I’m a little bit concerned. Not so long ago I was waxing lyrical over North and South (incidentally, the BBC reacted to viewers wishes — one of the benefits of having a publicly-owned service — and will be releasing it on DVD on 11th April 2005, pre-order yours at the BBC Shop now). Lately, I have been watching Pride and Prejudice, a series the BBC did back in 1995. I saw the series on TV first (a rerun I think), but have had the DVD on my wish list for some time. Unfortunately, nobody seemed to think I was genuinely asking for this, so never bought it. When I spotted it in the January sales I grabbed it myself and have finally got around to watching it.
I enjoyed it as much the second time as the first and I can highly recommend it. The characters are engaging and the script gets over the story without a lot of repetition or wasting time (I’ve read the book too), though it does feel a little rushed in places. It’s strange to have a love story where the two partners are rarely in the same room, let alone have physical contact, but it works pretty well. Personally, I like the backbiting and banter between the main characters, and Elizabeth Bennett’s comebacks, put-downs and passionate, opinionated nature.
What concerned me was the fact that I seem to be developing a taste for costume dramas. Previously I had thought them to be boring, staid, paint-by-numbers affairs which, while we (the Brits) excelled at making them, were made because they sold (primarily to the US who think they’re ‘quaint’). They looked like a playground for stage actors to debut on screen or mainstream talent to do something serious and therefore raise their critical profile and magically turn them into a ‘serious’ actor (as if wandering around spouting 18th Century prose is harder than saying contemporary stuff). The stories seemed to idolise our class system, glossing over or entirely ignoring many of the worst aspects of life during the period featured. Overall there was this general feeling that costume drama is much more serious, much more weighty (many of them are based on literary ‘classics’ don’t you know) and more deserved of praise.
My God, man, he’s done Shakespeare.
While I haven’t completely changed my mind, I do enjoy them more and I do appreciate it takes more acting talent to get across what’s on your mind when you can’t just come out and say it. I might even try watching a few more and let you know how I get on.
Praise must be given to the sound guys (they were guys, I did check), the native track — the one with the birds on — is sublime, it really gives you the impression of being in the country, it keeps fooling me.
Second, the acting talent really does shine through. Great actors are masters of subtle non-verbal communication and suggestion. Standing on stage you need to project everything and, essentially, over act, making bold statements and large motions. Screen acting requires use of much more subtle expression. There are a number of scenes where the actors have restricted dialogue or, more often, none at all, but they still convey exactly what the character is feeling.