Persuasion on film and television

Question the adaptation

There have not been as many movie adaptations of Persuasion as there have been of some of Jane Austen's other novels, perhaps because of its more melancholy tone.
The obvious question to ask about any adaptation is:

  • How faithful is this to the original?

Although it is interesting and sometimes amusing to identify what is omitted or changed, there are other, more challenging, questions to be asked.

Some, for instance, concern the history and structure of the film and television industries:

  • Why was this version of the novel made at this time? In what ways might it be speaking to contemporary concerns?
  • Who were its likely viewers?
  • What were the motives of the studio or television company and the director?
  • What significance is there in the casting of the various roles?

Perhaps the most important questions relate to the way in which the story is interpreted, and here the answers to that original question about fidelity to the original can be reformulated as new questions.

  • Why might the director have omitted some parts of the plot (including some characters)?
  • Are there any ‘new' characters or incidents? Why are they in this version?
  • How is the story interpreted? Where does the emphasis lie?
  • How are the characters presented? Are they shown as more, or less, sympathetic than in the novel? Why?
  • What might the director's interpretation tell us about contemporary attitudes towards the issues raised by the novel?

BBC adaptations of Persuasion were released as mini-series in 1960 and 1971. More recently two made-for-television movie adaptations of the novel have been released:

Persuasion. Dir. Roger Michell. 1995

  • Beautifully filmed and faithful to the novel. Amanda Root does an excellent job conveying the subtleties of Anne Elliot's emotions.

Jane Austen's Persuasion. Dir. Adrian Shergold. 2007

  • Starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones, this adaptation omits some key scenes (including Wentworth's letter-writing to Anne). Deviates from the original plot by changing the order of events here and there. Sometimes transfers thoughts and speeches from one character to another.
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