Pride & Prejudice (2005) Movie – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my eleventh selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are now closed but you can read the reviews and comment through 31 December 2013.

My Review:

I vividly remember sitting in the theatre in 2005 waiting for the curtain to rise on the new Pride & Prejudice movie starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden. I was excited that one of my favorite Jane Austen novels was being trotted out as a major motion picture. It had been 65 years since MGM released their theatrical version of Pride and Prejudice and I was looking forward to two hours of sumptuous costumes and eye-popping settings that were not set in the Victorian era! I had been reading about the Focus Features production for months on the Internet, especially at Austenblog, where the editrix Mags had been following the media promotional machine very closely. I had no idea who the British actor slated to portray the iconic romantic hero Mr. Darcy was. My sympathy for him was already acute. How could he possibly fill those big, black, shiny Hessian boots that Colin Firth’s strode about in so effortlessly in 1995? Queue fanfare music and red velvet curtain rising at the theater.

Since this movie was released eight years ago and has been available on DVD since February 2006, is there anyone left in the world who has not seen it? Just in case you don’t know what it is about here is the blurb and cast from the production notes:

Sparks fly when spirited Elizabeth Bennet meets single, rich, and proud Mr. Darcy. But Mr. Darcy reluctantly finds himself falling in love with a woman beneath his class. Can each overcome their own pride and prejudice?

Cast:

  • Mr. Bennet — Donald Sutherland
  • Mrs. Bennet — Brenda Blethyn
  • Jane Bennet — Roasamund Pike
  • Elizabeth Bennet — Keira Knightley
  • Mary Bennet — Talulah Riley
  • Kitty Bennet — Carey Mulligan
  • Lydia Bennet — Jena Malone
  • Sir William Lucas — Sylvester Morand
  • Charlotte Lucas — Claudie Blakley
  • Mr. Bingley — Simon Woods
  • Caroline Bingley — Kelly Reilly
  • Mr. Darcy — Matthew Macfadyen
  • Mr. Wickham — Rupert Friend
  • Mr. Collins — Tom Hollander
  • Lady Catherine de Bourg — Judi Dench
  • Colonel Fitzwilliam — Cornelius Booth
  • Mrs. Gardiner — Penelope Wilton
  • Mr. Gardiner — Peter Wight
  • Georgiana Darcy — Tamzin Merchant

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet dance in Pride and Prejudice 2005

Adapted from Jane Austen’s classic novel by Deborah Moggach, with a spit polish on the dialogue by Emma Thompson (un-credited), director Joe Wright had a definite vision of what his movie version of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice would be—and it is entirely different from what we had seen on screen or television before. Even though he assembled a fine cast of British actors, and a talented production team to relay concept, my first impressions were ill favored. However, the movie was appreciated by many and received four Academy Award nominations, including best actress for Knightley. Some Austen fans absolutely adored it—others not so much. I remained in the grey zone. Even after many years and several viewings, I was ambivalent, and that is the problem. The good stuff seemed to cancel out the bad stuff and left me in Switzerland.

Comparing it to its predecessors is unfair, but it is inevitable. This movie is only two hours and nine minutes long, versus the five hours plus 1995 BBC/A&E miniseries. For those who enjoyed the Colin Firth version, which attentively followed much of Austen’s plot and included many lines of her dialogue, the transition to a shorter length will seem truncated—and rightly so. Wright’s version is set in the late eighteenth century and not in the prettified early nineteenth century of the 1995 miniseries. Honestly, the fashions in the late eighteenth century are not as striking as the Regency era. Are we swayed by pretty things? Heck yes! The most disturbing difference in the two versions is in the social distinction between the two Bennet families. The 2005 version’s clothing, furnishing, attitudes and manners are decidedly lower in station, bordering upon peasant class. This stark contrast makes the chasm between the heroine Elizabeth Bennet’s lower-class landed gentry upbringing and the very wealthy and refined upper-class Mr. Darcy very wide indeed, and all the more amazing that he chooses her as his bride. Love truly wins the day. Austen still has the final say on many social issues she was chiding in her novel, but the Byronic depths that screenwriter Moggach and director Wright use to achieve their vision of the story were disappointing. Of note: Austen would have cringed during the first proposal scene with Elizabeth and Darcy. Her hero was never meant to be a wet, sad-eyed puppy, nor her heroine tempted to kiss him.

Matthew Macfadyen as Mr Darcy in the rain PandP 2005

At the risk of sounding like sour grapes, I will say that there were changes and interpretations that I did like. The family dynamics were interesting to watch in both the Bennet and the Bingley household. The Bennet sisters seemed more in tune with each other and concerned for their welfare. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are more affectionate and logical. While this seemed more agreeable over-all, it made the dynamics rather bland and countered what Austen achieved in her characterizations. There were a few performances that held the dictum. Simon Woods as Charles Bingley really gave the standout performance of the film adding an empty-headed and open-hearted suitor that was truly endearing. Judi Dench is by far the most imposing and imperious Lady Catherine de Bourgh to date. Her hot laser stare sent chills up the back of my neck during the scene at Longbourn when she asks Elizabeth to deny an engagement to her nephew, Mr. Darcy. Matthew Macfadyen as the proud hero had a fabulous speaking voice which was really a plus, but what the director made his character do really canceled out his finer qualities. Keira Knightley as the decidedly impertinent Lizzy Bennet did have her moments of spark and fire, but an Oscar nomination? Hardly. I understand the “you have bewitched me body and soul” ending was added for the benefit of American audiences. One assumes by this addition that we did not like how Austen had written it? We were not amused. The music by Dario Marianelli saved the entire film for me. Happily it is the last thing we hear as the credits roll.

Lizzy and Darcy in a field PandP (2005)

This review would not be complete if I did not mention the pig in the kitchen scene. Honestly, it was the low point in the movie for me. Why it was added I shall never understand. May I speak for Austen fans everywhere and say we are appalled? Now the tomato throwing may commence.

PandP (2005) DVD coverThere is an excellent blog devoted to the 2005 Pride & Prejudice that contains more information than I could ever begin to relate here. Be sure to visit and vent your spleen or sing its praises. You will not be alone in either of your opinions.

3.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Universal Studios (2006)
DVD (129) minutes
ASIN: B000E1ZBGS

Cover image courtesy of Universal Studios © 2006; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose.com

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World (A Pride and Prejudice Variation), by Abigail Reynolds, read by Rachel E. Hurley (Audible Audio Edition) – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my tenth selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are now closed for new participants, but you can join us in reading all the great reviews and comments until December 31, 2013.

My Review:

This Pride and Prejudice variation asks readers “What if Elizabeth Bennet had accepted Mr. Darcy’s first proposal?” After reading this question in the book’s description my first reaction was, ACK, why would she?

Like the two other novels by this author that I have read, the story begins on familiar ground at a certain point in Austen’s novel and then quickly takes a left turn—changing the course of the plot and the characters’ lives. In this case it starts at a very critical moment, the first proposal scene when Mr. Darcy so arrogantly assumes that the less-socially-endowed Elizabeth Bennet would jump at the chance to accept his generous offer of marriage. Reynolds’ Lizzy is still repulsed by the thought of this man as her husband and frozen with disgust. Since Austen’s last sentence in Elizabeth’s refusal contains the title of this novel, I was all anticipation of reliving Elizabeth’s famous put down:

“From the very beginning — from the first moment, I may almost say — of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immoveable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”

But no—this is where the road veers and Reynolds’ twist begins. Darcy misinterprets Elizabeth’s hesitation as acceptance and kisses her, witnessed by his cousin Col. Fitzwilliam and a gamekeeper. Unaware of her true feelings, Col Fitzwilliam congratulates Darcy while a panicked Elizabeth spins the reasons in her mind why she cannot deny it: her reputation has been compromised and if she does not marry him the future happiness of her family, and her sisters prospects will be dashed. Trapped, she cannot decline and agrees to marry him.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy The Last Man in the World by Abigail Reynolds Audio (2013)Their one-sided marriage begins on rocky ground. Wrought with misunderstandings: his cold indignation, and her fear and depression, Elizabeth is hindered in her attempts to fit in and learn her new duties as mistress of Pemberley. She is not allowed to be very useful—in fact, anything she does seems to anger and annoy her new husband. After Mr. Darcy is involved in a life-threatening riding accident she dutifully cares for him day and night until she is past exhaustion. During his illness she comes to realize that she really does love him and tells him so when he is finally conscious. They are reconciled, until the laudanum wears off and he returns to his sour and confusing self. When she learns from a servant that he is leaving for London, even though he has not fully recovered and fit for travel, she is crushed blaming his dislike of her. While he is away she learns of her younger sister Lydia’s elopement with George Wickham and their subsequent marriage, facilitated by her husband. She is thankful to him for helping her family out of this devastating scandal, but he again misinterprets her gratitude for wifely obligation and not love. Her unhappiness continues until she reaches the point where she feels the only solution to their dilemma would be her death—relieving him of the disgrace of her inferior connections and releasing him to marry another.

One thing that readers new to variations must embrace immediately is change. The point in re-inventing the plot in a “what if” is the experience of revisiting beloved characters in new scenarios. You are not reading a sequel or a continuation of Austen’s story, but a re-imagining of what her characters might do if the action changed. Logically those characters would exhibit the same personality traits that Austen awarded them, but that can be changed too. Just think of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. You are not in Kansas anymore. If you are open to change and can accept tinkering with Austen’s creations and complete changes in her plot, then variations are for you.

In this sub-genre of Austen paraliterure Reynolds reigns supreme in her level of creativity and fluent prose. She is very skilled at crafting tension between lovers and can think up innumerable ways to keep them apart to prolong our anticipation. Her ardent love scenes were passionately rendered, reaching the blushing point for me every time. One of the major challenges I found with the premise of this story is that I did not like Reynolds’ Mr. Darcy. He was not the honorable man that Austen had crafted, nor a man that I was attracted to. He had duped Elizabeth into marrying him (albeit ignorantly) and he is pretty oblivious to his wife’s feelings, misreading her kind intentions continually. Or so it would appear on first impressions. The couple are at continual crossed purposes, going in circles of misunderstanding and rejection, to a glimmer of brief reconciliation, then back to total despair and unhappiness. After about the third time I was as depressed as the heroine. Once I got over my fixed notions of how Austen’s characters should deport themselves and accepted Reynolds’ alternate universe for Elizabeth and Darcy, I began to enjoy their twisted, tormented souls. It was like Jane Austen morphing into Charlotte Bronte, even though neither author would approve of each other’s style.

This audio edition of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World was aptly read by Rachel E. Hurley with entertaining variations in voice to character and scene. Reynolds has crafted a clever love story and applied familiar characters to suit. That dear reader is what variations are all about. If you are prepared to be taken down the yellow brick road, this is a great introduction to the genre.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World (A Pride and Prejudice Variation), by Abigail Reynolds, read by Rachel E. Hurley
Audible Audio Edition (2013)
Digital, unabridged (6 hrs and 27 min)
ASIN: B00BCXCZCU

Cover image courtesy of Audible © 2013; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose.com

Mr. Darcy’s Diary (Audiobook), by Maya Slater, read by David Rintoul – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my eighth selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are now closed for new participants, but you can join us in reading all the great reviews and comments until December 31, 2013.

My Review:

Ever wonder if a book you read several years ago and loved still stacks up? I did, and was tempted to revisit one of my favorite Pride and Prejudice sequels, Mr. Darcy’s Diary, in audiobook for my summer listening. Read by Mr. Darcy himself—well not quite—but close, the narrator is British actor David Rintoul who portrayed Mr. Darcy in the 1980 BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice. After a second pass “my affections and wishes are unchanged” and I am incorporating my original review (slightly amended) and finishing with my impression of this audio version.

If Jane Austen thought that her novel Pride and Prejudice was too light, bright, and sparkling and wanted shade, then author Maya Slater has made up for any deficit by crossing over to the “dark side” in writing her re-telling of Austen’s classic tale of  misunderstandings and reconciliation. Not only are we privy to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy’s most intimate and revealing secrets, we see the story of Pride and Prejudice told wholly from the male perspective, and gentle readers, be prepared. It’s a man’s world in Regency England, and dare I say, Fitzy is no saint!

The story opens with Mr. Darcy as a house guest of the Bingley’s at Netherfield Park the night of the Meryton assembly. Caroline Bingley is up to her usual kowtowing activities and insists upon embroidering slippers for Mr. Darcy, even though he inwardly fumes that he has no use for them. He is ruminating over his sister Georgiana’s letter and sees no solution to her predicament, the particulars of which are not yet known to us. The party arrives at the assembly rooms and there is little of interest for him there. Seeing the dance unfold from his perspective is an interesting vantage: the rooms, the music and the “superfluity of raw young ladies eager for dancing partners were all disenchanting to him.” His breeches are too tight so he does not sit down! Beyond the perfunctory dances with his two hostesses, Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, he saw nothing in the room to tempt him. No mention is made of his slighting our heroine Elizabeth Bennet, but this is Mr. Darcy’s diary after all, and an event of no consequence to him would surely not be recorded in his personal diary.

Mr. Darcy's Diary, by Maya Slater (2008) audio And so the first few entries of the diary were pleasant enough. The language and style was respectful to Austen’s, the story line consistent with Darcy’s view, and the characters well thought out. A good beginning. My interest builds as I realize that I am reliving Pride and Prejudice from a new perspective, told by an author who understands the novel, is well researched in Regency history and can turn a phrase quite neatly. Better and better. Whoa! Darcy has just admired a housemaid’s “pleasing embonpoint” removed her starched white apron and tumbled her on his bed! (Okay, I just heard the pounding exodus of Austen purist as they run out the back door.) The hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention. This is not the Darcy that we know from Elizabeth Bennet’s perspective, and the author has just made her point.

Uncertain if I could get past this bit, I venture on. We follow Darcy to London with his faithful valet Peebles in tow. Their Jeeves and Wooster relationship is amusing. I smile. Darcy unknowingly crumples up his leather gloves in a coat pocket, scuffs his boots, and wants to wear the wrong clothes for the wrong occasion. It is of little consequence to this wealthy and overly confident man, but Peebles is beside himself. I laugh. In addition to Charles Bingley, we are introduced to Darcy’s friend, George Byron. Yes, the poet and notorious, “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” Byron. He lives up to his reputation and influences Darcy into dubious deeds that most Regency men of his position in society amuse themselves with like cards, drunken debacles, and escapades with women. At this point we are experiencing Darcy from a totally male point-of-view, but the transition into events that Austen would never have included in her heroine Elizabeth Bennet’s female world, are more acceptable because this author’s skill at making Darcy’s diary so believable and amusing is effortless. By the midway point in the diary, it has become a page turner, and I am totally captivated.

So how did author Maya Slater woo a Janeite who openly admits contempt for renovators who sex up or steal Austen’s good name? She actually did not have to. Once I abandoned my expectations of reading another prequel, sequel or re-telling bent on ripping off Jane Austen’s stories or characters, I realized that this was not Elizabeth Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice, but Mr. Darcy’s, and Maya Slater was not renovating Jane or sexing up Lizzy but telling a man’s story. What other authors have attempted in their Darcy re-tellings by mirroring Jane Austen’s text word-for-word has been replaced by sheer creativity and respect. Slater expands our understanding of the plot and characters that Jane Austen introduced making Mr. Darcy’s Diary unique and yet blend-able to the original story. It made me laugh-out-loud repeatedly as she expounded on the smarmy antics of Caroline Bingley whose continued attempts to worm her way into Darcy’s affections fall flat, fume over the officious arrogance of his aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh, hiss at the deceit and destruction caused by that lout George Wickham, and revel in a love story that I listened to as freshly and intensely as the first time this writer experienced the original many years ago. That, gentle Austen readers, is quite an achievement. Even Mr. Darcy might consider Maya Slater worthy of inclusion in “the half a dozen women in the whole range of (his) acquaintance that are truly accomplished.”

My original review of this novel was 4 out of 5 stars, but I am upping the audio version to top honors of 5 stars because of the captivating, velvety voice of actor David Rintoul. Wow. He is just perfection.

 5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Mr. Darcy’s Diary, (audiobook) by Maya Slater, read by David Rintoul
AudioGO Ltd. & Audible.com (2008)
Unabridged digital download (8 hours and 33 mins)
ASIN: B001LNK94C

Please join us for next month’s Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge when we review Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, by Linda Berdoll (2004) on Wednesday, September 11, 2013.

Cover image courtesy of AudioGo © 2008; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose.com

Pride and Prejudice (1995) Mini-series – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my seventh selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are now closed for new participants, but you can join us in reading all the great reviews and comments until December 31, 2013.

My Review

Eighteen years after it first aired on BBC One in October 1995, the television mini-series Pride and Prejudice (1995) is still blowing bonnets off Janeites and wowing them in the aisles! This week in London a twelve foot statue replicating Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy’s famous wet shirt ascent from the Pemberley pond was revealed. Its super hero size seems apropos in relation to the impact that the mini-series had on Britain in 1995, in the US when it aired on A&E in 1996, and the world. If that was not eye-popping enough, the scene recently topped a poll of the ten most memorable British TV moments! We will be bold as brass and claim it as the most memorable TV moment in period drama evah!

Mr Darcy twelve foot statue (2013)

Wet shirt Darcy may have fluttered hearts across the world, but let us not forget that there are five hours and thirty nine other minutes to enjoy too. The screenplay based on Jane Austen’s 1813 novel was written by Andrew Davies and introduced a more energized and sexier version of the classic love story than viewers had previously experienced with the 1980 BBC mini-series or the 1940 MGM theatrical movie. It was a modernized Austen that purist detested, Janeites embraced, and the general public adored, converting millions into fans and launching the Austen renaissance that we are enjoying today.

Image from Pride and Prejudice (1995) Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth © 1995 BBC & A&E

In 2010 the producers issued a re-mastered edition of Pride and Prejudice 1995 to much acclaim. With the reveal of the giant Mr. Darcy in the Serpentine at London’s Hyde Park this week, I can hear the clicks of computer keyboards across the world purchasing the DVD and watching streaming video on NetFlix. We may now receive our entertainment through modern technology, but P&P 95 is a pure Regency era fix. From sumptuous costumes, authentic English manor houses and superb acting, viewers are still entranced by the world that Jane Austen created and producer Sue Birtwistle recreated. Even though we have been privileged with several adaptations of Austen’s classic story since P&P 95 was aired, nothing can match it for production value and sheer squee appeal.

Pride and Prejudice (1995) restored (2010)

This mini-series is so well-known and there has been so much written about over the years that I will not attempt to post a synopsis or rehash the nuances of the changes that were made by the screenwriter, director and production team. At a certain point we all must just accept what was done and enjoyed it, again and again. I will however talk a bit about my first reaction to the series and my evolution in embracing it.

Pride and Prejudice (1995) Jennifer Ehle and Lucy Scott

In 1996 the US television station A&E actually showed period drama. When they advertised a new P&P mini-series I was really looking forward to watching it. I was curious what they would do with my favorite author’s novel and how it would compare to the BBC P&P 80 staring David Rintoul and Elizabeth Garvie, which I adored. With great anticipation I watched the first episode. The production values were stunning and the plot and dialogue were being fairly faithful to Austen’s intensions. But, I was not impressed enough with the direction and performances. In fact, I was so annoyed with Jennifer Ehle’s as Elizabeth Bennet that I could not continue watching the series—and did not. Her Elizabeth seemed too smug and conceited for me. I did not like her at all as a person, and I could not get past it. I was furious. What had they done to my Elizabeth?

Pride and Prejudice (1995) Netherfield Ball

Flash forward three years to 1999 and I am visiting a friend’s home and I arrive to find the P&P 95 playing on her TV. She is addicted to it and watches it continually, much to the annoyance of her husband. I am entranced. Did I miss something and not give it a proper try? Now, my friend knows that I love Jane Austen and is shocked that I had not seen the entire mini-series and puzzled why I did not like it. We proceed to watch the entire five hour series in one sitting together. I was converted and now totally hooked. How could I have been so hard on it the first time I viewed it? My aversion to Jennifer Ehle’s Elizabeth was banished. She was conceited, but that was what Austen had intended. After my reread of P&P, I was certain of it. AND Colin Firth as Darcy was just a knock out. My jaw dropped when I saw the wet shirt scene for the first time—and my girlfriend and I squeed and laughed and exclaimed our amazement. That was NOT in the novel! But WHO cared? It was fabulous. We of course had to rewind the VHS tape and rewatch it several times!

Pride and Prejudice (1995) Jennifer Ehle and David Bamber

There were other performance that were just amazing too. Here is a list of the cast:

  • Elizabeth Bennet – Jennfer Ehle
  • Mr. Darcy – Colin Firth
  • Jane Bennet – Susannah Harker
  • Mary Bennet – Lucy Briers
  • Kitty Bennet – Polly Maberly
  • Lydia Bennet – Julia Sawalha
  • Mrs. Bennet – Alison Steadman
  • Mr. Bennet – Benjamin Whitrow
  • Mr. Bingley – Crispin Bonham-Carter
  • Caroline Bingley – Anna Chancellor
  • Mrs. Hurst – Lucy Robinson
  • George Wickham – Adrian Lukis
  • Mr. Collins – David Bamber
  • Charlotte Lucas – Lucy Scott
  • Lady Catherine de Bourgh – Barbara Leigh-Hunt
  • Georgiana Darcy – Emilia Fox
  • Mrs. Gardiner – Joanna David
  • Col. Fitzwilliam – Anthony Calf

Pride and Prejudice (1995) Colin Firth

Jennifer Ehle won the BAFTA for her Elizabeth. I still like Elizabeth Garvie’s interpretation in the 1980 version better, but Ehle’s Elizabeth did grow on me. Colin Firth as Darcy was just masterful. It made him a star and for good reason. His Darcy is stiff enough that we despise him for snubbing our heroine Elizabeth and yet his transformation from prig to passionate suitor totally wins us over. He is, to put it frankly, a dreamboat of a catch for our Lizzy. Handsome, rich and contrite. LOL, what young lady could hope for more? I have followed Firth’s career and enjoyed almost everything I have seen him in. Since P&P 95 he has been well recognized for his talent winning an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and the Screen Actors Guild Award.

Pride and Prejudice (1995) Allison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet

There are many superb performances but I must place David Bamber’s Mr. Collins as one of the most brilliant portrayals of Austen’s toady reverend ever. It never fails to make me laugh-out-loud. Allison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet is also hysterical. I will never look at a lace hankie again and not think of her. Barbara Leigh-Hunt as Lady Catherine de Bourgh is so imperial and imposing that you just want to slap her.

Pride and Prejudice (1995) Wedding scene of Elizabeth and Darcy

Pride and Prejudice (1995) remains one of my favorite Jane Austen adaptations. I watch it annually and it never ceases to entertain and amaze. It remains a cherished cultural phenomenon.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pride and Prejudice (1995) Restored Edition (2010)
A&E Home Video 2010
DVD (5 hours and 39 mins)
ASIN: B00364K6YW

Images courtesy © 2010 A&E Home Video; text © 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Pride and Prejudice (1980) Mini-series – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my fifth selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are open until July 1, 2013.

My Review:

I have been blogging about Jane Austen here at Austenprose for over five years and I have reviewed many books and movies, yet I have held off writing about the one that really turned me into a Jane Austen disciple—the 1980 BBC Pride and Prejudice. When something is close to our hearts we want to keep it in a special place, so my personal impressions of Fay Weldon’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s most popular novel has remained my own. In this bicentenary year, I think it is time for me to share.

It first aired in five (55) minute episodes on the BBC in the UK in 1979, and on US television on Masterpiece Theatre between October 26 and November 23, 1980. I was a great fan of Masterpiece and period drama and remember being quite excited to watch the new series. I was not disappointed in the first episode—in fact I was mesmerized—and watched the episode again when it aired again that week on PBS. Considering that in 1980 disco music was all the rage and Magnum P.I. and Three’s Company were the most popular television shows, you might understand why this anglophile was entranced by a series set in Regency England with beautiful costumes, country houses, sharp dialogue and swoon worthy romance. I was totally hooked and started reading the novel for the first time while the series aired.

Image of the poster of Pride and Prejudice © 1980 Masterpiece Theatre Now, considering that many of you who are reading this review where not even born by 1980, you might not get the significance of the way in which our entertainment was doled out to us in the those early days. There was the television broadcast, and that was it. In fact there were no VCR’s yet, so you could not tape a video. I had to wait another 10 years before I saw the series again. Shocking, I know. But remember that the Internet would not be born until the mid-1990’s and the concept of streaming video was totally unknown.

On reflection, why did I like P&P 1980 so much when it originally aired, and does it still stand up to the litmus test for P&P adaptations?

Even though the BBC had produced radio and television adaptations of Pride and Prejudice in 1938, 1952, 1958 and 1967 this would be the first time that a US audience would see a television series of Jane Austen’s novel. Some of us had seen the 1940 MGM move of P&P staring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson, but it was hardly faithful to the novel and was a two hour theatrical movie. Very little of Jane Austen’s original language had been used and let’s not even begin the conversation about the changes that were made. Now for the first time we could hear Austen’s words and see the plot unfold as she imagined it—well not word for word or scene by scene—but screenwriter Fay Weldon did adhere much more faithfully to Austen intensions than we had ever seen before, nor since. Here is a list of the cast and production team:

Image from Pride and Prejudice 1980: Charlotte Lucas and Elizabeth Bennet © 2004 BBC Worldwide

  • Elizabeth Bennet – Elizabeth Garvie
  • Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy – David Rintoul
  • Mr. Bennet – Moray Watson
  • Mrs. Bennet – Priscilla Morgan
  • Jane Bennet – Sabina Franklyn
  • Mary Bennet – Tessa Peake-Jones
  • Kitty Bennet – Clare Higgins
  • Lydia Bennet – Natalie Ogle
  • George Wickham – Peter Settelen
  • Mr. Collins – Malcolm Rennie
  • Charlotte Lucas – Irene Richard
  • Mr. Bingley – Osmund Bullock
  • Caroline Bingley – Marsha Fitzalan
  • Lady Catherine de Bourgh – Judy Parfitt
  • Director – Cyril Coke

Image from Pride and Prejudice 1980: Elizabeth Bennet  and George Wickham © 2004 BBC Worldwide

I will spare you the rehash of the synopsis and cut to the case. This adaptation flies freely by the strength of the screenplay and the interpretation by the director of the actors. They act like Regency era ladies and gentlemen and in the manner that Jane Austen intended. Elizabeth Garvie as Elizabeth Bennet is perfection. She is just as clever and impertinent as her book persona. If she has any defect it is that she is too perfect, appearing too controlled at every moment and not quite as spirited and flawed as one would expect. Her hero Mr. Darcy, portrayed by David Rintoul, is flawed, but that is his strength. He is stiff as a wooden solider, and we hate him until we meet him again at Pemberley two thirds through the story. But, his portrayal is as Austen wrote the character: noble, proud, arrogant, overconfident and infuriating. His transition to an open and engaging personality is a gradual shift which grows as his affection for Elizabeth does. His transformation from an arrogant prig to an amiable gentleman suitor for our heroine is a great character arch well worth waiting for.

Image from Pride and Prejudice 1980: Elizabeth Bennet © 2004 BBC Worldwide

Every director wants to put their own stamp on a classic. I cannot condemn Cyril Coke for taking his chance. He does not swerve off the garden path too far. There are two moments that are his creations that are memorable for me. The first was when Darcy hands Elizabeth the “be not alarmed, Madame,” letter after the first proposal. Elizabeth and Darcy meet along a path at Rosings Park and he hands her his letter. She accepts it and takes a seat on a fallen tree and reads it. We hear David Rintoul’s beautiful velvet voice, and perfect diction, as a voiceover as she reads the letter. As he walks away from her, the camera pulls back and follows him. As he gets father away we see both Elizabeth and Darcy in the frame become smaller and smaller. It is quite affective in relaying his presence and driving home the fact that as she reads his explanation of his behavior, and she has her “until this moment I never knew myself” revelation, we are left with the feeling that he has walked out of her life, and now how will she get him back?

Image from Pride and Prejudice 1980: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy © 2004 BBC Worldwide

The second great moment comes when Elizabeth and her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner are touring Pemberley. They think that Darcy is far away in Town. They are in a garden adjacent to the house and Elizabeth is admiring the facade and looks down to see Mr. Darcy’s dog appear around a corner of the building. His master soon follows and walks into the garden and is surprised to find Elizabeth at his home. They have an awkward meeting and Elizabeth is very uncomfortable. Now, Mr. Darcy does not have a dog in the original novel, but this addition of the well-trained spaniel, as proud and contained as his master, appearing as a foreshadowing to Elizabeth was brilliant.

Image from Pride and Prejudice 1980: Mr Collins © 2004 BBC Worldwide

The secondary characters really shine in this production too. Malcolm Rennie as Mr. Collins is just priceless. He is tall and toady and just the perfect smarmy buffoon. Peter Settelen  as George Wickham is such a handsome, charming cad that we want to love him like Elizabeth is tempted to do. There is a scene where he and Lizzy are walking in the garden and all I can concentrate on are his canary breeches! Judy Parfitt gives us an imperious Lady Catherine de Bourgh that is quite younger than I had envisioned in the book, but still as imposing.

Image from Pride and Prejudice 1980: David Rintoul as Mr Darcy © 2004 BBC Worldwide

Since the 1980 P&P aired there has been one major miniseries filmed in 1995 and a movie in 2005. Everyone has their favorite and I have this pet theory why Janeites love one version and abhor another. Everyone seems to bond with the first version that they see, so for those who love the 2005 Keira Knightley version with pigs in the Longbourn kitchen and Mr. Darcy walking across a misty morning glade to find Elizabeth in her nightgown, or the 1995 version with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy taking a bath or a dip in Pemberley pond, think long and hard about what Jane Austen wrote about and what she wanted us to experience with her characters, and watch the 1980 version again.

And, what may you ask is the P&P litmus test? Why the first proposal scene of course. If the screenwriter, director, and actors can portray the misguided, passionate tension of Mr. Darcy and the cool indigence of Miss Eliza Bennet in Austen’s masterful scene as well as it unfolds in the 1980 version, then there is hope for the rest of the production.

5 out of 5 Regency StarsImage of the DVD cover of Pride and Prejudice 1980 © 2004 BBC Worldwide

Pride and Prejudice (1980)
BBC Worldwide (2004 re-issue)
DVD (226 minutes)
ASIN: B000244FDW

DVD cover and images courtesy of © 2004 BBC Worldwide; text © 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose