1980 BBC Pride and Prejudice

NB: I haven’t been able to find whether this is 1980 or 1979 (differing accounts everywhere) but I believe it to be either the December of ’79 or the January of ’80 (I think the Jan of ’80 was the first English release?).

I hate the crude cartoon background on opening and crap font that they stick over it, as it seems cheap and really outdated (although can sort of forgive it for the latter considering).  In the current world of Avatar and $300 million productions, it’s hard to step back and consider the constraints on the director, Cyril Coke, due to time and technology.  Despite all this, I liked that the opening included a tribute to the original title “First Impressions” and it didn’t ruin the whole movie of about 5 and a half hours, in two parts.

It stays fantastically true to the original, perhaps with some artistic license on one or two elements, and only changes the lines for fluency and, of course, to add in the introductory line to the book that marks out a P&P adaptation!  Unfortunately, the whole thing is slightly restrained (Lizzy does not fire up at Lady Catherine, and we only see her getting slightly feisty at Mr Darcy).  Coke included some fantastic points about the time, really emphasising the importance of a fair complexion and so on, and also made Mrs. Bennet a bit more defiant about the entailment situation, which was interesting.

This focuses a lot on Elizabeth and her father understanding one another at the beginning.  Mr Bennet is quite cruel seeming though- particularly to Mary in one of the opening scenes.   The characters are all hard to like originally, particularly Jane who seems mindless and doesn’t really have any character.  They are never imperfect, despite the whole thing being shot in a rough, raw sort of way, and this detracts from how human they could be.  At times, Elizabeth even seems like a bit of a Gold-digger, particularly with her quick turnaround in feelings after the viewing of Pemberley.  However as the piece continues it is very easy to get drawn in to Elizabeth Garvie’s portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet and David Rintoul as Mr Darcy.  They don’t have chemistry, but they still have that “click”.  (Although, as a side note, I can’t say I enjoyed the many close-ups and zooming in onto Rintoul’s “brooding” looks- they didn’t quite do it for me.)

There is a great juxtaposing of shots between Jane and Elizabeth, and the Bingleys as they dicuss each other and the ball.  And it’s great to hear very similar words coming out of both Bingley’s and Jane’s mouths, showing that they would be well-matched (as this is otherwise under-represented in the whole movie).

Mr. Collins’ voice is fantastically absurd.  His whole image, while not attractive, isn’t as ridiculous as seen in other productions- however his vocals make up for this.  He dictates with this deep self-concerned tone that resonates throughout each scene.  Coke added a great layer using Mr. Collins- by making it very obvious that Mary liked him, and I felt so sorry for Mary throughout this whole version as she seemed to be one of the ones who never ended up with what she wanted.

There’s this dreadful internal monologue after the proposal, about her finding it “gratifying” that I thought should really not have been included, however the use of monologues throughout was well done- particularly after receiving Mr. Darcy’s letter, where we get some great flashbacks and realisations.  A lot of these interludes could have been done with more sophistication, using body language and subtlety, however the adaptation isn’t any less interesting because of it’s inclusion of the voice over technique.  The voice overs also appear when letters are being read, with the character who wrote the letter in question being that whose voice is heard- this helps keep track of who is saying what, and makes large passages of text more digestable.  It also makes it more personal, as it keeps a conversation running.

Mrs Bennet isn’t as successfully irritating as I wanted her to be.  Looking back, it’s obvious that she just wasn’t screechy and pain-in-the-arse enough to fulfil this role.  In saying this, I thought she kept up the constant chatter admirably well.  Kitty, as well, was not particularly well-acted.  She seemed miserable and pathetic for the whole thing, quite unlike the Lydia-wannabe.

Overall, it was a really fascinating adaptation- and I wonder that I hadn’t seen it before.  I didn’t really like the costuming (although the parasols were fantastic), and the colours were so muted (perhaps because of the film quality?) but the two lead roles carried it through- becoming more and more captivating as it continued.

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