“Persuasion” (1995) and “Persuasion” by Jane Austen

I’ve been reading and watching a lot of tragedies of late (not including the economy and political climate here in the US) so I took a break from the sturm und drang for Jane Austen’s Persuasion. And what a delightful and welcome break it was.

I watched the 1995 adaptation first. When PBS aired the 2007 adaptation earlier this year, many online Janeites expressed their preference for this earlier version, which was televised in the UK, but released in theaters elsewhere in the world. While I liked the PBS adaptation, I agree that it suffers by comparison to this earlier version.

The 1995 version was a bit longer, often an asset in adapting a work of fiction. Additionally, the actors who played the leads of Anne Elliott and Captain Wentworth, Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds, were the more realistic for looking like real people, perhaps because the film was shot entirely in natural light. The film actors looked old enough for the theme of reclaiming a lost love of youth. The leads in the PBS film were pretty and younger looking; they’d been glammed up–Sally Hawkins in no way looked past her bloom, as Anne is in the book. She was at least as pretty as Rupert Penry-Jones, as Wentworth. Finally, the 1995 film does not needlessly augment the tension at the end, as the PBS version did with its over-the-top scene of Anne running through the streets of Bath, one that was deservedly skewered on YouTube, here. Instead the film wisely let the quiet dignity of its actors, along with one of the most beautiful passages of Austen, convey the emotion:

“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in

F. W.

I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.”

Such a letter was not to be soon recovered from.

Indeed, and it’s passages like this that made re-reading Persuasion a joy. The slim, sometimes grim tale is filled with jewel-bright and razor-sharp prose as it carries the reader to the happy, unsurprising ending for Anne and Captain Wentworth. I often stopped to re-read and marvel at sentences and passages along the way. I didn’t love Persuasion the first time I read it. Reading all the Austen complete novels, though, and reading about Austen, have given me an increased appreciation that made this reading a suitable antidote for the previous tragedies I’d partaken of.

6 Responses to ““Persuasion” (1995) and “Persuasion” by Jane Austen”

  1. Amy Says:

    I have the 1995 DVD and have never watched it. Silly me!

    I know of what you speak in terms of reading. After finishing the 5-volume descent into despair and suicide that was L.M. Montgomery’s journals, I got from the library The Suicide Index, which is a finalist for the National Book Award. Timing’s not great, but oh well–I guess as long as I’m reading about suicide, might as well stay on topic and get it over with.

  2. weirleader Says:

    I have to echo your comments about appreciating the language - I think Persuasion may have been my first exposure to Austen (my wife read it and enjoyed it so much that it motivated me to give it a go), and I just loved the sound of the language. I suppose I have a slightly different take, having consume the audio-book version… but it was great.

    That, of course, led to Pride and Prejudice, which I also thoroughly enjoyed. And I suspect I’d like many (or perhaps all) of the rest; the combination of witty dialogue (I like your use of the descriptor “razor-sharp”) and the amazing way a simple phrase can be turned into a thing of beauty kept me mesmerized.

    I wish I could think of an example of the language. Sadly, all I can come up with is “I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request.” :-)

    I know it’s from a far different movie, but it describes my point.

  3. hopeinbrazil Says:

    The first time I read Persuasion I did not like it. I thought Anne was too “lack-luster”. But after I viewed the 1995 film version I gave the book another chance. Now it’s one of my favorites.

  4. Sarah M Says:

    I loved Persuasion, it’s second only to Pride and Prejudice. I did really enjoy the 1995 version for many the same reasons you did. But, I admit I really liked the 2007 version too. (I hated the street scene at the end) — Wentworth’s letter is something powerful.

    For anyone who hasn’t read the book or seen the film(s) — I echo your post. You must!

    PS - Love your blog template. :)

  5. Kate Says:

    Ahh, I just started Persuasion for the first time (actually, I have it on the ipod and read it whenever I’m stuck somewhere–but at this last, long, appointment I realized I was enjoying it so much that I need to get it in print to read in one fell swoop).

    Also, you inspired me–I just finally picked up the copy of The Quiet American I have on my shelf, which also has critical text included. Rather than skipping it all and just reading the novel, I thought I might take a little mini-class on the novel and read the book from cover to cover, including introduction and critical analysis. I remember you did that recently (Hamlet, perhaps?) and I thought it was such a good idea at the time . . .

  6. girldetective Says:

    Amy: watch the 95 movie, and read or watch something cheerful immediately. Your reading list sounds dire!

    WL: read the rest of the Austens. Your post reminded me of the sweet scene in the film of Jane Austen Book Club where a husband is reading Austen with his wife, and I think it was Persuasion.

    Hope: isn’t it funny that we gave a book about second chances a second chance, and now love it?

    Sarah: I agree that the 2007 version had its points–Anthony Stewart Head as Sir Walter! Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth! But decidedly fluffy compared to the earlier one. And thanks for the compliment on the template, but don’t get too used to it….

    And Kate, definitely do read Persuasion. The writing is so good that it warrants going over again and again. But I can’t remember if I read Hamlet by starting at the beginning, or if I read the play then went back to the intro, and then onto the long notes. If I did read the intro first, it was because I’ve read Hamlet more than once already. I almost always leave intros till after–they either spoil important stuff (woe to she who reads an intro to Jane Eyre) or talk about it so esoterically that one must have just-read familiarity with it to make sense. My $.02 is that reading the whole thing would be cool, but starting with the book, then going back to the intro might be the way to go.

    There. Now I’ve told you all what to do. Get to it. Heh, heh. Happy reading, all.