Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Persuasion (1971)

This adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion is a four hour miniseries that was made by ITV Granada (although it's now being distributed by the BBC for some strange reason). As this miniseries has a much longer running time than both the 1995 and 2007 versions I was expecting it to be an extremely faithful adaptation. Was it? Er, sort of... Okay, yes, in many ways this version is very faithful to the book. We get to see scenes that were left out in the shorter adaptations. Dick Musgrove is mentioned. This adaptation is the only one that I've seen which provides the full and complete backstory of Mr Elliot. I like that they show Mr Elliot eloping with Mrs Clay and Sir Walter and Elizabeth Elliot's reactions to it. But if anything this adaptation is too faithful and reverential to the book. It contains a lot of boring and draggy scenes, scenes which are in Austen's novel and are fine there but simply don't translate onto screen very well. As an example, the opening scene of this miniseries has Sir Walter Elliot reading out loud from the Baronetage. This then cuts to the characters that he mentions being introduced on screen while Sir Walter provides a voiceover. I happen to like the opening scene in Austen's book but it made for extremely awkward viewing! And despite its lengthy running time the miniseries still left out a number of things from Austen's book that the shorter adaptations managed to fit in, like Charles Musgrove Jr breaking his collar bone and Anne's reunion with Wentworth being delayed.

One scene that I found particularly aggravating in this version is the scene where Lady Russell and Anne talk about Anne's engagement with Wentworth. Lady Russell keeps insisting that Anne was never really in love with Wentworth and that she only accepted his proposal because he was the only man who'd ever paid her any attention. Er, what? It's been about four or five years since I last read Persuasion but I really can't remember that being a reason why Lady Russell persuaded Anne to break off the engagement in the book! Correct me if I'm wrong.

This miniseries has also got the most horrible costumes that I've seen in a Jane Austen adaptation since the 1940 Pride and Prejudice film. Anne gets some absolutely hideous dresses! All of the costumes in this version are bad but for some reason poor Anne gets all of the worst ones! And her horrible hairstyles! I mean, just look at her hair in the picture on your right. I didn't like Ann Firbank's acting as Anne either. She manages to capture some of Anne's warmth but I thought she was too cheerful and content in the role. Her Anne doesn't look as though she's feeling deep emotions under the surface, she looks as though she isn't feeling any emotions at all. Ann Firbank was also much too old for the role. Anne is 27 in Austen's book but Firbank was close to 40 at the time and she looks it. She definitely looks like the oldest Elliot sister and she even has tiny wrinkles around her eyes. Bryan Marshall's performance as Wentworth isn't anything special either. Most of the time I found him quite bland and I was put off by his looks. He has ridiculously long sideburns and I didn't find him attractive or rugged enough. As the actor playing Captain Harville in this version was fairly good-looking and charming I found myself wishing that he'd been cast as Wentworth instead. Also, although I believe that Marshall was in his early 30s at the time he looks much older than that. I could very easily believe him to be in his 50s! There wasn't a great deal of chemistry between Anne and Wentworth in this version either.

My favourite actor in this production was Valerie Gearon who played Elizabeth Elliot. Although I wouldn't say that her Elizabeth is beautiful Gearon does capture Book Elizabeth's elegance, coldness and haughtiness extremely well. She was probably my favourite thing about this miniseries actually. My least favourite actor in this version was Zhivila Roche who played Louisa Musgrove. In the book Louisa is vivacious and exuberant but Roche's Louisa is much too silly and giggly. She's too over the top. The scene where she shrieks "To Lyme! To Lyme! To Lyme!" made me put my head in my hands. What does Wentworth see in this Louisa?! How could anyone think that she and Wentworth would be a good couple?! The acting from everyone else in this cast is merely decent. No-one is horrible but no-one is outstanding either.

As you can probably tell I really didn't like this adaptation very much! I didn't find it as infuriating as the 2007 adaptation. Unlike the 2007 version there weren't any scenes that made me genuinely angry. They didn't ruin the ending. And yet this miniseries is just so BORING for the most part! I saw none of the beauty and the passion of the book. There were a few little things about this version that I liked but not much. The only Persuasion adaptation that I could actually recommend is the 1995 BBC film.

Rating: 2/5


Manette said...

I haven't read Persuasion (yet!) or seen any adaptations of it, but I just have to agree with you that being TOO faithful to the original material can be just as bad as not being faithful enough. Books and films/tv are very different as media and lots of things that work really well on the pages of a book would be very dragging on screen. For example, I've found out that while reading a book I really don't mind if there are some digressions from the plot to provide background, historical detail, etc. as long as it's interesting. But when I'm watching something on screen, there needs to be something important going on all the time. Which doesn't mean that there should be full-blown action from start to finish, but there should be some sort of tension between the characters going on. Otherwise I get really bored!

Hannah said...

You should talk to Hamlette about Persuasion! It's her favourite JA. Persuasion isn't my no 1 favourite JA novel - I think that will probably always be Pride and Prejudice - but I do love it and it's a truly beautiful book. It's definitely JA's most mature and emotional novel. It has this melancholy autumnal beauty about it but it never becomes too depressing. I've been very tempted to re-read it actually given the season!

Hmm mmm! Adaptations CAN be too faithful to the source material although I think those sorts of adaptations are less common. I've found more adaptations that have strayed too far away from their source material than the opposite.

I think I agree with you on your last point. I can enjoy scenes in movies/TV shows that aren't action packed or terribly relevant to the plot, but if they're funny or if I'm finding the character interaction interesting then I'll enjoy them.

Sarah said...

Never even heard of this version before... and I guess I'm not missing much! I enjoyed your review of it though!

Hannah said...

Ha ha! No, you're really not!

Hamlette said...

Thank you! I will simply not waste my time on this version.

And yes, Persuasion is my favorite Austen. Mmmmmmm. Really, really love it. And they have yet to make a really good movie adaptation of it! So frustrating.

Hannah said...

Hamlette - You're welcome! Yep, I wouldn't recommend this version. The 1995 version is by far the best Persuasion adaptation I think but I know it's not perfect - the lack of exposition, the miscast Elizabeth Elliot, etc - so I wouldn't be averse to a new, big budget adaptation. I'm sure that we'll get one at some point in the future too. Hopefully the BBC will do one in 2018!