Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Top 10 Austen adaptations: #7

~No. 7 - Pride and Prejudice 1995~

Pride and Prejudice 1995

Hoo boy. . . where to start? By now you're probably all aware that this isn't my favourite P&P and that, shockingly, Colin Firth is not my favourite Mr. Darcy. :P So I'll try not to make comparisons between the different versions of P&P, and instead just write down some of my thoughts on this particular adaptation.


One of the most obvious positives about this production is its length - some 5 hours. This is the only version that includes almost all of the characters and plot points from the book. But, on the other hand, some of my favourite dialogue from the book still didn't manage to find its way in. In fact, there are snippets of dialogue from the book that are included in the 2 hour 2005 adaptation, but not this version! But I said I wasn't going to make comparisons. . . oops. 


I think the major reason why this adaptation is so popular (besides Colin Firth), is the way that it has been subtly modernised and contemporized. It appeals to both die-hard Janeites and fans of contemporary romantic comedies. Jennifer Ehle's Lizzy is easy for the modern woman to relate to - she's outspoken, intelligent, and not easily intimidated. She could almost be a feisty, modern heroine simply transplanted into 19th century society. The dialogue is distinctly early-19th-century, and yet it's delivered in such a way as to make it understandable and engaging for modern audiences. This was the series that made people realise that period drama - and specifically Jane Austen - needn't be stuffy or "boring"!

Pride and Prejudice 1995

There's no denying the fun and charm of P&P 95. The acting is good, and there's great chemistry between all of the actors. As a series, it just works so well. As a truly faithful translation of Pride and Prejudice, it doesn't succeed as well. Not to my mind, anyway.

Pride and Prejudice 1995

I thought that about 80% of the actors were miscast - including the two leads, Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. As someone who grew up watching P&P 95, when I read the book for the first time, the thing that struck me most was how different all the characters were from the miniseries. Colin Firth wasn't so very bad, but Ehle in particular didn't seem to be at all like the Lizzy from the book - not only in appearance, but in voice, manner, even in personality. Many of the characters were played as caricatures - Jane Austen doesn't write caricatures, she doesn't exaggerate.  

Pride and Prejudice 1995

I didn't like all the choices that Andrew Davies made when writing the script. (LOL, here I am, whingeing about Andrew Davies once again. . . ) The choice to flesh out Darcy's character by inventing new scenes was an interesting one, but I'm not convinced that it worked. You lose all of the suspense of the plot by knowing what Darcy is thinking and doing. Jane Austen almost always writes from the heroine's perspective - and the suspense of the story usually comes from not knowing what the hero's feelings or intentions are until the very end of the novel.

Pride and Prejudice 1995

But beyond these two complaints, there's something else that bothers me about the 1995 P&P that is more difficult to define. Perhaps it's just that my vision of the novel doesn't line up with the one presented in this adaptation?


Pride and Prejudice 1995 is, in my opinion, a good example of a literary adaptation following the letter of the novel, without capturing its spirit, its essence (to use a horribly cliched phrase). Even though it may seem a faithful adaptation, something about it just isn't right. I know many people consider it to be the definitive adaptation of the novel, but I can never regard it as such.

Pride and Prejudice 1995

But, having said all that, it is still an essential part of my DVD collection, and something to enjoy watching with my family over and over again. :-) I don't dislike this version - I like it! I just can't think of it as the definitive P&P.


One piece of trivia to finish - did you know that Jennifer Ehle/Lizzy is a natural blonde, and had to wear a wig for the part? Or that Colin Firth is a natural redhead, and had to dye his hair dark? Hmm, a blonde Lizzy and a ginger Darcy - no wonder there seemed to be something wrong with P&P 95. :P Just joking, of course. . . 



Theresa said...

I disagree with you about the caricatures thing, in the book Mr Bennett is definitely a caricature - so is Jane. :) Well, I think so anyway.
But yeah, I agree with you that they changed quite a bit from the book - like Lizzy, she's just not right!
However! This is so the best P&P ever! hehe!

The Editrix said...

LOL. . . we'll just have to agree to disagree.

But at least someone agrees with me about Lizzy! :-)

Miss Jen said...

Hehehe :)
You know me~
We will have to agree
to disagree on this one! *sigh*
Don't you think Mrs.Bennet
is way more fabulous and outrageous
in this one than in the 2005 version?!! *smiles*

Awww... well till next time dear friend... Thank goodness we have several versions of P&P to watch you can cherish your favorite and
I'll cherish mine!!! :>)

Love Always~ Miss Jen

Enbrethiliel said...


Jennifer Ehle isn't my idea of Lizzie, either, but I love this adaptation so much that she has grown on me.

I know someone who would disagree with you about the new scenes with Darcy. She had always thought (even before the movie came out) that the book isn't balanced enough because it doesn't show us what Darcy is thinking. So when she saw this version, she was quite pleased.

As for myself, I have to disagree with the caricatures! =P The main reason Mrs. Bennett is so fun and so recognisable is that she is very two-dimensional. I think we can say the same about Mr. Collins. Every time I catch a new version of Pride and Prejudice, it's Mr. Collins I want to see the most, because each actor seems to play him with such relish! This is not to say that they couldn't be real-life characters, just that Austen put them in for humour rather than for depth.

The Editrix said...

Caricatures. . . I guess what I was trying to say is that all of JA's characters are true to life. They're all people whom you could easily imagine meeting in everyday life. The characters are real, and the psychology is real. Unlike Dickens, for instance - many of his characters are larger-than-life, lending his books a surreal, fantastic feel.

Jane Austen was such a keen observer of people, which no doubt helped her enormously in painting word "portraits" of her characters. Hopefully this all makes sense, LOL. . .

Charity said...

This is my favorite P&P. I think my only complaint is that Jane is extremely plain, and so every time Lizzie says, "You are so much prettier than I am..." I laugh and roll my eyes. Has Lizzie looked in a mirror recently? =P

I have seen Jennifer blonde... and it looks strange on her. She's much more striking with dark hair. =)

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Amelia Colleen said...

I have to respectfully disagree with you here-- P&P95 is definitely the best ever, in my opinion. Now, I haven't seen any other versions, so maybe I'm just biased, but I love P&P95 so much that I don't really want to see any other versions! (Does that even make sense?) When I first saw it, I didn't think Colin Firth was right for Darcy either, but as the movie went on I liked him better and better. I think Matthew Macfadyen might look more like the Darcy that Austen intended, but I will never be able to see him as anyone other than Arthur Clennam. :)
Loved this post, anyway!

Maria Elisabeth said...

This post drove me crazy for quite a while - and I even started a series on my blog because of it. But I won't rant. I promise.
But subtly modernized and contemporized! Are you crazy! And Jane Austen's heroines should be easy to to relate to. It's not like people have changed that much in 200 years. And Jane Austen is supposed to be understandable and engaging - even for modern audiences. In my opinion, the reason why this series is so popular is that in the most part they were faithful to the book - and with that got what was timeless about Jane Austen.

But now about the parts that were added. I really don't care about the lake scene - it's all right, nothing else - but I enjoyed seeing Darcy in London. The 'no suspense' part to me didn't matter, because I had read the book way before. And any amount of spoilers is better than a short 'Oh, he paid for the wedding" like in P&P 2005. (Oh, P&P 2005. But I won't rant.)

And in my opinion P&P 1995 captures the book's spirit as well as a movie can do.

Now, you've told us that this isn't the definitive P&P movie - so what is? Any other suggestions? I love arguing (friendly arguing, of course) and I'd love to continue this debate over at my blog or wherever!

*not sure whether to smile or glare*

Maria Elisabeth