I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Jane Austen adaption, except for Clueless when I was too young to appreciate it. But somewhere along the way the culture forgot to impress upon me that Jane Austen is funny. (Imdb lists this show as a “Drama” and a “Romance”.) I find myself kind of incredulous that it took me till I was 38 to understand this. I blame the patriarchy. (I’m only sort of joking.)
This is, by all accounts, the definitive film version of this novel and it’s easy to see why. Time is taken with character development and the story unfolds rather slowly at first. It does pick up in terms of speed in the final episodes but, on the whole, it is leisurely paced. It’s easy to see why people tend to prefer this version, given that other relatively recent versions are much, much shorter. I keep telling anyone who listens to me that people should be adapting novels to TV shows, not to movies. (I’m pretty annoying about it.) I think this show is proof that it works.
Like much British “prestige” TV from the 1990s it’s remarkably well made (with a few exceptions) – I am particularly appreciative of the way it is shot, as there are lots of scenes involving mirrors allowing the audience to both see the character speaking and another character reacting to them, but with unconventional blocking. The superimposed images have dated less well and now seem pretty funny, but at least they were trying something – internal narration/memory is incredibly hard to adapt to film.
It’s not all amazing, though: the quality of the film looks not great now and the sound mix whenever there is music is a little off. (Maybe that’s on purpose as you don’t lose important plot points. But it was jarring the first time.)
And I’m just so surprised how funny it is. There are some great performances by the supporting cast, who are reveling in their comic relief roles around the overly earnest stars. Alison Steadman made me basically want to kill her character, which is a pretty great achievement.
I’m surprised, I’m impressed, and I wish I lived in a world in which stuff like this wasn’t so much “for women” to the point that I didn’t realize I might actually find it funny until I was nearly 40.