~No. 3 - Persuasion 1995~
Amanda Root as Anne Elliot and Ciaran Hinds as Captain Frederick Wentworth
This is *the* Jane Austen movie for Janeites. That's not to say that every Jane Austen fan will love this film, but chances are, if you enjoy reading Jane Austen's novels, you will love this adaptation of Persuasion (my favourite Austen novel, BTW).
Mary Musgrove (Sophie Thompson), Charles Musgrove (Simon Russell Beale), Louisa Musgrove (Emma Roberts), Henrietta Musgrove (Victoria Hamilton), Captain Wentworth (Ciaran Hinds)
It's one of the "forgotten" Austen adaptations of the 1990s. P&P95, S&S95, and Gwyneth Paltrow's Emma tend to grab all of the attention. I didn't even know that this adaptation existed until relatively recently. It's not big-budget or glamorous, there are no big-name actors, but it has a quiet brilliance of its own.
Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds are admittedly too "old" to play protagonists Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth (Anne is supposed to be 27, Wentworth just a few years older), but their performances are so good, their "old-ness" isn't really a problem. :-) I have to admit, Anne and particularly Captain Wentworth in this version don't look as I imagined them to look, but when an actor nails his/her character this well, mere looks aren't such a big deal!
Luminous. . . Amanda Root as Anne Elliot
The cinematography matches the feel of the story - subtle, understated, but still beautiful. The same could be said of the scenery. . . the soundtrack. . . in fact, pretty much every aspect of this film. See why I said this was a film for Janeites? :-) As with Jane's books, it's all about subtlety here - and substance as well as style.
The screenplay by Nick Dear was good. Jane Austen's novels are more difficult to translate to film than most people realise. Because much of the wit and humour comes from the narrator, screenwriters are left with two options: put the narrator's witty words into the mouths of one or more of the characters, or simply leave out most of the best lines of the book. Here, Nick Dear goes with the former choice. Several lines from the narrator are given to various characters - an example from when Sir Walter is welcoming Anne after she arrives at Bath: "I am glad you here, Anne," [or something of that nature] "You will make a fourth at dinner, which must be deemed an advantage". That's from the film. Whereas in the book:
Anne entered it with a sinking heart, anticipating an imprisonment of many months, and anxiously saying to herself, "Oh! when shall I leave you again?" A degree of unexpected cordiality, however, in the welcome she received, did her good. Her father and sister were glad to see her, for the sake of shewing her the house and furniture, and met her with kindness. Her making a fourth, when they sat down to dinner, was noticed as an advantage.
Admiral and Mrs. Croft (John Woodvine and Fiona Shaw)
The supporting cast are wonderful. Period drama fanatics will spot many familiar faces. Sophie Thompson is superb as the Mrs. Bennet-esque Mary Musgrove. Victoria Hamilton, who appeared in no less than three Austen movies in the space of four years (P&P 95, MP 99) plays Henrietta Musgrove. Fiona Shaw is delightful as Mrs. Croft. If you've watched the BBC's Narnia movies, you'll recognise Mr. Elliot (Samuel West) as King Caspian from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Whenever he comes onscreen I immediately think "Oh, it's Prince Caspian!". . .
Hmm. . . what else is there to be said in this review. . . not much, except for "Watch this movie!!" It won't appeal to everyone - I know there are a few people who find this adaptation "dull" and slow-paced (including several of my siblings ;-) ) - but as I said before, most readers who enjoyed the book will appreciate this marvellous film interpretation. It truly is a movie to be savoured.