Pride and Prejudice and Cinematography

\”Dawn\” Opening Song

There are numerous things I could go on about in this movie and I’ll probably do a separate post to go over some of that. For now I’m going to consolidate a good portion of that so that it fits the assignment. For a first time director Joe Wright, with the aid of his cinematographer Roman Osin, manage to create a visually stunning film without CGI(Computer Generate Images). They manage to capture the beauty of the English country and than some. One of the things that make those scenes so stunning is how they managed to really bring out the colors and use lighting to their advantage.

So going to the assignment. I’ve chosen the first scene partly because of what I mentioned above. It’s visual amazing. The first images you see apart from credits is a lush field with vividly green forest surrounding it. The greenery is is something that was amazingly captured, here as well as the scene at the moors with Darcy at the end. Back to the point, they show varying shades of green, blue, and purple to really generate that really wet, misty, early morning look. The fact that there is a pale yellow/blue sky with a rising sun on the tree line helps to bring out the colors. This picture alone is enough to make me want to keep watching. Another lovely side part to this scene is the birdsong that plays briefly.

The song “Dawn” creeps in over the birds as you continue to watch this lovely view the sun rises to the point that it’s rays burst into the camera and allows a soft transition to our first glimpse of Elizabeth reading a book. We follower her, with the music picking up, and even get an over the shoulder shot to emphasize the fact that she is reading as well as walking.

Those first two scenes alone really set a nice easy tone. We are watching a Jane Austen film so it is not like we’re going to be immediately drawn in by gunfire or explosions. We also get our first glimpse of Elizabeth and gives subtle hints at her character that come up again later in the film. The sunlight shining over her also gives a bit of a glow to her as well.

Moving on we get more subtle background information by showing a long side shot of Elizabeth walking to the house. We see some servants, chickens, pigs, linens hanging to dry. Small things but again it helps to set up where the film is at as well as how the characters are living.

We get to another wonderful transition. A nice medium side shot of Elizabeth walking past a door. As soon as she passes it and leaves the frame the camera moves in at a smooth steady pace. The camera work that follows is done rather well. The camera is kept relatively shoulder height to the majority of the characters and moves around as if it is an invisible third party.

Inside the house the music gets crescendos with the increase of activity in the house. We get to see our first view of the sisters. A brief shot of Jane being rather plain. Lydia and Kitty go running wildly through the house and as we follow them a bit we see Mary playing the piano. All of the passing shots are very brief as the camera continually moves, but again the glimpses are accurate bullet points of the characters behavior throughout the film.

As the camera continues it’s way through the dinning room we arrive at another door and move towards it where we meet up with Elizabeth again. Another lovely little bit comes into play here. As Elizabeth looks into the window and the camera watches over her shoulder we hear what Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are going on about; Mr Bingley. As soon as Elizabeth looks away we no longer hear them. It is a sort of out of sight out of mind approach.

The camera work changes the most here. You get close up shots of the daughters crowded around the doorway eves dropping. You never clearly hear what is being said behind the door except when the camera is looking at the door or through the crack in the doorway. Apart from those snippets you receive the information from the daughters discussing about it hurriedly. The music has also dissipated at this point to focus on the words being exchanged.

The camera work here is a bit jerky, however it reflects the movements of the characters. As everyone rushes to follow Mr. Bennet, the camera moves amongst them and the following shots are disorienting and really only serve to give you an idea of the movement of the girls. A few medium and close up shots of the family follow and after Mr. Bennet finishes talking the camera does close-ups on the girls reactions. The music also picks up again hear and gets louder and faster mimicking the reaction on screen.

The final shot is of the camera pulling back to reveal the house. Apart from again setting the scene the shot really establishes how much work and detail was put into the set design as well as the care they took in the lighting, focus, lenses, filters, etc. to get these stunning shots.

Overall the sequence really shows how much work was put into the visual aspects of the film and how the amount of detail, in the house, out of the house and on the characters really helps make the movie work. Apart from the fact that I think Donald Sutherland steals every scene that he is in, the films greatest accomplishments come from the visual work. If you watched just this opening sequence you could pretty much give a good summary of the basic details of the characters personalities, the location, their social status, etc.


Posted on April 10, 2011, in Old Nic At The Movies Posts. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I agree that the opening snapshot of rural England is stunning. It also makes me think of how the film more closely ties nature into the themes of the film, which didn’t seem to be so much the case in the book. It begins in the open countryside before moving into the manor, Darcy first proposes to Elizabeth outdoors in a thunderstorm, he returns to her again out of the fog in the garden, and the last scene is set on the lake at Pemberly.

    The idea of the initial scenes as bullet points or snapshots of the Bennets’ characterizations is also interesting. Mr. Bennet is sarcastic, Mrs. Bennet is needling, Lydia and Kitty are crazy and energetic, Mary is contemplative and obsessed with the piano, and Jane is reserved. In addition to alluding to her bookish nature, the beginning sequence of Jane shows her as apart from her family and much more a part of nature.

  2. To add onto that image of nature, we keep seeing packs and bunches of animals throughout the film, some with adequate reasons and some without. There’s a herd of deer that show up at one point for no explained reason, but there’s also (I LOVED this) a flock of geese that show up after Elizabeth turns Mr. Collins down. They fly around the characters all through the scene, cawing and honking to beat the band, and perfectly mimicking the deranged screeching of Mrs. Bennet as she chases Lizzy around the park.

    As for Nic, all I can say is ‘well analyzed, sirrah!’ I can’t speak for the class, but I forget most of the time that there are subtle meanings in every scene, establishing shots or not. Excellent job of showing us some of them.

  3. I agree that one of the major successes of this film is its use of light. As I was watching the film again, I noticed how the light used in the film managed to make everything look much more beautiful and soft. Especially the scenes that were shot during the night or in the dark. The light always seemed to create a very soft atmosphere during those moments. I also appreciate the fact that you mentioned the music of this film. I believe the composer did a fine job of adding to the visually stimulating atmosphere with his music…even though he used many of the same musical themes over and over again.

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