~No. 7 - 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"!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. . .