Twenty years ago, a production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice aired on the BBC. Adapted by Andrew Davies and directed by Upstairs Downstairs’ Simon Langton, there should have been no doubt as to the production’s quality. Even with the caliber of talent on board, who could have ever predicted the splash and impact just one costume drama production could make? There had been several film adaptations before the now iconic costume drama hit the small screen, but nothing in comparison to this one faithful version of Jane Austen’s classic, a version that has since won over the hearts of many.
Years later, and the Colin Firth version of Austen’s novel still remains a go-to favorite in several households around the world. But what is it that keeps us going back for more? Is it Mr. Darcy’s sexy dive into a pond? Colin Firth’s epic, smoldering stares at Jennifer Ehle’s Elizabeth Bennet? After several years away from the miniseries, I decided it was time to go back and remind myself just what was so wonderful about one itty bitty little period drama.
Minutes into the production, and I knew my memories hadn’t failed me. Sure, some of the coloring is slightly aged, but it is the writing, the costumes, and most importantly (in my book anyway), the performances that once again steal my heart.
I felt for Lizzie in the midst of her mother’s embarrassing behavior at parties (Alison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet was just as hilariously obnoxious as I recalled). I also felt for Lizzie when Mr. Darcy slighted her, empathizing with her plight (despite having seen this scene countless times before). I personally wouldn’t be able to stand him either after that. Not to mention that Jennifer Ehle’s sarcastic facial expressions and slight smirks are so spot on in her scenes with Colin Firth, that I’m not sure any other actress will ever capture the spirit of Jane Austen’s irony and wit with such elegant ease.
Indeed, sometimes, it’s easy to forget Ehle when one thinks about the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy is just so fabulous in the role that sometimes she gets overshadowed, but really his Mr. Darcy only works so well because both actors’ chemistry gelled together like magic. The two of them onscreen truly was like seeing Jane Austen’s characters brought to life.
But credit is still due where credit is due, and Colin Firth (unsurprising of course) still manages to spellbind me with his charisma. The pride and disdain, his own asides of sarcasm, the romantic longing stares at Elizabeth, the moments of vulnerability that begin to peak through, all remind me that Colin Firth owned this part and role. He was meant to play Mr. Darcy, and while there will always be new adaptations with other great performances in the role (I love Matthew MacFadyen too), I’m not sure anyone will ever compare to Colin Firth.
All gushing for Firth aside, everyone else played their parts magnificently well. From the terribly disgusting Mr. Collins (he’s still funny in his absurdity), sweet Jane, silly and awful Lydia, adorably boyish Charles Bingley, to the stuck up Miss Bingley, just about everyone became their roles flawlessly. The only actor I still don’t get is Adrian Lukis as Mr. Wickham. He did a good job, but he was almost too slimy and unattractive for me to believe Lizzie could ever be fooled by him. I guess I always imagined someone a little more charming. Perhaps this one is just me…
Still, overall, returning to the 1995 Pride and Prejudice was a real treat. The lavish design, intricate costumes, faithful script with a clear understanding of Austen’s prose and dialogue, all make this version of Pride and Prejudice one of the best (if not the best) period drama miniseries ever filmed. It still holds up today and (I’m not going to lie), I still got excited when Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy finally got together in the end.
In this, the 20th anniversary of the romantic period production, I say go back and watch it again. Enjoy the banter between Elizabeth and Darcy in this impressive romantic series. Enjoy Colin Firth as he brings the iconic Mr. Darcy to life in a way no one had formerly. Remember why it is the best and entrench yourselves in the one period drama that will no doubt make you swoon and fall in love once more with the characters and performances that rightly remain unforgettable.
“The stuff that dreams are made of.”
“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.
I have loved none but you.”