The Bennett family is going broke and, because they only sired girls, faces the possibility of losing their home to their nearest male relative, the mousy Mr. Collins. When a rich young man moves into the area, Mrs. Bennett finds an opportunity to marry off one of her daughters and save the family home. Unfortunately, she finds the strong-willed Mr. Darcy standing in the way.
Colin Firth is the perfect Mr. Darcy.
I am sure I have heard that a few times but had no clue what the hell anyone was talking about. I am not well versed in the lyrical genius of Jane Austen because, to put it bluntly, I’m a guy. I have read classical literature – Hemmingway, Faulkner, Chandler, even some Shakespeare – but historical romantic costume dramas are not something I seek out. That carries over to the arena of film as well. Of course, I would rather watch a costume drama than read one but only if someone puts a gun to my head, or worse, if my wife guilts me into it. That is where this story begins.
My wife is a huge fan of Jane Austen and her all-time favorite is the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice. She has proudly told me, on many occasions, it is one of the greatest movies ever made. She tells me it is almost the same as reading the book, with the exception of the last five pages. I assume, for a movie that lasts five and a half hours, that is entirely possible. She also informed me that I would watch it with her one day, as she owned a prestigious VHS copy of the movie.
I cringed. There was nowhere to hide. I would work more and, when at home, write more. I would encourage her to watch her Law and Order’s and CSI’s and would also smile and nod as she watched her So You Think You Can Dance’s and American Idol’s. These shows were only an hour apiece, including commercials, and I would rather watch an NCIS marathon than any number of historical dramas. But she persisted and I feared the day would soon come.
Then I thought I found a possible lifeline, a diversion I believed might save me from this six-hour tour of duty. Pride & Prejudice was remade as a theatrical movie, at a respectable hour and a half. I surprised her with a trip to the movies one night and imagine her glee when she saw I was taking her to Pride & Prejudice, starring Keira Knightly. I settled in for what I imagined to be a night of terror only to find myself enjoying the movie. I developed a great deal of respect for filmmaker Joe Wright and Donald Sutherland was a delight as Mr. Bennett. As we left I realized it was not that bad and told her, in relief, now we have seen this there is no reason for me to need to see her beloved BBC version. She smiled but shook her head and said it was a good movie but Matthew Macfadyen was no Colin Firth.
Colin Firth is the perfect Mr. Darcy.
I tried another tactic that Christmas when I replaced her beloved VHS copy with the BBC special edition DVD and, one night before leaving for work, told her she should watch it again that night. She did and things seemed to pass. I believed I found a way to escape this diabolical plan of hers. Little did I know she must have conspired with Nick Nunziata and Eileen Bolender. One day I was checking to see what new DVDs were available to review and saw a Blu-Ray edition of Pride & Prejudice. When choosing the DVDs to review, I often time think of my wife and son and wonder if there is something they might enjoy too. I thought the Pride & Prejudice Blu-Ray would be a nice addition to the library and I would enjoy reviewing it because it was enjoyable when I saw it in the theater. I claimed it and waited to surprise her when it arrived.
The package arrived and I called her over, exclaiming I had a surprise for her. I opened the package and found the surprise was not for her, but for me. This was not Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice. Sitting there staring up at me was the 6-hour BBC version of Pride & Prejudice. It is proof that you can run from fate but one day, when you least expect it, fate will catch you.
I finally sat down with my wife to watch this movie and cringed when I looked at the Blu-Ray timer and realized this movie would last almost 330 minutes. I dug in and prepared for the most torturous 6-hours I would ever face in my life. Then, before my eyes, flashed a story about the British class system and the roles of women in the male dominated society. Unlike the updated 2005 version, the story is allowed to pass at a leisurely pace that never feels plodding and always appears to move right along. Each episode is a section of the story – the courtship of Jane and Mr. Bingley, the class struggles concerning Lady Catherine, the turning point with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy – and each section is told in a way that is both interesting and intriguing. The 2005 version is almost a cliff-notes edition after watching the BBC version.
The casting is also superb. While I thoroughly enjoyed Donald Sutherland in the remake, Benjamin Whitrow was delightful as the dry witted Mr. Bennett. The daughters were just as you would expect, although Jennifer Ehle always looked a little too old for her character (she was only 25 at the time but the costume choices made her seem closer to 30 than 20). Mrs. Bennett was incredible over-the-top, more then you could ever imagine. Mr. Collins was as mousy as I expected and Mr. Bingley was not the goofy sidekick from the updated version but a more realistic man which is important for his courtship with Jane to feel right.
When the movie ended I was shocked. I was not sitting in the corner, whimpering, attempting to claw my eyes out. I was not in a state of shock, rocking back-and-forth, wishing for those six important hours of my life to be returned. I was, dare I say, impressed. The acting was great, the story interesting and the pacing perfect. Could it be, I have enjoyed yet another historical costume drama, one that lasts six-hours at that? It might be so, and I find myself, horrifically, agreeing on one very important thing.
Colin Firth is the perfect Mr. Darcy.
The most notable thing about this transfer is the scenery, so important in this film. When making the movie, the producers took great effort to divide the classes based on what you could visually see in the film. The rich would wear lace while the poor would wear cotton. The rich would eat the best of food while the poor would eat breads and soup. The most important visual cues for the class separation was in the look of their homes. Lady Catherine de Bourgh lived in an immaculate castle on a near perfect plot of land. Mr. Darcy lived in a beautiful home surrounded by green pastures and woods. The Bennett’s, while in a home large and immaculate in itself, never compares to that of the higher class of society. The original video, and even the special edition DVD, are both dull and never bring out the vibrant textures of the film itself. The Blu-Ray version is a magnificent visual treasure, with vibrant colors and the landscapes never looked better. A look at two shots from the individual transfers should tell you all you need to know about the improvements made. This transfer is top notch.
Included on the Blu-Ray are two documentaries, the first a talking head doc called Lasting Impressions allowing various cast members to recall the making of the movie. It clocks in at an hour and is full of interesting information. The second is called A Turning Point for Period Drama and talks to the screenwriter, costume designer and others about the importance of the movie and comparisons to the novel. Also included on the release is a look at the restoration process and a walk through the shooting locations with actors Adrian Lukis (Wickham) and Lucy Briers (Mary Bennett).