PBS, BBC and Jane Austen
It was hard for me to imagine a production company tackling the Jane Austen opus again. Hasn’t every one of her stories been shot several times over the past few decades? And aren’t they all rather magnificent? Kira Knightley sealed it by turning in a winning performance in the quite recent Pride and Prejudice. So what was BBC thinking trying to redo the redux?
The answer may be high-def. All the new films are shot in high definition, meaning they will find a home on television for years and years to come. Older TV films do not, and will not look good in high def. But that’s hardly a reason to take on such a project. After all, millions of dollars were at stake, and most if not all of these these stories has been screen multiple times.
The answer seems to be continuity of excellence. Starting with brilliant writers who have adapted Poirot and Sherlock Holmes and dozens of other master works, these new productions stand on the shoulders of the old and reach new heights. The direction and performances, the production values and cinematography are dazzling. The scripts are concise (90 minutes) and the abbreviation has not hindered but helped the story telling. In Persuasion I found myself holding my breath and reeling from the tension--only to realize every ounce of that tension was wrung from a love story. Not one frame of action ever reached the screen.
Me, a thriller guy, riveted. And all by careful characterization.
Now that’s good writing.
Switch over to PBS next Sunday. You won’t be disappointed.