Persuasion movie (1995)

November 2, 2020

I’ve seen again the ‘95 movie and it’s very faithful to the novel.  But the last scenes suffer now in comparison to the novel.  That tense chapter that unfolded Mrs. Smith’s revelations to Anne, is a mere nothing in the movie; and Mrs. Smith knows much about Mr. Elliot but has never known him personally, so she’s never been hurt by him.  It’s just less consequential all-around. 

Mr. Elliot is made into a poor man who has squandered his wealth and is now seeking out old connections, which leaves him less bad than Austen’s still-rich man who has decided, in a calculated way and not out of financial or other kinds of need, to go after the Elliot title.

The movie doesn’t do justice to the concert scene or Anne’s reading of Wentworth’s letter.  Sure, letter-reading is not cinematic; but a movie should have good material with the concert chapter, particularly the back-and-forth, uncertain movements and glances.

Otherwise, what’s not to like?  Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds, especially the former, are perfect as Anne and the Captain.  Admiral and Mrs. Croft shine, too.

I’ve also checked out the ‘07 version; and it’s less faithful.  Now, I’m not usually the type to complain about this, because movies are different from books and they often are right to make changes to the source material.  It’s just a very different medium.  But here the changes seem merely random.  Dialogue, for example, is put in the mouths of other characters, or moved to other points in the story, without really improving anything.

And about Mrs. Smith.  In this movie she is no invalid, and can actually rush along the sidewalk with a sprinting Anne.  She delivers her news about Mr. Elliot, but far too late to make a difference in the story.

Mr. Elliot comes off less well-mannered than he should.  Captain Wentworth does not look like a weather-beaten naval officer; and he’s so young-looking that you never get the sense that he’s suffered; he merely looks immature and shy.  He’s not an extrovert here, or charming, which is a great loss to the character – and it gives Anne a lesser person to love, which diminishes her.

Sally Hawkins is not great as Anne; you get little sense of her mind; but I do like the way this Anne looks straight into the camera on occasion.

Nice to see Alice Krige as Lady Russell; and “Horatio” himself playing the younger Mr. Musgrove.  It’s impossible to forget the voice of Nicholas Farrell, from Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet.”

This version plays up the romance angle, maybe a little too much, especially by having Anne run a marathon to find Captain Wentworth at the end, like she’s Harry running for Sally on New Year’s Eve.  Nothing could be less-Austen, than this kind of physical movement.  Dances, yes; shooting at birds in the country, certainly; rushing carriages, okay; but not pounding the pavement with heavy breathing.

I do like that kiss, though.  Yes, it’s very un-Austen.  But still.

It’s funny, there are just a few things I had remembered about the ‘95 version.  I remembered Anne’s face, and her quiet character, above all.  I’d remembered Anne gripping her chair as Wentworth walked back into her life.  I’d kept a mental image of her and the Captain sailing the high seas at the end.  And I remembered a reviewer, in the New York Times or the New York Review of Books, who liked the movie but complained about how un-Austen it was for Wentworth and Anne to be openly necking in public.

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