~No. 5 - Pride and Prejudice 1980~
This is embarassing, but I have to admit this was actually supposed to be No. 6! And Persuasion 2007 was going to be number 5, but I forgot! Nevermind.
Pride and Prejudice, Pride and Prejudice. . .
This is in some respects the best TV or movie version of this book available - it's a shame it isn't more widely watched. I guess most people just don't know about it. The only real downside to this adaptation is its production values. In other words - this sooo looks like a 1970s BBC TV show (It was in fact made and broadcast in Britain in 1979, but I just can't get out of the habit of calling it P&P80! It was aired in America in 1980). It often feels stagey and studio-bound, and the costumes look like costumes. It takes a little while to adjust to the tone of the series. Once you start to relax and get into the "flow" of things, it's a thoroughly enjoyable watch.
This is a production with very few weak points (apart from the afore-mentioned low budget), but its greatest strength is undoubtedly Elizabeth Garvie's performance as Elizabeth Bennet. She is arguably the best Lizzy ever to have graced the screen. Keira Knightley was good, but I thought she seemed too modern in her posture and mannerisms - plus she giggled and smiled too much, even for Lizzy. I wasn't completely won over by Jennifer Ehle as Lizzy, either. But Garvie is very, very good. Not 100% the same as I imagined Elizabeth to be in the book, but very close. The perfect mixture of "sweetness and archness", as described in the book (pity I can't find that passage from the book. I forget which chapter it's in. . . )
As for this version's Mr. Darcy (played by David Rintoul). . . you know, I haven't quite made up my mind about him yet. I think he's too wooden in some scenes. Of course, you could argue that Darcy is supposed to be stiff and wooden, but honestly. . . at the first proposal, for instance, he seems so bored and stiff - "In vain have I struggled, it will not do, my feelings will not be repressed, etc. etc. Man, this is so boring, I'm just proposing to the woman of my dreams, but this all so boring and dull. I wish I was somewhere else, doing something else." Seriously! Just a hint of passion or emotion wouldn't have gone astray!
But on the hand, he is so adorable during the second proposal scene, right at the end - he looks so sweet and boyish, you just can't help falling for him. :-) I think he's a very good-looking Darcy. Unfortunately, the ill-fitting costumes and the funny hairdo don't do him any favours, but he has Darcy's noble profile and bearing. Actually, sometimes Rintoul overdoes the "noble bearing" thing, and ends up walking around in a stiff, unnatural manner!
The supporting is first class. Mr. Bennet is well-portrayed here, though he is perhaps a little too gruff and overbearing. But it helps you to understand why Darcy would consider Mr. Bennet to have a "lack of propriety", and how it would pain Lizzy to see her father being sarcastic towards his wife and daughters. Mrs. Bennet and the Bennet girls are all good, though Jane isn't quite pretty enough. Mr. Collins is hilarious, Judy Parfitt as Lady Catherine unforgettable, and the Bingleys are also played well.
Another thing that I really appreciated about this adaptation is the fact that it includes many lines and scenes from the book that aren't in any other version - not even the 1995 one. It's fascinating seeing just how much bearing the screenwriter has on an adaptation of this kind - here, Fay Weldon chose to emphasise on Lizzy's personal growth and journey through the year of her life that is covered in this story. (BTW, I remember reading somewhere that Fay Weldon is working on the screenplay for an adaptation of Sanditon, Jane Austen final novel, left unfinished when she died. Let's hope the rumours are true!)
It isn't my all-time favourite P&P, but it is arguably the most faithful screen adaptation of the book. Its fidelity to the novel is a major plus for any Jane Austen fan. The 2005 and 1995 versions of P&P are by far the most popular, but in some ways I believe the 1980 P&P trumps them both. Highly recommended viewing for any Janeite.