on March 24, 2002
I love this movie - it's one of my all-time favorites. I was so looking forward to owning this as my very first DVD. However, this DVD presentation is very poor. The images are washed out - the actors' faces are white with very little color and the whites of the dresses sometimes merge with the light backgrounds! And the music sounds a bit muted. There is a "Making Of..." piece included on the DVD in which they use full-screen video images where the color is normal - faces are pink, not white, and the scenery is rich. The contrast with the movie presentation is astonishing - you really see what your missing! I don't recommend you buy this DVD. I'm going to wait for another version which will hopefully have corrected color.
on July 4, 2006
The story and production are the best I've seen. Unfortunately, Amazon is selling a DVD with very poor quality reproduction. It's not defective, just poor color. When I saw the original broadcast on PBS the color was excellent. These copies are average at best, still worth seeing though, it's THAT good.
Of all the Jane Austen movies, the 1996 miniseries "Pride and Prejudice" is arguably the best and most detailed. While remaining faithful to the original comedy of manners, the story remains steadily-paced and exceptionally acted. It's sort of a thinking-girl's romance movie.
The Bennett family is in an uproar when wealthy Mr. Bingley (Crispin Bonham-Carter) moves into the neighborhood, and Mrs. Bennett is especially happy when he takes a liking to eldest Jane (Susannah Harker). But her forthright, independent sister Lizzie (Jennifer Ehle) immediately butts heads with wealthy, aloof Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth), who scorns the rural village.
A flurry of proposals, road trips and friendships arrive, with Lizzie fending off her slimy cousin Mr. Collins, and befriending the flirty, hunky Wickham (Adrian Lukis), who claims to have been wronged by Darcy. Lizzie believes Wickham's account -- and she's in for a shock when Darcy unexpectedly proposes, and reveals what Wickham won't tell her.
And finally things take a scandalous turn when Lizzie's idiotic younger sister Lydia (Julia Sawalha) elopes with Wickham! The family is plunged into disgrace, which also wrecks any chances of marriage for the other daughters. The only one who can set things right is Darcy, who will do whatever he must to make amends to Lizzie.
It's obvious from the very first scenes -- when Lizzie jokingly comments that "a man of good fortune MUST be in want of a wife" -- that this is an adaptation that was done with love. The subplots, characters and atmosphere of "Pride and Prejudice" are all here.
The plot unfolds slowly, one piece at a time, but with several subplots that tie together as the story progresses. For a miniseries, it's actually rather spare and lacking in filler. And the dialogue -- based on Austen's -- is wonderfully well-written ("Beauty is not the only virtue. She has just inherited a fortune of ten thousand pounds, I understand." "Now THAT is a definite virtue!")
The time period is recreated with loving detail, from the muddy roads to the sweeping mansions with elaborate grounds. Even the hairstyles are recreated. And the entire plot is steeped in the mores of 19th-century England, with the attitudes toward marriage, love, and propriety that bound everyone (especially women).
The casting of the leads is absolutely perfect for this movie: Ehle and Firth are nothing short of amazing. Both are witty, smart, and a bit snotty in their own ways. Firth's Darcy is a selfish man who gradually becomes warm and kind, while Ehle's Lizzie is strong, independent, and Darcy's equal in every way. And neither will marry for anything but true love.
They're also backed by an excellent supporting cast, with slimy clergy, screeching moms, sly seducers, sardonic fathers, innocent sisters and aristocratic old harpies adding colour to it all. Sawalha is especially good as the 19th-century Valley Girl, and Alison Steadman gives a grating but suitable performance as the whiny, marriage-obsessed Mrs. Bennett.
"Pride and Prejudice" is the cream of the Austen crop, and an understatedly romantic movie as well. Definitely to be watched, again and again.
on October 2, 2006
This is my favourite adaptation of the novel, but it really deserves a better transfer. This 10th Anniversary Edition is a marginally better transfer than the original DVD release, but both versions look very washed out. It's difficult to understand why when the clips from the film used in the "Biography" Jane Austen documentary look great. It's a sad day when the VHS version looks better than the DVD. This new edition has some good extras, but no interviews with Jennifer Ehle or Colin Firth. Also, the packaging is not great (it's a bit difficult to get the discs out), so you'll want to think about buying new DVD cases.
on October 21, 2003
I've lost count of how many times I've read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - it's one of my very favorite books. Comparing the two screen adaptations of it -- the more recent one by A&E/BBC and the one done in the 80s by BBC (starring Garvie/Rintoul) -- there are definite advantages to each. The one you choose depends on what you want. If you want a really good and fun modern romantic comedy, watch the A&E version. But if you want what is closest to Austen's novel (which I prefer), watch the older version.
POSITIVES OF THE A&E VERSION:
1) It is a visual feast: The costumes, sets and scenery are exquisite and make this version worth watching for that reason alone. They obviously had a larger budget than the 80s version.
2) Since this version is 75 minutes longer than the BBC version, you get to enjoy that much more of Austen's incomparable dialogue - the best ever written in the English language besides Shakespeare, in my opinion!
3) In the interplays between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, their emotions are much more pronounced and open than in the BBC version... which makes their relationship more openly romantic even than in the novel. This is developed further by some scenes of them individually that weren't in the novel. In the 80s version and the novel, many of the subtleties of their relationship and feelings are left to the imagination. The A&E version is more in the unsubtle style of a typical modern romantic movie, which gives a wonderful new dimension to the story. The "unexpected proposal" scene is absolutely perfect; I think Austen would have loved it!
4) Casting Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Although not as strikingly handsome as David Rintoul's Darcy in the 80s version (in the book, Darcy is far handsomer than Bingley), Firth adds the right amount of visible emotion to the character which David R. did not, while also maintaining a very aristocratic, refined air about him.
POSITIVES OF THE 80s BBC VERSION:
1) It is much more faithful to the historical setting of the novel. It captures much more accurately the slow-moving, thoughtful, refined, restrained, purist, obsessed-with-manners (but still quite amusing) aristocratic society of 18th century England. This to me gives not only a needed believability to, but also a much deeper understanding of, the characters and story. Austen's novels were very realistic and true to their time and place, so if you want the genuine Austen feel rather than the 'in-your-face' Hollywood style, see the 80s version (or just stick to the book). The A&E version comes across as being 20th century American, just cloaked in 18th century England costumes and sets. (For example, Bingley's two supposedly high class sisters slouch around, make faces and giggle audibly behind people's backs. Everyone seems to be constantly running, skipping or galloping somewhere. The less-than-savory characters, like Mary, Lydia, Kitty, and Mr. Wickham, look and act like they are from a much lower social class, in ways that go below what would have been acceptable in their class. A visitor to the Bennett home accidentally sees one of the sisters in her undergarments. When E. visits Pemberley, she sees Mr. D. coming from a dip in a pond with a wet undershirt on, rather than just having arrived in a carriage as in the book.) Some people have praised this aspect of it, saying that the BBC version is boring by comparison. But I believe that Austen's intent was that the interest in her novels would lie with her detailed character studies and intricate relational plots. That's what made her books so interesting, without all the action-packed gallivanting around and crassness which Hollywood seems to think is a necessity to entertainment. The BBC version recognizes this and retains a historical elegance and dignity; the A&E version does not.
2) The casting is better. In the BBC version, each actor is completely natural and believable in his or her role. In the A&E version, much of the casting does not seem to fit the characters. Elizabeth comes across as being about twenty years older than she is, with a constantly knowing look as if she's already married with children. Mrs. Bennett seems too intelligent to be so silly. Charlotte seems snobby rather than humble. Miss Bingley seems cold and sharp rather than sweetly slimy. Mr. Collins is like a cartoon and not a believable person. The five Bennett sisters don't look at all like they could be related to each other. The actors seemed quite competent, just not cast in the right roles, and maybe directed to overplay them. The only one that was spot on was Colin Firth as Darcy. His was the only portrayal that I could totally believe to be a real person in 18th century England.
3) The BBC version gives the same attention to each character that Austen's novel does. In the A&E version, only the principal characters are focused on, with the result that many of the characters whom we should have gotten to know better seemed to just be cardboard props, and their relationships with each other don't come across as being as intimate and familiar as they really are in the novel. For example, Elizabeth had a much deeper relationship with both her father and with her Aunt Gardiner than the A&E version portrayed, because it left out some key scenes between those characters. The only ones I could perceive as being really close in the A&E version were Elizabeth and Jane - and in the last half, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. This is a great loss, because Austen's novels are all about the relationships between people, and each of their interesting personality quirks. They are character studies -- not just of the main characters, but of ALL the characters.
Sorry for the length, but P&P is a special book and I wanted to share my full views on these adaptations for anyone trying to decide between them!
on February 23, 2010
After reading the Blu-ray reviews and being highly disappointed with my supposedly-restored DVD version of P&P, I splurged on the Blu-ray version. OH MY GOD! The picture quality is amazing! It truely is restored! Elizabeth, Darcy, the English country side and those fabulous costumes are just as vivid as I remember seeing on TV over 10 years ago! My boyfriend who has never seen P&P started watching it with me while I was on Disc 2, and after finishing that requested to watch it from the begining! An new Austen fan! The Blu-ray version is totally worth the money. Disc 2 also has a special feature detailing that until Blu-ray technology came along, they just couldn't make P&P look that great in digital. For people that don't own P&P yet, don't waste your money on the DVD version, get a Blu-ray player and truely enjoy this P&P and fall in love with Darcy and Elizabeth again!