Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: Persuasion (1995)

Made in 1995, a year which also gave us Austen adaptations of Sense and Sensibility (Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet) and the A&E production of Pride and Prejudice (Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle), Persuasion is a little lesser known, but equally quality addition to the canon. Directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill), the cast is lead by Ciaran Hinds as Captain Frederick Wentworth and Amanda Root as Anne Elliot.

The film is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s final completed novel. I have read in some sources that Austen was quite ill at the time of the writing and was rushing to finish the novel.; this may account for the book’s breathless pace.  Although I have not read all of Ms. Austen’s novels, this is by far the least ‘whimsical’ of those that I have read. In saying that, this film captures the darker spirit of its source material in a very realistic way.

Persuasion is set after the Napoleonic Wars. The Elliot household is in state of great transition. Since the death of the family matriarch, Mr. Elliot (Corin Redgrave) has lived a life of frivolity and spent foolishly. This has left the family heavily in debt and they now have to ‘retrench’ – leaving the family estate, Kellynch Hall for a more economic lifestyle. They are left to renting their home to the Admiral and Mrs. Croft (Fiona Shaw), who have returned from the Navy and are looking to settle in the country.

It is revealed that there is a connection between the two families – Mrs. Croft’s brother, Frederick (Hinds) formed an attachment to Ms. Anne Elliot (Root), who at the age of 27, is now considered a spinster. The Crofts’ arrival to Kellynch Hall has stirred all the old feelings of the attachment made and broken 8 years ago. Family friend, Lady Russell (Susan Fleetwood), was a key player in keeping the lovers apart. Her reasoning was that Wentworth was a young man of no wealth or consequence; now, the roles are reversed, as Wentworth has made a fortune in the Wars.

After her father and eldest sister leave Kellynch for Bath, Anne is left behind to prepare the home for the new tenants; she stays with younger sister Mary as the Crofts settle in. This brings her immediately into the circle of Wentworth.

At this point in the story, their relationship is reestablished at first on uncertain grounds, but eventually they find a common ground. In fact, one wonders if there is still something there…

Well that is the set-up; I will leave it for you watch and find out. I hate giving away the plot 😀

When I started to draft this post, I was thinking about stating that this was the least ‘romantic’ of the novels/adaptations I had read or watched. I immediately changed that to ‘whimsical’ because while this film is most assuredly lacking in the light moments of humor of many of Austen’s earlier works, I found Persuasion very romantic; in fact, that a love lost nearly a decade ago could be rekindled is a very romantic notion indeed. I was really rooting for the two of them.

The one bone I had to pick with the film is the casting of the central players. While I thought the actors brought what was needed to the roles, I felt they were a bit ‘too seasoned’ for the roles. But I like this film so much that I will forgive the film this minor flaw.

Comments

  1. I haven’t seen this one, and if I am honest I probably won’t. I am not very good with this type of film. But it has been interesting to read about it!!

  2. I have to say I enjoyed your take, even if I liked the film rather more than you did. I loved the two leads. Ciarin HInds is so unusual looking and strong and stalwart – I can easily imagine him commandeering or commanding a ship and duking it out with Napoleon’s sea going minions.

    I liked Amanda Root as well.

    I love the book and really, this is a particularly good interpretation.

    • I had not read the book until after seeing this version but before that rather odd 2007 version with Sally Hawkins running all over Bath.

      I do not know why I waited so long to read the book. It is wonderful.

  3. Wahoo!!! I LOVE your choice of ‘overlooked film’ this week Iba. I happen to love this adaptation, it’s such an underrated gem from Austen’s work. I think it’s very romantic too, but in an understated but moving kind of way. I like both leads and they have a nice chemistry together. I totally agree w/ your comment above about the 2007 version. As hunky as Rupert Penry-Jones was, the running around of Anne is just weird. I think this is still the better adaptation of the two.

    Not sure if you’ve seen this yet but Wentworth is one of my fave period drama heroes: http://flixchatter.net/2011/04/15/the-flix-list-15-favorite-period-drama-heroes-part-i/ Oh and I think this would be a good one to do a remake on (http://flixchatter.net/2011/03/09/the-flix-list-ten-books-we-wish-to-see-on-the-big-screen/)

    • Awesome Ruth. Glad to see we are of the same mind on this one!

      Especially about the 2007 version. Did not really mind Hawkins as Anne, but the changes to the story were a bit much for me.
      On my last trip to England I visited Bath; maybe I should post the pictures on this site 🙂

      The romantic heroes post is pretty awesome! [swoon] John Thornton!

      I also like the Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley in the Emma starring Romola Garai. I am trying to angle a centered around her in the coming days – I quite like her as an actress in general.

  4. Hey Iba, I’d love to see your pics at Bath. I went there too on my last trip to Britain. I actually went to the Jane Austen center as well.

    I really need to see the Emma adaptation w/ Romola Garai, who I’m sure is far more fitting as Emma than Gwyneth Paltrow!! I do love Jeremy Northam though, soooo hunky!!

  5. “Persuasion” is such a wonderful film. I thought Ciaran Hines, gave a perfect peromance as the warm but reserved Captain Wentworth. I would recommend this movie to any Jane Austen lover or a person who enjoys period films.

  6. Yes, I thought Ciaran did a fab job as well. I really couldn’t have bought a man any younger than him being a ship’s captain away for 8 years. I also liked the overall theme that even in ‘middle age’ that life is not over and there is still a chance for love. It was a GREAT film!

  7. I agree with those who have said this is far superior to the 2007 remake, which hits so many wrong notes, it’s hard to list them all, the most glaring being Sally Hawkins’s Jesse Owens imitation near the end, and the casting of callow teen-ager Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth (yeah, I know he wasn’t really a teen-ager, but, honestly, are we really supposed to believe that a pretty boy like Penry-Jones commanded men ‘ war in battle?).

    I’ll go a step farther. The ’95 version, which started Hollywood’s love affair with Austen, predating both the Emma Thompson S&S and the Firth/Ehle P&P, is not only the best version of PERSUASION, but the best adaptation of ANY Austen novel.

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  1. […] the Austen-themed films I have enjoyed over the years and soon after, rewatched the 1995 version of Persuasion to remind myself of what I loved (and […]

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