Monday, March 11, 2013

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Jennifer Ehle. Colin Firth. Elizabeth Bennet. Mr. Darcy. BBC. Six episodes. Five hours. Classic.

I love this picture...

I was around eleven years old when I first saw this mini-series. I remember getting pretty bored, and very restless, but I watched it. Over and over in fact, because of my parents and older sister. I tried to understand what was going on, and waited for a view of a horse or a pretty dress. Whenever I did understand a bit or piece here or there, I was incredibly proud of myself, and tried even harder to understand even more. Nearly nine years, and probably at least thirty viewings later, I've got a handle on the story, but I'm still catching new intricacies every time.

I'm going to have to make a conscious effort here, to not cover every single bit of this movie. So if you think of anything I left out, just automatically assume I loved it - unless it's a change from the book; then just assume that I "tolerate it with equanimity."

First off, the cast. Overall, obviously, no complaints. I am especially impressed though, with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle as Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. They look great and sound great, but I love watching their reactions most of all; the subtleties there are so exquisite.

Watching Mr. Darcy's subtle smiles and expressions is one of my favorite things.

Everyone is well cast, and thanks to the five-hour run time, all get a little time of their own to shine in. Mr. Wickham (Adrian Lukis) is a great villain, and you almost feel bad that you have to dislike him; it's very rewarding though, to dislike the more obviously evil Lady Catherine (Barbara Leigh-Hunt) and Bingley's (Crispin Bonham-Carter) sisters (Lucy Robinson and Anna Chancellor). Mrs. Bennet and other more mildly annoying characters are just the right amount of annoying, and fun to laugh at along with Lizzy. None of the characters are perfect - the good, likable characters all have their flaws - and we love them even more for it. Every character is individually developed just like their book counterparts; everyone loveable in their own way.

The story was adapted very faithfully, carefully, from Jane Austen's beloved novel, maintaining all the main plot points perfectly, and, just as importantly, the theme, the feel and the point of the entire book. Along with the dialogue, Austen's dry wit and satire remains happily intact. The complex characters are understood and done justice through the writers as well as the actors - a team effort, with everyone giving their all.

Lydia (Julia Sawalha), Jane (Susannah Harker), Mary (Lucy Briers), Kitty (Polly Maberly, honest), and Lizzy (Jennifer Ehle). All wonderful.

 I should clarify that I definitely don't get either restless or bored watching this anymore, even with the large number of times I've seen it. I still pay attention, and make sure I never leave the room when one of my absolute favorite parts are coming up. Obvious moments like when Lizzy and Mr. Darcy dance at Netherfield, and the two proposal scenes make my list, but also some more understated moments. Like Lizzy's reaction as Mr. Bennet reads Mr. Collins' letter in the final episode. Or the way Lizzy plays with Mr. Wickham, then finally lets him know she knows he had lied after he's married Lydia. Or when Mr. Darcy rolls his eyes behind Lady Catherine's back... and every time he relinquishes an understated smile. And many other little moments. I don't often leave the room while this movie is playing.

The busy scenes are especially great, because the background is always so interesting, with people mingling in the background, and actually developing their characters even more while a couple characters in the foreground carry on a conversation. Brilliant - making the most of every minute.

And I still love those pretty dresses. I now appreciate the men's costumes as well though, and I like looking for the fashion differences in the characters, and determining whether they are caused by the character's personal tastes, or their position or rank in life. Same with the houses, furniture, food... it's all so interesting!

I think I want this dress...

Speaking of their life, that's another thing I love - it's foreign to me, so I love to see the way life was lived back then. What was normal, what was considered right, and then through Lizzy's eyes, what of those things were ridiculous and laughable. Not only do we learn how society worked then, we also learn that it was just as silly sometimes as practical people now know today's society to be. Some things never change. It's a little like this movie (like the novel) was made for people of the early 1800s, and to truly understand it, you have to understand the time. An obstacle sure, but once you're over it, the reward is extremely satisfying. In this category, I still have much to learn.

Much like Lizzy in this scene. Another great costume example too - Mr. Darcy favors his green coat, and I can see why!

Even without understanding the time well, or even all, there is still something to this story... a love story. And not just about two people who fell in love, but two characters - two realistic people, proud and prejudiced as they were, who changed themselves, built up a strong relationship, and acted their love. Austen knew her characters, and knew how to develop them and shape them into a story - a satire, a comedy, a drama. A romance. And everyone involved with bringing her vision to the screen in this version knew how to adapt her story; they knew how to carefully translate it - as literally and respectfully as possible - to a different medium. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how Austen is done.

-- 5/5 stars.

My third review for this challenge!


  1. Isn't it wonderful when you love a movie and it keeps surprising you after you've seen it dozens of times? When you can watch, not your favorite character, but someone in the background, and catch something new? When you have certain small moments or gestures that warm your heart even though, overall, they are kinda insignificant? I love movies like that!

    I first saw this in college, when my lit prof loaned me her VHS versions because she knew I'd like it. More than a decade after I graduated, she and I are still friends :-)

  2. Whew, I'm glad I waited to read your review until after I finished mine! ;) Your writing abilities never cease to amaze me. You managed to say exactly what I wish I could say; concisely explaining precisely what I think. I agree with every word. Great review! =)