Sunday, July 23, 2017

Pride and Prejudice 1–6 (1995)


Pride and Prejudice (1995). Colin Firth (Mr. Darcy), Jennifer Ehle (Elizabeth Bennet)

Pride and Prejudice, 1–6 / Ylpeys ja ennakkoluulo. GB © 1995 BBC. PC: BBC Worldwide Ltd., / Chestermead. EX: Delia Fine, Michael Wearing. P: Sue Birtwistle. D: Simon Langton. SC: Andrew Davies – based on the novel (1813) by Jane Austen. CIN: John Kenway – Super 16 – colour – 1,66:1.  PD: Gerry Scott. AD: John Collins, Mark Kebby. VFX: Graham Brown. Cost: Dinah Collin. Makeup: Caroline Noble. M: Carl Davis. S: Brian Marshall. ED: Peter Coulson.
    C: Jennifer Ehle (Elizabeth Bennet), Colin Firth (Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy), Susannah Harker (Jane Bennet), Julia Sawalha (Lydia Bennet), Alison Steadman (Mrs. Bennet), Benjamin Whitrow (Mr. Bennet), Crispin Bonham-Carter (Mr. Charles Bingley), Polly Maberly (Kitty Bennet), Lucy Briers (Mary Bennet), Anna Chancellor (Mrs. Bingley), Lucy Robinson (Mrs. Hurst), Adrian Lukis (George Wickham), David Bamber (Mr. William Collins), Lucy Scott (Charlotte Lucas), Lucy Davis (Maria Lucas), Emilia Fox (Georgiana Darcy), Marlene Sidaway (Hill), Barbara Leigh-Hunt (Lady Catherine de Bourgh).
    Loc: Cheshire, Wiltshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Buckinghamshire, Leicestershire, Staffordshire, Somerset.
    Finnish telecast premiere: March–April 1996 and August–September 1996, Yle TV1.
    6 episodes à 55 min, in total 327 min
    Introduced by Anna Möttölä.
    Viewed at Cinema Orion (Jane Austen: Bicentennial of Her Death), Helsinki, 23 July 2017.

The 1995 television series adaptation of Pride and Prejudice has a place of honour in the remarkable 1995–1996 cycle of Jane Austen television and film adaptations when Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma were filmed almost simultaneously. Emma was shot twice, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Beckinsale respectively. Mansfield Park followed in 1999.

Because of the 5½ hours duration of the six-episode series of Pride and Prejudice it was possible for the screenwriter Andrew Davies and the director Simon Langton to cover the events and dialogues in full length.

Pride and Prejudice is the most frequently filmed Jane Austen novel, and it is easy to understand why. It is story- and character-driven, with dramatic scenes and ball sequences lucrative for television or the cinema. Among the 11 adaptations of the novel this 1995 BBC production is the most highly regarded. It has even become a cult phenomenon, as was also evident in our screening. There was a special atmosphere of expectation. Audience members seemed to know the series by heart.

Even though there is enough space to cover all the action a key issue remains, common to all Jane Austen adaptations: the issue of free indirect speech. Goethe and Austen were pioneers in this mode of narration in which the narrator conveys a first person viewpoint without using a first person address. Such an intimate and confidential address is in the heart of Austen's art, and film / tv adaptations have to give it up unless there is a narrator. I am not aware of any Austen adaptation with one.

This Pride and Prejudice adaptation is well directed, written and cast. It is shot on location with a true sense of the landscape. Austen's novel is full of wit, irony, comedy, and humour, and the sense of fun and joy of life is conveyed in this adaptation. These characters relish being themselves.

Some performances border on the caricature: Alison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet, mother of the five daughters, David Bamber as William Collins, the sycophantic clergyman, and Barbara Leigh-Hunt as the meddling Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Next to the overacting Alison Steadman Benjamin Whitrow as Mr. Bennet steals the show with his sidelong glances. William Collins in Bamber's exaggerated performance becomes an irresistible foil for Elizabeth's sweet irony.

And Jennifer Ehle excels as Elizabeth, one of the most wonderful characters in literature, the incarnation of "Prejudice". Elizabeth has received a wrong impression of the actions of Mr. Darcy, and quite an accurate impression of his character.

Colin Firth became a star in his incarnation of Mr. Darcy, incorporating "Pride". He is haughty and arrogant. He is also awkward, taciturn and tongue-tied, with no talent in small talk. There is something Finnish in this comical "strong and silent man".

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy became an instant sex symbol. I understand that pheromones have been named after Darcy due to this performance. I wonder why and need to interview lady patrons to find out. My first hypothesis: also Mr. Darcy is initially introduced as an intentional caricature. In Finnish we would call him ihmisraakile, an emotionally underdeveloped human being, man material who can develop into a fully rounded personality in good company, such as a good woman.

Mr. Darcy's proposal to Elizabeth belongs to the most disastrous dating sequences in film history, to be compared with Taxi Driver when Travis Bickle invites Betsy to see The Language of Love.

Elizabeth rejects Mr. Darcy's proposal outright. Their relationship reaches its nadir exactly in the middle, in the finale of Part III. Mr. Darcy's letter of explanation in the beginning of Part IV provides the peripeteia. During the rest of the story Elizabeth reassesses Mr. Darcy's actions, overcoming her prejudice, and Mr. Darcy gets opportunities to display tact, consideration, good manners, and hospitality, overcoming his pride.

Pride and Prejudice is a mutual Bildungsroman, une éducation sentimentale. It is more about marriage than love. Money matters. But this marriage must be based on love.

Carl Davis has composed and arranged a beautiful score with diegetic passages of playing and singing "Ombra mai fu" (Händel), "Rondo alla Turca" and "Voi che sapete" (Mozart), and "Andante favori" (Beethoven: Elizabeth and Darcy exchange glances as Georgiana is playing). Often the amateur music performances are clumsy, with an emphasis on comedy. In addition there are several country dance numbers.

But Carl Davis's main approach is Beethovenian, starting from theme tunes influenced by his Septet Op. 20 and the Emperor concerto. Beethoven was a contemporary of Austen's, and there is a parallel in their artistic trajectory. Austen was a classicist in the age of romanticism. Beethoven started as a classicist; young Beethoven belonged to the same world as Mozart, he reached his maturity as a romanticist, and transcended romanticism in his late quartets. Why not Beethoven; Beethoven was popular in England, especially the Pastoral Symphony. But Tuomas Anhava had a point in calling Jane Austen the Mozart of literature. We have a bright and joyous surface with a sense of dark depths beneath.

BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: OUR PROGRAM NOTE BY JARI SEDERGREN:
BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: OUR PROGRAM NOTE BY JARI SEDERGREN:

Ei ole varmasti liioittelua väittää, että vuonna 1817 kuollut Jane Austin löydettiin uudelleen 1990-luvulla, sen verran monia elokuvia ja televisiosarjoja kirjailijan tuotannosta valmistui. Ei ihme, että kritiikeissä kirjoitettiin Austen-renessanssista, vieläpä positiiviseen henkeen, mikä ei ainakaan Austen-faneja yllätä: elokuvat ja tv-sarjat ovat älykkäitä, teräviä ja riipaisevia ja ne näytellään erinomaisella taidolla ja hengellä, joka kunnioittaa epookin todellisia vaatimuksia, eikä yritä tuoda niitä osaksi nykypäivää.

Yksi keskeisistä Austen-ilmiön luojista Suomessa oli BBC:n kuusiosainen sarja, joka saavutti erityi-sesti naiskatsojien huomion. Elizabeth Bennetin (Jennifer Ehle) ja rakastettavan, komean ja varo-jensa puolesta mitä sopivimman Darcyn (Colin Firth) suhde ja koko Bennetin viiden sisaren joukkio valloitti sydämet myös Suomessa kesällä 1996. Yhden erityisen huomion voi tehdä melkoisella varmuudella: koskaan television historiassa ei sanaton viestintä ole tullut niin tutuksi kuin tämän urauurtavan tv-sarjan seuraajille. Vaikka monisanaisuus on Austen-tarinoille tyypillistä, katsojalle yhtä tärkeässä sarjan sisäisessä viestinnässä sanattomuus muuttuu hyveeksi.

Kuusi osaa ja 270 minuuttia tuntui kaikkea muuta kuin pitkältä, ja yksityiskohtia riitti ruodittavaksi yhtä hyvin romaanin kuin tv-sarjankin puitteissa silloin, kun Elizabethin ja Darcyn totuuden etsintä ulottui ennakkoluulojen, ylpeyden ja sydämen salaisuuksien tasolle. Vaikka ykköstarina keskittyy pääpariin, sarjaan sisältyy myös joukko muita parisuhteita, joissa on omat, mieltäkiinnittävät omi-tuisuutensa. Pitkäksi aika ei käy koskaan maratonistunnoissakaan.

– Jari Sedergren 2017

PLOT FROM WIKIPEDIA

Episode 1 – Part One: Mr. Charles Bingley, a rich man from the north of England, settles down at Netherfield estate near Meryton village in Hertfordshire for the autumn. Mrs Bennet, unlike her husband, is excited at the prospect of marrying off one of her five daughters (Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia) to the newcomer. Bingley takes an immediate liking to Jane at a local country-dance, while his best friend Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, rumoured to be twice as rich, refuses to dance with anyone including Elizabeth. Elizabeth's poor impression of his character is confirmed at a later gathering at Lucas Lodge, and she and Darcy verbally clash on the two nights she spends at Netherfield caring for the sick Jane.

Episode 2 – Part Two: A sycophantic clergyman named Mr. William Collins visits his cousins, the Bennets. He is the entailed heir of their home and estate, Longbourn, and intends to marry one of Mr. Bennet's daughters. This is meant, on his part, as an act of benign goodwill towards the Bennets, because Mrs. Bennet and her unwed daughters will be rendered homeless once Mr. Bennet dies and Mr. Collins inherits the estate. He therefore invites himself for a two-week visit, to get to know the Bennets better and select a wife from among the daughters of the family. However, the Bennet girls judge Mr. Collins to be a rather ridiculous man, an "oddity" with many peculiarities of speech and deportment. They are nevertheless civil to him, and take him to balls and social events in Meryton. One day, while on a walk around Meryton village, they meet members of a newly arrived militia, including a Mr George Wickham. At a social event, Wickham befriends Elizabeth and tells her that Darcy, who is the son of Wickham's late father's employer, has denied Wickham a living (a curacy) which had been assured to him by Mr. Darcy's father. At another social event, Darcy surprises Elizabeth with a dance offer at a ball at Netherfield, which she grudgingly but politely accepts. Mr Collins proposes to Elizabeth the next day, but she resoundingly rejects him. While Mrs Bennet disagrees about Elizabeth's decision, her close friend Charlotte Lucas invites Mr Collins to stay at Lucas Lodge.

Episode 3 – Part Three: Elizabeth is stunned and appalled when she learns that Charlotte Lucas has accepted a proposal from Mr Collins. When the Netherfield party departs for London in autumn, Jane stays with her modest London relatives, the Gardiners, but she soon notices that the Bingleys ignore her. After befriending Mr Wickham, Elizabeth departs for the Collinses' home in Kent in the spring. They live near Rosings, the estate of the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and as Lady Catherine is Darcy's aunt, Elizabeth meets Darcy several times. Shortly after Elizabeth learns of Darcy's direct responsibility for Jane and Bingley's separation, Darcy unexpectedly proposes to her, expressing his ardent admiration and love despite Elizabeth's inferior family connections. Elizabeth flatly rejects him, noting his arrogant, disagreeable, and proud character, and his involvement in her sister's failed romance and Mr Wickham's misfortune.

Episode 4 – Part Four: Darcy justifies his previous actions in a long letter to Elizabeth: he misjudged Jane's affection for Bingley and exposes Wickham as a gambler who once attempted to elope with his young sister, Georgiana, to obtain her inheritance. Back at Longbourn, Mr Bennet allows Lydia to accompany the militia to Brighton as a personal friend of the militia colonel's wife. Elizabeth joins the Gardiners on a sightseeing trip to Derbyshire and visits Pemberley, Darcy's estate, during his absence. Greatly impressed by the immense scale and richness of the estate, Elizabeth listens to the housekeeper's earnest tales of her master's lifelong goodness, while Darcy refreshes from his unannounced journey home by taking a swim in a lake. After an unexpected and awkward encounter with Elizabeth, a damp Darcy is able to prevent the party's premature departure with an unusual degree of friendliness and politeness.

Episode 5 – Part Five: Elizabeth and the Gardiners receive an invitation to Pemberley, where Darcy and Elizabeth share significant glances. The next morning, Elizabeth receives two letters from Jane, discussing Lydia's elopement with Wickham. As Elizabeth is about to return to Longbourn, Darcy walks in and offers his help, but, upon digesting the bad news, gradually appears more remote, and soon takes his leave. Elizabeth supposes she will never see him again. Mr and Mrs Bennet try to deal with the possible scandal until they receive a letter from Mr Gardiner, saying that Lydia and Wickham have been found and are not married, but will be soon under the Gardiners' care. After Mr Bennet states his surprise at how easily the issue has been resolved, Elizabeth informs Jane about her last meeting with Darcy, including her ambivalent feelings for him.

Episode 6 – Part Six: After Lydia carelessly mentions Darcy's involvement in her wedding, Mrs Gardiner enlightens Elizabeth how Darcy found the errant couple and paid for all the expenses. When Bingley and Darcy return to Netherfield in the autumn, Darcy apologises to Bingley for intervening in his relationship with Jane and gives his blessing for the couple to wed. Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who has heard rumours of an engagement between Darcy and Elizabeth but wants him to marry her sickly daughter Anne, pays Elizabeth an unannounced visit. She insists that Elizabeth renounce Darcy, but Elizabeth does not rule out a future engagement. When Elizabeth thanks Darcy for his role in Lydia's marriage, Lady Catherine's story encourages Darcy to reconfirm his feelings for Elizabeth. Elizabeth admits the complete transformation of her feelings and agrees to an engagement, which takes her family by surprise. The series ends with a double wedding in the winter months: Jane with Bingley, and Elizabeth to Fitzwilliam Darcy.

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