on May 18, 2002
There aren't enough superlatives in the English language to adequately describe the brilliance of this production. As a student and teacher of Literature, Theatre, and Film I can confidently and categorically state that this is the finest film adaptation of any classic novel ever produced. The screenplay is remarkably faithful, the art direction spellbinding, the costuming and settings are breathtaking, while the casting showcases the strongest ensemble of actors I have ever witnessed. Bear in mind that this is all coming from someone who has never seen an adequate film version of any classic novel, to the extent that I no longer thought it possible. Ladies, beware Colin Firth as the definitive Darcy for he is guaranteed to make you swoon. Jennifer Ehle, as Lizzy, stole my heart. Please don't tell my wife but I have never been so deeply in love with any actress. Her elegant and powerfully understated portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet does Austen's scintillating satire of manners great credit. In the context of recently produced Austen films I would say that Roger Michell's production of Persuasion was endearing, Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility was a treat for both, but Simon Langton's production of Pride and Prejudice is the most sublime, definitive, and unparalleled production of P&P yet produced. It is just pure Austen. Both First and Last Impressions remain the same on this one, it is a true classic. An absolute MUST for all Jane Austen fans. Yes, Virginia I have two copies. The 1996 edition and the 2001 Digitally Remastered "Special Edition." Although the audio is somewhat better on the remaster I would argue that the color and resolution are richer on the original. I wonder if the 2010 "Restored" Blue Ray version would be a good excuse to buy a third copy? Hmmm....
on December 25, 2002
The current BluRay (BD) edition is fantastic - it is the "Extra Special Edition". Beautiful color and sound have been restored compared to the DVD edition that I initially reviewed in 2002 (below). There's pretty much nothing about my original review that is relevant any longer, unless someone is going to buy a second-hand copy of the 1996 Special Edition set. We still love the production, and give the BD version 5 stars.
I would not have thought that anyone would still be reading the 9 year old review below except for all of the comments ... apparently Amazon has cross-linked the reviews of all editions of this film, making this the 'most helpful critical review'. For those who said that I copied the review - not true. I reviewed a single product, back when we did not even have names attached to our reviews. (My amazon review ID now is "Karl".)
Do buy the BD release - it is wonderful. Five stars. (The 3 stars are not editable and refer to the 1996 release.)
The original 2002 review of the 1996 Special Edition DVD set follows...
This BBC/A&E production is one of the most well made films my wife and I have ever seen - superb acting, costumes, sets and location, music, directing, editing!! Like others here, we have watched the A&E VHS edition over and over. (It is a 'chick flick', but I enjoy romantic movies, too.)
Our excitement over getting the DVD faded upon loading both the VHS tape and DVD and comparing the images and sound. The widescreen image on the DVD is definitely more clear on our 50" high res screen, and it is a pleasure to see the full images framed as the Director intended.
HOWEVER, the colors are not just washed out. The digital remastering has changed the color tone of the film as if someone used a Photoshop/Premier digital filter without knowing what they were doing. The VHS and original not only had rich color saturation, but also had a warm tone that felt 'right' with the period film. The DVD is not only washed out, but has a strong blue-white tone to it that gives a cold modern feel to the scenes.
To get the image to look close to decent on our TV, I had to turn the color saturation up as far as it would go, bring the contrast down and the brightness up. It then almost matched the VHS images except for the blue-ish rather than warm overall cast.
The sound is tinny, much of the lower frequencies that are on the VHS sound track being chopped off.
There are no subtitles at all (we frequently turn them on for other DVDs when we cannot quite make out the dialog) - much less alternative language tracks.
So, why is this edition 'Special'? The only additions, other than the abysmal digital remastering (digital destruction) are:
(1) an 8-page booklet (that mentions only 3 of the actors)
(2) some text-only biography screens, that mention only 2 of the actors
(3) a 20-some minute 'making of' feature that gives the producer most of the credit (and she did of course put the team together, but the director/editor/actors/choreographer/costumers/etc produced the art) - and which still only visits with 4 of the actors - out of this tremendously talented cast.
What was supposed to be a 'special' Christmas gift, ended up being a tremendous disappointment. We can only hope that A&E and BBC will produce an 'Extra Special' edition that gets the color and sound back to the director's intention (did he even get to review this DVD?). That, and a rebate for all of us who bought this defective edition, would make us happy enough. Adding subtitles, profiles of everyone else involved in the production, and stills of the various homes, heritage buildings and towns used would be (delicious, but optional) gravy.
"Pride and Prejudice" is one of the top 10 novels ever written. The BBC miniseries with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle is the finest adaptation to date. The actors are superb. The screen play is accurate, comprehensive, parsimonious, and entertaining. The dialogue is beautiful and preserves much of Jane Austin's witty and wry commentary. The cinematography is superb. The film was shot in authentic locations all over Britain.
I thought the film adaptation by the BBC and A&E was so fine, I bought the VCR tapes when they were released, then I bought the lazer disk version, and then I bought the DVD version. The DVD version is a big fat disappointment. The quality of the DVD transfer is NOT good.
First, the colors appear faded and with the Regency English palette of beige-greens, browns, ambers, and taupes, this is a serious defect. It makes the clothing look worn, the grass and trees look sunburned, and some places, the complexions look downright washed out. The film appears to have been shot in Arizona at high noon instead of England.
Second, for some bizarre reason, the DVD processors nipped and tucked some of the original material. The clipped portions might not bother one who has never seen the original--but I noticed. There was no need to edit this film. Four of the 50-minute sections are crammed on disk 1 (where the editing takes place) and the other two were recorded on disk 2. I guess it would have made too much sense to record three episodes on each disk? Seems like poor planning to me.
For the price of this 2-disk DVD package, more care should have been taken with the transfer process. My lazer disk version cost less, holds more, and has beautiful resolution.
on January 9, 2006
Jane Austen once described her work as the painting of small pictures with a very fine brush. Small they might have been, as they did not take on the great issues of the epoch. But, in painting her small pictures of the types of people that attracted, bemused and annoyed her and her family, Austen created a series of exquisite masterpieces depicting the coarse currents of passion and pettiness that perpetually run just below the surface of whatever veneers of gentility and custom society creates. With her very small brush, she pushed aside mountains of Regency refinement to peer with both loving humor and sharp critique at the foibles of human nature that lay beneath.
Her plots are simple affairs, inherently entertaining, and relatively easy to turn into a good two-hour movie. But to grasp just how much there is in any Austen novel, one has merely to look at how many good -- yet utterly different -- films can be wrested from a single novel. Take "Emma", for example. It has yielded a delightful romp starring Gwyneth Paltrow, which focused on the comedic elements of the novel. It has yielded a darker and more substantive film with Kate Beckinsdale's portrayal of a young woman whose English class-consciousness brought her very near a capacity to injure that was not in her nature. And it has yielded Amy Heckerling's brilliant take on modern L.A. life in "Clueless".
What this A&E version of "Pride and Prejudice" attempts to do is mount a single production that distills all the elements of an Austen novel into one film. It's a stupendous task, and the fact that it is done so credibly here makes this effort a masterpiece in its own right.
Everything falls perfectly into place. From the slightly-tatty Bennett establishment to the grandiose de Burgh estate, the settings capture the range of lifestyles encompassed in Regency England by the broad concept of gentility that, in fact, glossed over a huge array of social striations that posed one barrier after another to any aspirations for social mobility . . . or to the pursuit of natural attractions between young people.
The casting is very strong, starting with a superb Jennifer Ehle as Miss Elizabeth Bennett, the young woman to whom the tasks fall of making her silly mother endurable, her ineffectual father responsible, her kind elder sister happy, her flirtatious younger sisters respectable, and the rigidly judgmental Mr. Darcy humane. This movie sent me on a quest to sample all of Ehle's other work, including film and Broadway. She has proven an excellent actress in all fare. But here she simply outdoes even her imposing self by giving the director a canvas fine enough to capture every single one of Austen's delicate brushstrokes.
This production pulls depth out of Colin Firth that few others have. Going back to his early turn in "Another Country" and his later work in "Valmont", he has always played a man dependent upon events and other people to awaken his humanity. Here, however, his well-honed act fills the bill perfectly. Supported by just the right costumers and hairdressers, he is the quintessence of baronial snobbishness cruising for its brush with emotional awakening.
I cannot find a really sour note anywhere in the extensive cast, from the noisy Mrs. Bennett to the hilariously obsequious Reverend Collins and the crabbed Lady Catherine de Burgh. Even Jane, whose purported beauty and excessively passive demeanor might not ring quite true with modern viewers, was a dead ringer for what the early 19th century viewed as a beautiful young woman comporting herself properly.
I reread Jane Austen's novels every few years, and I'm certain I will until the end of my days. And, if the first decade following this A&E production is any indicator, I will watch this film over and over again. The fact that novel and film each augments the other speaks to just how well done this movie is.
on January 12, 2004
I loved the A&E production of Pride and Prejudice. The cast was perfect, it brought the characters I loved from the book alive, and as I wrote in my VHS review, my husband (a military man who wouldn't be caught dead watching a period film about marriage and without guns, grisly deaths, and explosions) sat through this from beginning to end in one sitting. By the 4th tape, he was yelling at me to pop the next tape in; thus is the power of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Now, I have my brother- a 16 year old gamer who's never read a piece of classical literature of his own will- to add to that list of people who thought they'd never like it, but in the end, couldn't wait to see if Elizabeth and Darcy get together!
I won't bore with the details, since so many people here have so very deservingly praised this production. So, instead of reviewing the acting, performances, and the production in general, I'll be contributing a review about the special edition DVD's quality.
Color quality is really lacking. They aren't unbearable or intolerable, but noticable if you've seen the VHS. I'm not saying it's just a little noticable, it's very noticable. The VHS offered a warm and rich viewing of P&P, something I miss while watching the DVD. It isn't, however, unbearable. It's not ghastly to the point where people are the same color as the walls (like I've heard some people say). I'm a P&P nut, so I'll still choose my VHS set over the DVD when I want to just sit down and enjoy P&P- if you love the lovely flushed, warm faces of the VHS and the broadcast (especially the rosey cheeks of Jennifer Ehle), then stick with the VHS. Everybody looks very fair (read: pale) in the DVD. Other reviewers aren't kidding when they say colors are washed out. Lighter colored clothes all sort of blend into the same sort of off-white color. You see the most drastic gap in quality between the VHS and the DVD when you compare the Bingley sisters and Lady Catherine, who all wear vibrant colored silks. On the DVD, their clothes are nothing but a shade of what it was on the VHS.
Worse off than the color is the contrast. Some things (like Darcy's hat when he steps out of the carriage with the Bingleys and Hursts) have no outline or definition if it's dark on dark backgrounds.
The worst, I think, is the blurring. On this transfer there are a LOT of motion artifacts. Grass blurs when shots are panning, backgrounds blur even when people move in some shots! This, I can safely say, was not a problem on the VHS, but it's a big problem on the DVD. (Again, not ghastly to the point where you can't watch it, but definitely noticable.)
Some people like to nitpick every little problem, and will make a situation out of nothing. I'm sorry to say the complaints lodged against the special edition DVD release of P&P weren't made by such people, and, rather, made by sound and sane consumers. But it isn't so bad to the point where it's unwatchable or too detracting (unless you must absolutely have the best, best, best!).
Though I love my (now ever more precious) VHS set, the changing of tapes and rewinding gets tiresome. What the DVD offered was relief from the opening, the credits, the rewinding, the forwarding, and the getting up and changing of tapes. The special features were nice, but nothing spectacular. Only a few secondary characters are interviewed (only Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennett, and perhaps one other secondary character, I believe), but none of the lead characters, which was very, very disappointing. I was hoping for a glimpse of Jennifer Ehle or the actresses who play Jane, Charlotte, and Lydia out of their period costumes, but, alas, that didn't happen.
I'm glad it's widescreen, I'm glad it's in DVD format, I'm glad I only need to get up and change the disc once, but I'm definitely disappointed with the transfer quality. I'm waiting for a re-release that will do the series justice. It's just an awful, awful shame, but still decent enough... for now. These complaints are all superflous, however, and centered around the quality of the release itself. The genius of Austen, the charm of the story, and the liveliness and talent of the cast are still fully captured and well presented in this edition... just a teensy bit blurrier and whiter than usual!
DISCUSSION ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE "10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION" AND THE "SPECIAL EDITION."
The 10th Anniversary Edition release of Pride and Prejudice is essentially the same as the original special edition DVD set with a few added extras. The extras are: The Making of Pride and Prejudice book and an additional third bonus disc.
Now, if you already own the first DVD release, the big question is, "is the 10th anniversary edition worth buying?" Well, the only thing that is exclusive to the "10th..." edition is the third bonus disc, which includes interviews with the producer, composer, and the actors who played Mary Bennett, Mr. Bennett, Mrs. Bennett, Mr. Wickham, Mr. Collins, and Mr. Bingley. There is definitely some good stuff in the interviews, and the bonuses go into a lot of aspects of production, including wardrobe, food, casting, music, and the balls. Unfortunately, neither of the leads (Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth) participated.
The book, on the other hand, can be purchased separately. It is titled "The Making of Pride and Prejudice," written by Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin--Amazon carries it in stock. Therefore, whether or not the set is worth the repurchase relies entirely upon the appeal of the bonus disc. Being an avid fan myself, I had to have it (I also have the VHS set). I don't regret the purchase, myself, because the interviews reveal a lot about backstage antics that occurred during filming. However, if you're a casual fan who isn't interested in repurchasing the entire movie, it may be better to just consider the book.
This is a fantastic option for people who haven't bought the special edition set (the first DVD release). I would definitely, definitely recommend the "10th..." set over the other simply because you get more for your money--the book and bonus disc are a bargain for the extra $12 (the book itself sells for $14!). The bonuses that were included on the original DVD set are still there on the "10th..." edition, so you're not missing out on anything.
The cons, however, are:
- The flaws that I discuss in my original review about the first DVD set are still there. Like I said, this is essentially a re-release of the original DVDs. Thus, the color and contrast is still inferior to the original VHS release, and the issue with the motion artifacts (blurring) is still present. Film quality has not improved since the first DVD release.
- Packaging is a problem. The DVDs are slid into cardboard sleeves, which makes me nervous whenever I slide them out because I'm afraid of scratching them. For an ultra-special edition, packaging the discs in sleeves seems cheap. The size of the slipcase is huge compared to other DVD cases, which can be a problem to fit on media shelves. It basically is the size of the book, which comes tucked inside the slipcase. However, though it's big, it does make a handsome present. (I guess what I'm saying is that it's impressive to gift, but potentially annoying if you're the one who has to find a way to store it.)
All in all, I'm not wowed by this set, but I certainly don't regret the purchase; though, I should add that I didn't already have the book. (However, if you already own the book as well as the first DVD release, I would recommend thinking twice before plunking down the money for, essentially, just the bonus disc.) This would make a lovely gift for people who don't already own the miniseries, and is definitely the recommended choice for first-time purchasers.