*** REVIEW FOR THE 2010 BLU RAY VERSION ***
In order to have this movie in High Definition, I've had the HD-DVD format of it for a few years now - but it's an America issue and has the awful US ending. Now at last it arrives on BLU RAY in the UK (May 2010) and it's just as gorgeous a transfer. It uses exactly the same elements that the HD-DVD did - even the same menus - and the extras from the DVD are all intact also (with the US ending tagged on as an Alternate).
The improvement in picture quality is immense over the rather blurred DVD experience. As it opens with a misty dawn and the twitter of birds, we see the young and feisty Elizabeth Bennet (played with a magical touch and staggering assurance by Kiera Knightly) walking with a book. But it's not until she crosses the courtyard of her home that the real quality kicks in - and it's a wow. The picture takes you aback - it wasn't this good in the cinema I can tell you...
It isn't perfect throughout by any means though. Because they were going for authenticity, a lot of the early evening and dark night sequences are shot in candlelit rooms (as they would have lived), so you get fuzziness in the definition... But once you get out into the countryside or inside one of the great halls of stately homes - where proper lighting prevailed - the picture quality is beautiful. There is one famous dream sequence where only Kiera's closed eyes fill the screen - she is dreaming of standing on the cliff edge - the clarity is gobsmacking. You also notice the weave of the clothing, the dirt on the hemlines, the ever so slightly unkempt hair - the attention to detail is great.
Directed by Joe Wright and released in late 2005, the film version was living in the shadow of the legendary 6-part BBC production from 1995 - so the movie had a lot on its shoulders and admirably rose to the task. Another trump card was Dario Marianelli's lush piano score (Oscar nominated) swirling around the scenes like a graceful swan.
In the cinema, it was a delight to look and experience - but sitting at home and watching it in real definition is a far more rewarding and illuminating experience. The acting chops on display is right across the board and apart from a slightly jarring ending, it had the hallmarks of a shoot that was fun and supremely confident in its delivery. I know others will cite the BBC production as definitive - but I think there's more than enough room on my shelf for both.
Matthew MacFadyen, Brenda Blethyn, Rosamund Pike, Carey Mulligan, Judy Dench, Tom Hollander - they were a cleverly chosen cast - and Rupert Friend won the heart of the lovely Kiera (which might explain the ethereal beauty of her performance). But it's the stunning adaptation of Jane Austen's novel by DEBORAH MOGGACH that is the real hero of the day. There is a sequence when Elizabeth and Darcy finally face off against each other in the rain - the dialogue is to die for - and should have been Oscar rewarded. As a dabbler in screenplays myself, I can't stress enough just how good the work here is - dazzling stuff.
It's under a tenner, the extras are substantial, the picture quality is much improved and in some cases unbelievably so - and it's eminently re-watchable.
To sum up - if you're a fan of the film, Jane Austen or both - then you must own "Pride & Prejudice" on this format. A Blu Ray gem and highly recommended.
BLU RAY Credits:
VIDEO: 1080p High-Definition Widescreen 2.35:1 aspect
AUDIO: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Italian, Spanish, French, German and Japanese DTS Surround 5.1
SUBTITLES: English SDH, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish, Japanese, Traditional Mandarin, Korean and Cantonese
Commentary with Director Joe Wright
Conversation With The Cast
Jane Austen, Ahead Of Her Time
A Bennet Family Portrait
Pride & Prejudice: A Classic In The Making
The Politics Of Dating
Alternate US Ending
The Stately Homes Of Pride & Prejudice