright releases an incandescent glow in every location, whether the countryside where the story opens or the elaborate balls. (We know and understand why Mr. Darcy is bewitched because so are we.) There’s a warmth in Wright’s vision that allows even the dreariest locations, like swamps, to feel like we’re in collections of splendor.

The film captures the audience’s attention from the start with its immediate focus on daylight, drawing us to pay attention to the sun rising from a distance while we stand in the empty field. As the morning brightens before our eyes and the track “Dawn” hits, the bright sunlight cascading its glow and leading into Kiera Knightley’s Elizabeth Bennet reading makes the world feel like magic for a moment. As she walks the small bridge with geese splashing in the water and laundry hung to dry into the rowdy Bennet house, we’re still basking from the glow. Wright’s slow, deliberate long shots to show us every detail are extraordinary.

Mr. Darcy walking toward Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice
©Focus Features

In every scene where the sunlight casts its flame, the editing ensures that viewers feel at ease. And it’s this very emotion that translates so boisterously off-screen, ensuring that throughout the narrative, we’re engulfed by a warmth we can’t find the right words for. The wholesome and indescribable countrysides that romance novels capture, Wright shows exquisitely in Pride and Prejudice 2005. In this film, every setting is crucial to storytelling (as in other films as well). Still, here it’s the brightness we’re meant to fall for—the daybreaks and twilights we long profoundly for.

It’s ultimately why nearly every shot in the film is worth a thousand words. Viewers could sit for hours marveling at the film’s ability to capture the muggy comfort of rain and the warmth of early morning afterglows. We see much of this beauty in every shot, including Darcy dropping off the letter, characters turning about the room, and every blurry moment drawing to a sharp focus. The setting and performances effortlessly capture the feelings of longing that underscore human curiosities pristinely. How many people have walked to a clifftop, stared at what’s ahead and found that no words could do the view justice? Nature is healing and indescribable, feeding into our desires to know and understand more than what’s right in front of us. And as it stands, the film evokes these wonders through every brilliant frame.

Chatsworth House as Pemberley Is the Most Dazzling Location 

A shot of Chatsworth House in England as Pemberley in Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice
©Focus Features

Both Pride and Prejudice 2005 and Death Comes to Pemberley use the real-life Chatsworth House for Darcy’s ancestral home, bringing to its finery an ineffable place. (Visit the location if you’re even in Sheffield, England—tears are guaranteed.) In Austen’s novel, the site is crucial for Elizabeth and Darcy’s romance, and Wright’s version skillfully captures how every corner of the home helps Elizabeth Bennet realize she’s in love.

The first shot of Pemberley in the film is awe-inspiring—a kind of wondrous moment that encapsulates stillness and possibilities all at once. If nothing else, this juncture in the film deserves every accolade available for direction, cinematography, set design, etcetera. Death Comes to Pemberley captures much of this too, but Wright’s ability to give it the first big hit is nothing short of impressive. It pushes us to the third act brilliantly while leaving viewers gawking in admiration.

Pride and Prejudice 2005 might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the setting is worth every minute of its runtime. It’s the film that boldly exhibits why the countrysides feel like home even when the period might not be ideal. It redefines yearning as an emotion, diving deep toward escapism by adding beauty to the mundane. Wright takes a rather ordinary world full of bonnets, regulations, and busybodies and casts a glow on every field, carving a path we can’t help but want to waltz through.


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