Friday, February 12, 2010

Pride & Prejudice - 1980

So I spent a good chunk of the week drinking tea, doing needlework, and watching the entire BBC Austen DVD box set I received for Christmas, comprised of the adaptations made in the 70's and 80's. My husband, who actually suggested the marathon - bless his dear heart, commented on how much he enjoyed the Pride and Prejudice adaptation. Of course, he has seen the 1995 version many times, but felt that despite the more acclaimed film's merits, its predecessor better captured the book. He also liked the cast - in particular Charlotte Lucas (Irene Richard), Mrs. Bennet (Priscilla Morgan), Mr. Collins (Malcolm Rennie), Jane (Sabina Franklyn), and Mary (Tessa Peake-Jones). While I do enjoy this adaptation (it is one of my favorites in the collection), it doesn't capture that sparkling quality that defines the novel and that Andrew Davies portrayed so perfectly. Furthermore, I'm not convinced it does adhere to the text so much more precisely. There are several moments that are distinctly based in interpretation, with little evidence for such decisions stemming from the text, but that does not necessarily means that these deviations are unwelcome. For example, after Elizabeth (Elizabeth Garvie) and Jane are introduced to Wickham, they are shown returning to Longbourn and discussing the strange interaction between him and Mr. Darcy:
Jane: Elizabeth, did you think he was pale? I did.

: Mr. Bingley? No, but did you no think what happened was extraordinary?

Jane: What? Mr. Wickham being so very rude to Mr. Darcy? Yes, I suppose it was.

: No, no! It was Mr. Darcy being proud and ill-mannered to poor Mr. Wickham.

Jane: Oh! Was it?
Now does this exchange not change Jane Bennet's character in some fundamental way? Instead of just being overly kind and unwilling to see the faults in others, she suddenly becomes far more perceptive than her usually quick younger sister. I like this interpretation of her character.

I also love the scene in which Elizabeth takes her leave of Rosings. Things are preceding much as they do in the novel: Lady Catherine has just declaring, "You must change horses at Bromley. If you mention my name at the bell you will be well-attended to," and Elizabeth makes a persevering bow in response. But as she turns to leave the room, Anne de Bourgh (Moir Leslie), who has not a line in the film (just like the book), puts an arm out to stop her retreat, taking both of Elizabeth's hands in hers and smiling. It's an odd moment, endowing Anne with a sweetness of character Austen never indicates, but again I enjoy the liberty taken. It certainly does Anne no harm to distinguish herself from her mother.

Probably my only real complaint about this version regards David Rintoul as Darcy. He looks exactly as he should, just how I imagined him long before I had any notion who Colin Firth was, but his portrayal is too stiff. We never see the slightest crack in his public armor, his proud veneer, until the very end, when he betrays an adorable smile. It's very hard to imagine this man struggling with anything, let alone love's torments. Elizabet Garvie is an admirable Lizzy, but the chemistry between their characters is lacking.

There is something comforting and charming about this adaptation. It reminds me of my very warn copy of the novel that I bought at a used book sale for 30 cents, while the '95 version is my Norton Critical Edition. Both have their unique merits and offer distinct, rather incomparable, experiences.


  1. I love your final comparison with your different printed editions of Pride and Prejudice. I haven't seen this older BBC version. Thanks for sharing,Alexa. Have a great weekend.

  2. Thanks Maria. I hope you enjoy your weekend too!

  3. I haven't seen any of the older adaptions and I think they way to do it is just like you did, get the whol box set. I saw it at Costco, believe it or not, the other week!

    Lovely review, I like the point you made about Jane's and Anne's characters. I like that Jane Austen's characters are open for various interpretations.

  4. Hi Meredith. Watching different adaptations, I often notice details which remind me of sequels and wonder if they were influential in those novels. The scene in this film with Anne particularly provoked such thoughts while also, oddly, reminding me of a moment in Harry Potter.

  5. Probably more random than interesting, but I refer to the beginning of the last book.

  6. I agree that David and Elizabet lacked chemistry in this adaptation.

    I also agree that David has the look that I always expect of Mr. Darcy. It doesn't hurt that he looks a lit like my Dear Husband.

    The only part that my household differs on is that of all the adaptations my dear husband will not sit through this one. He thinks it is too close to a play and if he is going ot watch a play it has to be in person.

    I'm lucky he does that because I love to see plays.

  7. Hi Emma! I too love the theater and while my husband shares that enjoyment, he is reluctant to invest the money in tickets and so finds a play-like film doubly satisfying, as it caters to his sense of economy.

  8. Wonderful! I personally haven't seen the 1980 adaptation, but Mrs. Fitzpatrick swears up and down it's better than the 1995 one. I do like what I'm hearing about these small, creative reinterpretations of Jane and Anne's characters.

    Love it.

  9. Hello Miss Ball! Thanks for stopping by. If you have a Netflix subscription, you can watch a high quality version of this film on your computer at anytime - 4 to 5 hours well spent, I assure you.