DVD Review: Pride & Prejudice (Restored Edition)
Release Date: April 27, 2010
Distributor: A & E Home Video
· Simon Langton
· Jennifer Ehle
· Colin Firth
· Alison Steadman
· Benjamin Whitrow
· Susannah Harker
· Julia Sawalha
· IMDb: Pride & Prejudice
by Robert Bell
Published: April 26, 2010
As mentioned in the hour-long “Lasting Impressions” behind-the-scenes, interview supplement on this two-disc DVD set of the six-episode BBC production of “Pride & Prejudice”, this production was a departure from their usual staged, theatrical presentation of period pieces, marking a turning point for more dramatic, modern narratives, given its acclaim and success. Of course, this step away from tradition isn’t an indication that the miniseries in any way betrayed the original Jane Austen novel, as the majority of the dialogue and ire is pulled directly from the text, but it focuses out themes of class, sex and money that appeal to a modern audience, giving an added sense of intensity and vitality.
Each of the six episodes covers a major plot point and individual storyline, with the first setting up the main characters and clarifying how the class systems in 19th century worked, pointing out that the five Bennett sisters would have a hard time finding good husbands given their limited financial resources and social ties. Add to this the fact that Mrs. Bennett (Alison Steadman) is a tactless loudmouth and Mr. Bennett (Benjamin Whitrow) is a bit of a recluse, along with the fact that the youngest daughters Lydia (Julia Sawalha) and Kitty (Polly Maberly) are ill-behaved in public, and their family limitations become clear.
In this episode, we see Lizzie’s (Jennifer Ehle) headstrong, opinionated nature, as her original opinion of Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth), a man of some social and financial significance, is quite negative, seeing how prideful and sullen he is. We also witness a romance between Jane (Susannah Harker), the eldest Bennett girl, and Mr. Bingley (Crispin Bonham-Carter), an acquaintance of Mr. Darcy.
The second episode introduces Mr. Wickham (Adrian Lukis), as he warms to Lizzie, slandering Mr. Darcy, creating more drama in the Bennett household, which is something there is no shortage of in episode three when Mr. Collins (David Bamber) shows up in episode three announcing his plans to marry Lizzie, despite her intense dislike of him. But, since there are no male heirs to the Bennett household, their estate belongs to their cousin, Mr. Collins, once Mr. Bennett dies, leaving a marriage beneficial to all involved.
Wrapping up the miniseries are the revelations of Mr. Wickham’s true character when he runs of with Lydia, which incidentally gives Lizzie some perspective on Mr. Darcy, and the seemingly broken relationship between Jane and Mr. Bingley.
In true television form, each hour-long entry ends on a climactic point, making it nearly impossible to keep from watching the installment following, which is a problem seeing that the series is five-and-a-half hours long. It is far more engrossing than one might imagine for a series of this nature, but clearly paved the way to success for Joe Wright’s truncated theatrical version of the story that came nearly a decade later.
Because much of the social order and arbitrary reasoning of the day is so frustrating given the illusion of freedom we have now (I would argue that the same class divisions exist regardless of our politically correct handling of the subject and tendency to leave things unspoken), Lizzie’s character—a woman that refuses to accept things as they are—is easy to identify with. She demands personal contentment in a society that subordinates women for the purpose of presentation and male dominance.
Jennifer Ehle gives Lizzie a playful affability and charm that makes her counter-perspectives and occasionally inappropriate opinions seem more playful and endearing than abrasive or contrary. Similarly, the other performers give their characters subtleties that bring the narrative to life, even if Alison Steadman and David Bamber are a little over-the-top in their cartoonish buffoonery.
Also included with the DVD is a special feature with Adrian Lukis and Lucy Briers walking around the old set, along with a brief discussion about the digital restoration of the piece. This latter supplement is of particular interest, as the final copy of this series included boasts clarity, colour and precision well beyond that of the previous DVD issue.