This is a review I originally posted on livejournal, as with the other reviews I’ll be posting to start off this blog. This was probably my favourite of the three short ITV Austen adaptations, yet for some reason it is the one I find hardest to write about. While I’m watching it I’m spellbound, yet as soon as it’s finished it slips away from me!
All I can really say is that I do find it a moving version, directed by Adrian Shergold and written by Simon Burke, with Sally Hawkins giving a heart-rending performance as Anne.
When I first saw this version, I found it a bit disconcerting to see how often actors loom right into the camera (at the end I’ll put a link to a review which talks about this), but I didn’t notice this so much second time, and was more struck by the blend of music and landscape which help to create a mood that reminds me of the atmosphere of the novel, even if some of the plot twists are different.
The wild weather in Lyme seems just right for this melancholy mood, even though I know from the “making of” featurette shown on ITV that it was sheer luck the conditions were like this. Thank goodness this one was filmed in the real landscapes of the book, which do contribute so much. I missed the reality of Bath in Davies’ film of Northanger Abbey.
Hawkins dominates so much that I don’t have a very strong sense of any of the other actors, though I do think Anthony Head is snobbishly perfect as Sir Walter, and I also like Rupert Penry-Jones’ understated performance as Frederick.
After watching the film for a second time, I found a posting I wrote after my earlier viewing, which ties in with my reaction this time. I said there it struck me that the film-makers have particularly played about with speed in two sequences near the end. One of these is the bit where Hawkins, as Anne, rushes fast through the streets to catch up with Frederick.
In realistic terms, this seems slightly ludicrous, yet, since being taken aback by Anne’s running when I first saw the film, I’ve been realising there is something striking about the brief glimpses of all the famous streets of Bath, blurring together as she hurtles through them. This is one of the parts which seems like a dream sequence in a way to me – telescoping up the time which has passed and the distance which has grown up between them, and how desperate she is to break through all that.
Just to add it has also struck me since that the long run through streets to catch up with a loved one before it is too late is often something which happens at the end of films, especially romantic ones. When Harry Met Sally and Woody Allen’s Manhattan are two which spring to mind, but there are many more. In some of these films there is no external reason for the urgency (there is in Manhattan, since Allen has to get to the airport before his girlfriend’s plane leaves), but I think it’s a way of dramatising the intensity of the emotion being felt.
Going back to Persuasion, the other sequence is one where time is slowed down rather than speeded up – the agonisingly slow-motion kiss between Frederick and Anne, where it seems as if their lips will never meet. I think this again gives a feeling of how much time has passed and how difficult it is to come together at last.
I tend to hold on to particular moments from films, and both of these will stay with me from this version, as will the windswept views of the Cobb.
The first time I saw this version, I completely missed the disturbing final moment where Frederick (Rupert Penry-Jones) presents a blindfolded Anne with her own home, mysteriously restored to her. I’ve seen some discussion on the net of how it is hard to see how this could work in realistic terms, given the entail of the house – has he rented it? The feeling is more that he had enough wealth to buy it and is sweeping her away from the need to worry about real life. However, getting away from these problems, it does remind me of the dream-like endings of a couple of novels (Bleak House and one by Scott, I forget which one!) where a hero or heroine is taken to see a house and then discover at the end that this is to be their home, and that in some sense it is an old home restored.
I’ll just add a link to a review which I liked of this production – a great antidote to all the diatribes by people who hated it!