I’ve now finished re-watching the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice – and loved it all over again. I also watched the featurette included on the DVD, where producer Sue Birtwhistle discusses how much care was taken with every detail of this production, down to tailoring the costumes to the individuals and even choosing houses for filming which echoed the personalities of the characters living there.
I think all this attention to detail has paid off, together with the leisurely length, in giving the whole production a multi-layered, rich feeling. It’s quite a wrench when it comes to an end and you have to step out of that world and come back to the present – although that final shot, with Darcy and Elizabeth sharing their only kiss, is what viewers have been waiting for right from the start.
Austen of course is known for her brilliantly witty language, much of which features in Andrew Davies’ screenplay – but, watching these last two episodes, I was impressed by how much is done without dialogue, just with the expressions on characters’ faces. For instance, there’s a sequence where Darcy is watching Elizabeth at the piano with his sister Georgiana (Emilia Fox) and the camera lingers on the softened expression in his eyes, then in Elizabeth’s – there are no words, but the message is clear. The featurette includes a look at the script for this scene (Darcy: long look; Elizabeth: long look), and the director, Simon Langton, talks about how important it is not to hold the moment too long – but to do it for long enough to create the impression. The music, of course, also does a lot to create the mood, and I’ve been impressed by just how flexible Carl Davis’ recurring theme is -jaunty one moment, haunting the next.
Of course, as Elizabeth and Darcy are moving towards their marriage of true minds, along with Jane and Bingley, these last two episodes also see the disastrous marriage of Wickham and Lydia. I think Julia Sawalha is great as Lydia, giving her just the right boisterous silliness and yet making her vulnerable too. In the scenes with Adrian Lukis as Wickham at the hotel, she is still such a child that it hasn’t occurred to her for a moment that he might not marry her after all. I also think the production brings out the similarities in personality between her and Mrs Bennet.
Reading the novel in the past, I suppose I’ve been drawn into sharing the characters’ relief that the marriage is brought about and Lydia isn’t “ruined” – but, looking at Wickham’s obvious boredom in these scenes, it brings home just how bad the outlook for the marriage is, and how likely it is that he would be running off with another teenager in a year or two. I think intercutting a short scene of Lydia and Wickham looking fed up into the blissful double wedding scene at the end is a great touch, and does serve as a reminder that not all weddings are happy endings.
However, I don’t want to end on a sour note, because the happy ending of this series really is so moving to watch. In real life, a Lady Catherine de Bourgh, played so brilliantly by Barbara Leigh-Hunt, might well manage to dictate her nephew’s marriage. In the novel and this mini-series, she and her class superiority fail – and she ends up sitting grumpily at home while the happy couples celebrate.