1/19/08

Persuasion (1995)

Persuasion
Amanda Root, Ciarán Hinds

Directed by Roger Michell (Enduring Love)

IMDB Summary: Eight years earlier, Anne Elliot, the daughter of a financially troubled aristocratic family, was persuaded to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a young seaman who, though promising, had poor family connections. When her father rents the family estate to Admiral Croft, Anne is thrown into company with Frederick, because his sister is Mrs. Croft. Frederick is now a rich and successful Captain and a highly eligible bachelor. Whom will he marry? One of Anne's young relatives? Or will he and Anne rekindle the old flame?

I'm going to start this review with a crazy funny piece of outrage from JMC:

"I've saved the biggest offense for last: you butcher The Letter. *splutters incoherently* The Letter? Is sacrosanct. Do. Not. Edit. Ever."

Granted, she was sputtering about the recent PBS-broadcast version of "Persuasion" that was shown on Sunday. True confession: In England, I took an entire semester-long class on Jane Austen. She wrote only six full novels, but I've only read ONE of them all the way through. Blame the English university system. Skimming was plenty to get me through the course in good form. I had too much else to do, such as drinking, dancing, and getting engaged. Whoops. And I'd never seen this film. Double whoops.

So my knowledge of Persuasion is tenuous at best. When a friend offered to loan it to me, I thought I'd watch it instead of the roundly lambasted remake. Save time.

I went to Ye Olde Project Gutenberg and found The Letter:

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.
Sexy and wicked like whoa damn. When delivered by Ciarán Hinds' and his deep, melodious angst--perfection. Really, the movie just shines with subtle Austen humor and painful yearnings. The casting is precious, done in that timeless BBC way: cast actors according to the role, not according to popularity or big names. Hinds and Root are plain if not downright homely, but they suit each other and the roles perfectly. Hinds is a grizzled old sea captain. Root is a plain spinster. They are not glamorpusses, but seeing them fight against what is happening to them once again if beautiful drama.

I'm not going to do a full review of the recent PBS production. I was spoiled by this version and would only have uncomplimentary things to say about the youthful casting of a fratboy as Wentworth, Whiny Miss Criesalot as Anne, the lackluster secondary casting, the sappy manor home childhood reconciliation at the end, and--*gasp*--the edited letter. It's canonical, people. Don't touch.

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