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This mini-series adaptation of Jane Austen’s most popular novel was a huge hit, and made a star out of Colin Firth, who played Mr Darcy.  It is a faithful retelling of the book, with Jennifer Ehle playing the headstrong Elizabeth Bennet to perfection (some viewers said that she looked too old for the role, and admittedly I did think that for the first episode, but after that I realised how wonderfully she inhabited the character of Lizzie, and enjoyed watching both her and Firth.  I actually thought initially that a few of the actors – mainly those playing Lizzie, Jane and Lydia – were slightly too old, but by the end of the first segment, I had no such misgivings).

The series does an excellent job of portraying the pride and prejudice of the title (traits which are in no way restricted to the two main parts).  There is a lot of humour throughout, and all of the characters are well drawn.

The rest of the main cast consisted of Crispin Bonham-Carter, who was a great choice to play Bingley, Adrian Lukis, who was the attractive but dastardly Wickham, Alison Steadman as Mrs Bennet (one of the most IRRITATING characters ever written!) and Benjamin Whitford as the laid-back – possibly too much so – Mr Bennet.  Lizzie’s sisters Jane, Mary, Kitty and Lydia were played respectively by Susannah Harker, Lucy Briers, Polly Maberly and Julia Sawalha.  The acting was top notch throughout, and having nearly six hours to tell the story was a real benefit.  (I found this far more enjoyable than the 2005 version, partly because I believe the casting here was so much better, but also because the story in the later film suffers from being squashed into just a couple of hours.)  There was chance for various minor characters to be fleshed out, and for subplots to be explored in depth.

If you are a fan of the book, and are looking for a well acted adaptation, I think you could hardly do better than to start here.  Well worth watching – and rewatching!

Year of release: 1995

Director: Simon Langton

Producers: Michael Wearing, Sue Birtwistle, Julie Scott

Writers: Jane Austen (novel), Andrew Davies

Main cast: Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle, Susannah Harker, Crispin Bonham-Carter, Adrian Lukis, Julia Sawalha, Alison Steadman, Benjamin Whitrow, David Bamber

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Click here for my review of the novel.

Click here for my review of the 2005 film adaptation.

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