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Pride and Prejudice: 10th Anniversary Limited Collector’s Editor (review)

Handsome Enough to Tempt Us All

When 51st-century cultural historians look back at the televisual dramatics of the Later North Amer-atlantic Civilization (1750–2150), three items will stand out: The Twilight Zone, Spongebob Squarepants, and the 1995 miniseries adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. This BBC production remains, more than a decade after it astonished Austen purists and dreamy teenage girls of all ages alike, quite the most wonderful five hours of romantic suspense and social intrigue ever committed to film. And this new DVD set sneaks in now, almost in response to last year’s very different theatrical Pride, to remind us that filmed Austen — filmed literature of any kind, really — simply does not get any better than this.
Two of the three discs here contain the entire miniseries, which is as gorgeous and as rapturous as you remember, all heaving bosoms and handsome men in uniform and Darcy smoldering and smirking his way through insufferable country balls and Elizabeth being efforlessly witty and clever and the two of them falling inexorably — even if they don’t see if at first — into each other’s arms and hearts. *sigh* It’s all almost too much to bear, it’s so perfectly attuned to the needs of modern TV viewers, with its clipped pace (for all its length) and snappy dialogue, while never, ever denying the brilliance of our lovely Jane and her sharp, clear eye on the universalities of romance and marriage and familial expectations and the tripwires in our own hearts. Ah, and Colin Firth (Nanny McPhee) couldn’t be Darcier, and Jennifer Ehle (Possession) couldn’t be Elizabether… the whole cast is, to a one, just right.

The third disc contains a terrific, new retrospective documentary about the production, with lots of interviews with cast and crew (alas, neither Firth nor Ehle appear, but the others have tons interesting to say). And the package — which is as near to being coffee-table-esque as DVD sets go — also includes an oversize paperback book about the making of the miniseries; it’s bursting with tons of delicious behind-the-scenes photos and discussions about the lucsious costumes, the beautiful set design, the difficulties of learning Austen’s dialogue, and a lot more. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an Austen fan in possession of a DVD player must be in want of this set.

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