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This is a drama to rave about. I've not seen its like on television before; nor do I expect to see its like again. It was superb. It was almost perfect - though not quite.
It is rare to find a Jane Austen dramatisation that comes so near to being perfect on every level and that stays so true to the original novel. The greater part of the dialogue in the series is Jane Austen's own and every scene is included and follows the same chronological order. The drama departs from the novel in only two instances. In order to extend our knowledge of the characters of Darcy(Colin Firth), and Mr Collins(David Bamber), two scenes are added; to demonstrate that Darcy is not just an effete aristocrat but a real man worthy of Elizabeth's love we are shown him indulging in manly pursuits; fencing, and swimming in his private lake (it puzzles me why so many women seem to drool over his wet-shirt scene); and to demonstrate that Mr Collins is an idiotic, narrow- minded prude we are shown him trembling with embarrassment and horror when he happens to come across Lydia (Julia Sawalha) in a state of dishabille. David Bamber makes Mr Collins deliciously toadying and obsequious. A remarkable piece of acting.
It is its faithfulness to the original that makes this drama so good. No one has ever written a more tightly plotted novel. Its series of climaxes make the novel difficult to put down; just as one plot-line reaches its climactic conclusion, another is building. And the duel of wits and sharp dialogue between Darcy and Elizabeth (Jennifer Ehle) as they get to know each other is entrancing. And then comes that moment. She is at the piano befriending Darcy's sister, Georgiana (Emilia Fox), when he holds her gaze with a silent declaration of his love and admiration. This involved a fine piece of editor-timing; a split second either way, either too long or too short, and the poignancy of that moment would have been lost. It is interesting to compare Colin Firth's Darcy with that of Lawrence Olivier's Darcy in the Hollywood film. Olivier falsely portraits him as appealingly shy and self-conscious. But Darcy was in no way shy, he was just proud, with every reason to have a good opinion of himself. He found it impossible to imagine that anyone in a lower strata of society, living in a small provincial town, could be his equal - until he met Elizabeth!
However, I felt there was one weak link in the chain of superb acting; Alison steadman. Many will disagree but I think she over-acted, turning her Mrs Bennet into a nerve- grating, neurasthenic caricature. But apart from that, I heartily recommend this video. Don't miss it. You'll not see its like again. I must just mention the charming piano music by Carl Davis, so beautifully evocative of a beautiful period in history (for the rich).
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