on 9 July 2009
Many reviewers here are very exercised about the fidelity of this film to the original novel. Given that the one is ploughing its furrow in a different artistic medium from the other, I would prefer to judge it on its cinematic qualities.
From the stunning grey/blue opening view, lifted from "The Bounty", of a man of war anchored in Spithead, through village streets of Dorset and on to the glistening terraces of Bath in the rain, great effort has been expended on Austenesque verisimilitude which seemed to me - bar Mrs Croft's 1995 elfin hair-do and Lady Russell's whole Camden Market look - spot on. The script and pacing of the film are just right, allowing plenty of time for scene setting in the first third without either dawdling or rushing. I loved this put-down exchange:
Mr Elliot: Have you thought any more about my offer?
Anne: What offer was that?
Mr Elliot: My offer to flatter and adore you all the days of your life.
Anne: I haven't had a moment, Mr Elliot, to turn my mind to it.
The direction by Roger Michell is nicely unobtrusive, though there were worrying signs of television-style multi-camera set-ups and prolonged, abrupt and monotonous cutting from face to face in early conversation scenes. Fortunately, this was not a problem later on.
The cast I thought excellent. Amanda Root more frequently conveys meaning by small changes of look and unshowy gesture than in words - delightful. Ciaran Hinds as Captain Wentworth disturbed me at first by his relative boisterousness, no doubt assumed in order to conceal the ache in his heart on encountering Anne. But in the key scenes with her that presage their coming-together following his letter writing, he is increasingly serious and silent; a neat progression.
This great scene of reconciliation that concludes the picture is beautifully handled. Both lovers now appear gauche but concentrated as they are seen against a backcloth of a travelling circus passing in the street; they silent but passionate, the performers a whirl of movement and colour. And what colour! The pastel co-ordinated costume hues of lovers and players make a glorious kaleidoscope that takes the breath away. Then a change of scene and effect as Anne and Wentworth stroll in rapture along the Georgian terrace, their costumes blending into the Cotswold stone of the architecture. Magical!
on 3 March 2005
"Persuasion," the film, is a faithful adaptation of Jane Austen's final completed novel, and to my mind her finest book.
Roger Michell directed, with subtlety and brilliance, and brought Ms. Austen's masterpiece to life on the big screen. The pure magic of the romance alone captivates, along with the Regency English period history, brilliant characterizations, color, music and costumes.
The movie deals with the same social issues as the book, especially the British class system. Rigid social barriers existed - and everyone wanted to marry "up" to a higher station - and into wealth. This is also a very poignant and passionate tale of love, disappointment, loss and redemption. The point is clearly that one shouldn't ever be persuaded to abandon core values and beliefs, especially for ignoble goals. There are consequences, always.
Sir Walter Elliot, Lord of Kellynch Hall, (portrayed by a wonderfully dispicable Corin Redgrave), is an extravagant, self-aggrandizing snob, and a bit of a dandy to boot. He has been a widower for many years and spends money beyond his means to increase his social stature. His eldest daughter, (Phoebe Nicholls), upon whom he dotes, is as conceited and spoiled as he is. The youngest daughter, Anne (Amanda Root), is an intelligent, sensitive, and unassuming woman in her late twenties when the film begins. She had been quite pretty at one time, but life's disappointments have taken their toll and her looks are fading. She and her sister are both single. Anne had once been very much in love with a young, and as yet untried, navel officer. A woman who had been a close friend to Anne's mother, persuaded Anne to call off the engagement, convincing her that she could make a better match. After much consideration, Anne did not follow her heart, or her better judgement, and she and her young officer, Frederick Wentworth (Ciaran Hinds), separated. She has never again found the mutual love or companionship that she had with him.
The Elliot family is forced to financially retrench because of their extravagance. They lease Kellynch Hall to...of all people...Wentworth's sister and her husband. Elliot, his oldest daughter and her companion, move to a smaller lodging in Bath for the season, leaving Anne to pack up their belongings before joining them. She gets the Cinderella treatment throughout the film. Anne chooses this time to visit with her middle sister, an abominably spoiled, whiny hypochondriac, Mrs. Musgrove. She has made a good, but not brilliant match to a local squire. Charles Muskgrove, her husband, his parents, and their two younger, eligible daughters, Louisa and Henrietta, are delightful. There are wonderfully warm scenes of family and friends dining, dancing, hiking over the gorgeous countryside, and at the seashore, that bring the audience smack into early 19th century English life.
It is at the Muskgrove estate that Anne meets Frederick Wentworth again, after his absence of seven years. Wentworth is now a Captain in the Royal Navy and quite wealthy. When their eyes meet for the first time, you can absolutely feel Anne's longing and remorse. Intense. I cannot imagine a better actress to play Anne than Amanda Root. She slowly transforms herself from a sallow, aging spinster to a luminescent woman in love - and this is not just the makeup. Wentworth is aloof with Anne, although civil. The man was hurtfully rejected once before and it appears that he still feels the sting of her snub. Now Wentworth is on the marriage market and Louisa sets her cap for him. Accidents and various adventures ensue, from the resorts of Lyme and Bath to the Muskgrove estate, bringing Anne and Wentworth closer together. If Ms. Root is the perfect Anne, then Mr. Hinds is the best possible Wentworth. He is as large and virile as she is petite and feminine. He oozes sensuality...however, he portrays his character with great subtlety. The entire production is brilliantly cast and the acting is superb
I think this is Ms. Austen's most passionate piece. Some scholars say that she modeled Anne Elliot after herself.
This remarkable film, like the novel, and the issues it tackles, is just as germane today as it was when written. Each time I view it, it just gets better. And the romance...well, no one does romance better than Jane Austen.
on 9 July 2010
I would simply like to thank all the reviewers, especially Meerkat, who guided me to watch this version after suffering the horror of the ITV adapation (Sally Hawkins/Rupert Penry-Jones)which I'd just watched.
ITV sucked out all the values and principles Austen worked so hard to examine in her novels, dumbed down the script and did a shallow, sugar-coated romance. A sign of the times I guess. Sadly.
This version, still one or two minor inaccuracies but forgiveable, was exquisite. Not such pretty faces but wonderful.
on 16 September 2003
This is the best of the movie-length adaptions of Jane Austen. The BBC tv Pride and Prejudice is superlative and remains the best, of course, but that is partly because it has the time it needs. Given what can be done in the 90-120 minute framework, this is excellent. Occasionally the jumps between scenes lose one just a little, but this is easily outweighed by the elegant subtlety of the direction and acting. The Sense and Sensibility version is too pleased with its own cleverness and focuses too much on the down side of Jane Austen's social satire; Emma does just the opposite. Persuasion is, as it were, the golden mean, and while all three movie versions are eminently watchable and enjoyable, if you can only watch one, and want to get a balanced sense of the 'real' Jane Austen, then Persuasion is the one.
on 24 December 2007
Persuasion (1818) is often thought of as Jane Austen's most 'romantic' novel. Yet Austen's philosophy of love and romance might be quite different to what we understand as romantic today. She repeatedly counselled against a flighty over-indulgence of emotions (e.g. the characters of Marianne in Sense and Sensibility and Lydia in Pride and Prejudice), blessing her heroines with the prudence of rational love and controlled romanticism. Austen astutely recognised that women in the Georgian period, forbidden by custom and status to work beyond the home, were in danger of constructing and seeking to injudiciously act out wildly romantic fantasies. As Anne Elliott tells a naval officer in this brilliant adaptation, "We cannot help ourselves. We live at home, quiet, confined, and our feelings prey upon us. You always have business of some sort or other to take you back into the world".
Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds excel as the leads and their on-screen chemistry is unmistakable as smouldering, unexpressed emotions threaten to penetrate the surface of their reserve. Root (who was originally sought by Emma Thompson to play the role of Marianne in Sense and Sensibility) has been frequently patronised on message boards - either consciously or unconciously - for her "plain" appearance, as if actresses must be classically beautiful before they can be considered good. I found that Root performed Anne with grace and intelligent sensitivity; she has the remarkable talent of letting her huge, searching eyes express what could often not be said in that era. Hinds makes for a Captain Wentworth as ruggedly handsome and virile as Firth in the role of Mr. Darcy; Wentworth is as morally principled as him and is a great deal tougher and more robust to boot. In his impassioned declaration to Anne - that "a man does not recover from such a devotion to such a woman, he ought not, he does not" - Hinds skillfully shows that Wentworth is thinking of his own strong, irrepressible feelings for Anne.
The leads are helped by an admirable supporting cast: Simon Russell Beale (as Charles Musgrove), Sophie Thompson (as his hypochondriac wife Mary) and Corin Redgrave (as the snobbish, spendthrift Sir Walter) do especially well, although I found that Mrs Croft (Fiona Shaw) and Lady Russell (played by Susan Fleetwood who died the year in which the film aired) sometimes look too similar to be clearly distinguished from each other.
Persuasion is quieter and more subdued than Austen's more famous novels. Appropriately the musical score is subtle and unobtrusive, complementing rather than overwhelming the dramatic moments of the narrative. Anne, too, makes for a less vivacious and lively heroine than, for example, the much-loved Lizzy Bennet. But this is not a fault: her development into self-conviction and in learning not only to trust her instincts and feelings, but more importantly to act upon them too, make her a paragon in a Georgian society which often sought to repress individual thought and feeling in women. She painfully experiences the pitfalls of letting oneself be guided or influenced by others. As Jane Austen counselled in an earlier novel, "We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be." (Mansfield Park, 1814).
on 16 April 2010
Sensitive, subtle, funny and heart-wrenching. This film manages to be utterly true to the book and the time it was written in, while seeming more modern and "fresh" than the run of sexed-up costume dramas being churned out today. There're no Hollywood smiles, glossy make-up or unfeasibly glamorous stars - the superb cast look and act like real people. But just because it's realist doesn't make it drab. Anne's transformation is all the more dramatic for seeming to be genuinely lit from within. Gets better on every viewing!
I'm thoroughly impressed with the BBC's adaptation of Persuasion. It's true that a lot of the charm of the book itself does not shine through and on a couple of occasions I feel that the producers have taken rather an unnecessary poetic license. However, it's impossible to translate a book into drama word by word and I have rarely seen a dramatisation that has stuck so well with the original text. The cast lived up to every expectation, most of them quite the way I'd envisaged them while reading the book. The storyline as such... well, it's Jane Austen! It's a pure joy to watch!
on 14 December 2011
Wonderfully subtle and gentle in the best spirit of the book. Two people creaping towards middle-age who feel that their only chance of love has been lost to them. You get a real sense of the years of loss suffered by these people who could, should, have been already happily married for several years before the book starts but have been kept apart by the concerns of interfering others and by their own position in a class-ridden world. This adaptation is true to the both the contents and the spirit of the book (i.e., it hasn't been "sexed-up" or made racier than the book) but remains subtle but still able to give us a sense of the period these people lived in and how marriage for love could be so hard to achieve.
on 25 August 2007
I think this a faithful adaptation of the book and interestingly manages to incorporate not just the first ending Jane Austen wrote and but also the one in the book.
I love the autumnal landscapes and the general earthiness of the look of the adaptation.
One of my complaints is that The Letter was read by both actors, Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds, at the same time. I understand the idea for dramatic reasons but it just meant that it was very hard to hear all of the words as they were cross-cutting. It's such a crucial event and I think it is misused.
Anyway, that aside, this looks beautiful, it's faithful (apart from the public kiss at the end which I personally can forgive), and Amanda Root was wonderful as Anne. They made her look plain and as the story progresses, she positively blooms before your eyes. She conveys the "about to become an old maid but resigned to it" but then maybe there is some hope that she can recover her lost love beautifully often just with the use of her eyes. Wonderfully done.
I found Ciaran Hinds very convincing as the sailor returned home and the Admiral and Mrs Croft were very endearing as they should be. The Elliot family and the Musgroves seemed to me to be spot on except for Elizabeth.
I did have problems with two of the characters. Lady Russell, crucial to the plot should I thought have been a bit more motherly as she was only advising the motherless Anne as she had been her mother's close friend. I was not quite sure it worked that the script made her into a sort of proto-feminist. And Elizabeth was altogether too obviously selfish. Both of the actors played their roles well but they didn't seem to me to be quite right.
Having said all that, I think this is a splendid adaptation and I find it hard to think how it could be bettered, but maybe one day it will.
on 29 April 2006
Persuasion is a fantastic piece of TV adaptation, no two ways about it, but it is much better if you know the story beforehand. Amanda Root is excellent as Anne, and really conveys a sense of resignation and acceptance of her situation to the piece. The only (very minor) quibble is that, being a sad literature geek, the cousin, Mr Elliot, is not made out to be eeevil enough - in the book, he is partially responsible to Mrs Smith's poverty as he wasted all her husband's money on fripperies. Very anal. That aside, the costumes, cast, dialogue and sets were true to form, making a thoroughly enjoyable and watchable programme. It's even funny in places - Anne's sister Mary is a total hypochondriac and hypocrite. 5 stars, no doubt about it.