So, having recently read Jane Austen’s Persuasion, naturally I had to watch the movies to see which one did the best job of capturing all that the novel is. I’ll give the readers following my blog a few moments to finish laughing. But seriously, if I had to choose one as my favorite, it would be the 1995 adaptation starring Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root.
With that being said, I must also admit that reading the book first will be extremely helpful because there is a large cast of characters and detailed storylines to keep track of. Without the benefit of a reading, the movie might seem patchy, as if much is left unexplained.
I believe the reason no movie will ever completely depict Persuasion, or any book for that matter, but in particular Persuasion, is because much of the prose describes what the characters are thinking and feeling. We have an in-depth view of Anne’s heart that can only be conveyed on screen by her expressions. The same is true of Captain Wentworth. However, when the characters do speak, there are no wasted words.
The thrill of romantic tension Jane Austen infused in her novel comes out well in the 1995 Persuasion. Again I found myself wanting the movie to hurry up and relieve Anne’s and Wentworth’s agony, but just as quickly wishing to prolong the scenes so I could relish them over and over. At the conclusion of the novel, I felt as if I was leaving dear friends behind, and the movie engendered the same emotions as well as put faces on said friends.
And then there is the kiss in the 1995 Persuasion when Anne and Wentworth finally overcome their insecurities and presumptions regarding each other. Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root do it the best as we’re given the view from just over Wentworth’s shoulder as he’s leaning down to make contact with Anne’s lips, and she closes her eyes right before they touch. Let the squealing and sighing commence because it is, in my humble opinion, the best onscreen kiss ever.
As for Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root, they do a wonderful job portraying Wentworth and Anne. He is classically handsome with high cheekbones and a regal bearing. Never is Hinds’s Wentworth the pretty, spoiled rich boy next door. Amanda Root’s Anne embodies Jane Austen’s own sentiment of being “almost too good for me.” She is perfect as the plain but pretty woman past her bloom who later revives the blush upon her cheeks the closer she comes to her one true love.
The 2007 adaption of Persuasion starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones is not bad, but it’s not great. I would never dissuade you from watching to make up your own mind. My biggest complaints are that some characters’ lines end up in the mouths of other characters and too many scenes are consolidated which lessens the impact of what takes place. There is also a titch too much creative licensing going on and four times the director employs the technique of having Anne (Sally Hawkins) look directly at the camera as if making eye contact with the viewer thus conveying the depth of her feelings at the moment. Once would have been sufficient to make us feel Anne’s pain.
Wentworth in this version is handsome but not dashing, and Anne’s hair looks as if it needs a good washing. As for the kiss at the end, Anne has been running to catch up to Wentworth, and she pants too long and too hard. Then the scene drags on forever, I have to assume because of the director’s instructions or perhaps to give Sally Hawkins time to catch her breath, and the moment is spoiled. It is actually more embarrassing than romantic.
One saving grace is Anthony Head as Sir Walter, Anne’s father. It’s almost frightening how well Head portrays the depth of shallowness and vanity to which Sir Walter has sunk, caring little or nothing for those around him who he deems worthless including his own dear daughter, Anne. Kudos to Head for making me hate this character because I have to admit, sometimes I love a character I can hate.
There are a couple TV mini-series based on Persuasion from the ‘60s and 70’s and a modern adaptation all of which I’m sure I’ll miss. Until a glowing review for one of them comes from a friend or follower, I’ll stay with the novel and the 1995 movie.