I watched the 1971 Persuasion again last night. And yes it does suffer from 70′s film technique and less quality but I still think it’s pretty good. It certainly doesn’t rush and the characters are much better developed. I don’t think it deserves the poor reviews it has received. There were certainly great efforts made by the actors although they did lack some of the polish of modern Hollywood actors (but I imagine they made the movie in far less takes than actors now enjoy).
I have watched 3 video adaptations of Jane Austen‘s Persuasion: the 1971 mini series, the 1995 movie and last year’s made for TV movie. The latter two are those most people would like: the 1971 effort which I reviewed earlier is only for true Austen junkies (there’s a few in my family).
This is among my favourite of Austen’s novels but I would be hard pressed to say why. It may be the charged interaction between the main characters Ann Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth, which is really the core of this book. There’s history between them before the story begins (an 8-year span of life changing events since she turned down his proposal of marriage). From the exquisite torture which spurned Frederick dishes out to the quietly suffering Ann at the beginning, to Ann’s willful lack of restraint at the end, the audience follows her on a roller coaster ride of emotion.
The feelings explored by the 2007 Ann (played by Sally Hawkins) are incredibly acute. She is seems more real and authentic to me than the sheer control of Amanda Root‘s Ann in the 1995 movie. I felt that Ciarán Hinds (1995) who looked older and more weathered was a better casting choice for a Captain than Rupert Penry-Jones (2007). But these are only foibles; all 4 of these actors are excellent in their characterizations. In fact I enjoyed the acting all around. In particular, Anthony Head plays Sir Walter Elliot (Ann’s father in the 2007 version) with such perfect shallowness, disdain and yet there’s something else there, too, that makes you almost feel sorry for him at the same time you’re hating him!
I thoroughly enjoy both of the newer productions although I am currently persuaded to prefer the new version. It’s been a while since I saw the 1995 version so I’d like to watch it again. Perhaps watch them both back to back: yeah I know I need professional help, thanks!
Of course these two productions are too compressed (120 and 107 min. for 2007 and 1995 respectively) to keep all the delightful and impressive dialogue and events of Austen’s fast-paced and dense prose. If you want a mini-series done on the scale of the Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle’s Pride and Prejudice then you will have to wait (it’ll happen no doubt) or content yourself with the imperfections of the 1971 Granada TV effort.