Pride & Prejudice

DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Nicky Falkof

Read Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of Pride & Prejudice
Pride And Prejudice

One of the most striking things about this package is how much tribute it pays to Jane Austen. Never for a moment is the viewer allowed to forget whose story this is, whose world we're entering. Austen is treated with respect throughout and the novel and characters actually get a lot more attention in the extras than the filming process does (with the obvious exception of the director's commentary).

Three well made featurettes make use of the same series of interviews with cast and crew. Director Joe Wright and producer Paul Webster, who comes across as particularly knowledgeable, are joined by the film's stars and a number of Austen experts.

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The Politics Of 19th Century Dating examines the importance of dance in courtship, and stars Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen explain from a less academic stance exactly how laden with tension interactions between the sexes were. The Bennets really does convey the familial feeling between the actors playing the film's central family. The Life And Times Of Jane Austen, which suffers slightly from a dry and jolting voiceover, is otherwise informative and casual. There's nothing too reverent here - the emphasis seems to be on the author's importance and continued relevance. All three are decent lengths, short enough to avoid boring the viewer, yet meaty enough to contain some real information. Nothing shown here will be news to any serious fan of Austen, or her work, but that's hardly the point; and it's fascinating to see how much of the historical background went into the film's construction, which creates renewed respect for all involved.

The Stately Homes Of Pride And Prejudice is well designed for interactivity and covers the five palatial homes used in the film. Various experts present just the right amount of the houses' history, while Wright and Co explain how their location choices were made. The real aristocrat who makes an appearance, as the owner of the home that stands in for Lady Catherine's, adds both a touch of class and a pleasing touch of the ridiculous.

The Family Tree and Galleries Of The 19th Century are both fairly pointless and difficult to navigate out of. It seems that these were added as cheap extras to make the package look more impressive. Wright's commentary, too, is not essential to the casual viewer. While doubtless a competent director, he's not an amazing stylist and his commentary tends towards the technical, with a lot of talk about shots and the creation of atmosphere. Strictly for the seriously interested, it's not particularly amusing, but is an effective documentation of the visual and contextual preoccupations of a decent director.

The DVD's gems lurk right at the back. First up is the On Set Diaries. These begin badly, with Donald Sutherland (Mr Bennet) mumbling a typically luvvie ode to all things Knightley. But it picks up from there. The real affection between the performers is sensitively and delightfully explored. Particularly impressive is the way that veteran Brenda Blethyn (Mrs Bennet) and newcomer Talulah Riley (Mary Bennet) are given as much, if not more, screen time than Knightley. It's a rare documentarian who will forgo the box office gold of a big star in favour of interesting characters. This section really does convey how much fun was had in the making of the film, a joyousness that translated well into the final product. Keep an eye out for Tom Hollander (the odious Mr Collins), who is hilarious.

The alternate US ending manages, in just two minutes, to perfectly illustrate the difference between cultures. It's fascinating to think that the average US viewer would not be satisfied with the film unless they got to see an actual kiss, especially in the light of how historically accurate the rest of the film is. No wonder the Austen Society was so angry.

All in all an enjoyable, well-made and highly informative DVD package.

Reviewed on: 08 Feb 2006
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Pride & Prejudice packshot
The camera loves Keira as Jane Austen's famous and fabulous writing flows to life.
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Product Code: 8239125

Region: 2

Ratio: 2.35 Anamorphic Wide Screen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: The Politics of 19th Century Dating; The Stately Homes of Pride and Prejudice; The Bennets; The Life and Times of Jane Austen; Pride & Prejudice Family Tree; Galleries of the 19th Century; On Set Diaries; Alternate US Ending; Commentary with Director Joe Wright

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