Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Persuasion (1995)

The 1995 version of Persuasion, directed by Roger Michell and starring Amanda Root as Anne Elliot and Ciaran Hinds as Caption Wentworth, is a fairly accurate interpretation of Jane Austen’s storyline. (Interestingly, the character who plays Mary, Anne’s sister, is the same woman who plays Miss Bates in the version of Emma that we watched for class!) The depiction of characters seemed to align well with the novel, in terms of age and disposition. Indeed, one of the most interesting and seemingly accurate portrayals is that of Anne, as the audience can perceive the physical differences of Anne (or, may we say as we did in class, her “bloom”) evolve from the beginning to the end of the film: she goes from slightly poorly-dressed in dark colors and unmade face, to light-colored clothing and well-done hair by the end. The storyline of the film follows along closely with Austen’s plot, hitting every important scene.

Rather than focus on the things that the movie does well, I am going to point out two discrepancies with the text. In the film, the presence of the poor can be seen often, something that is not often mentioned outright in the novel. The poor watch the Elliots leave their home, they are working by the sea gutting fish, and they are begging at the doorsteps of Bath. It is interesting to see these depictions of the poor; in Austen novels, they are always there under the surface, making the difference between their social station and that of the wealthy gentry. However, in a film depiction where the loss of funds is central to the Elliot family, the focus on the poor always present shows how stark their lives are even in comparison to the “depleted” resources of Sir Walter.

Another interesting point in this film is the inclusion of scenes on the ocean on war ships, both at the beginning and end of the film (something that Austen herself does not depict). In the beginning, the Admiral Croft and Wentworth are seen among other naval officers celebrating the end of war on ship, and beginning to return home to England. At the end of the novel, Admiral Croft is seen telling a dinner party that Napoleon has returned and war will commence again (which goes against the “period of peace” that Austen is working with in her novel, as the characters do not end knowing that war is returning). The final scene of the film is a wedding scene between Anne and Captain Wentworth on board a war ship, something discrepant from the ending of Austen novels, as she never shows the wedding itself. These discrepancies pull the film somewhat away from how Austen herself ties up her stories. However, overall the film is a well-done tribute to Austen’s words.

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