Persuasion is my favourite of Jane Austen’s novels. It’s a wonderful story about family connections, second chances at love, themes of constancy and men working their way up in the world. Anne & Wentworth’s story is completely made of aww that I can’t help but love this story to pieces. Plus, from all of the Austen novels, Persuasion was the only one that had me completely riveted; I couldn’t put it down because I needed to know what was going to happen next, whether Anne and Wentworth would reconcile (if so, how?) or whether Mr. William Elliott would indeed succeed as the love foil.
So you could imagine my joy when I found out that there was an adaptation two years ago on the novel. I had watched this adaptation first; I understand the adaptation was received with mixed reactions—I am amongst those who thoroughly enjoyed the adaptation from start to finish. Recently, I decided to watch the 1995 version. I was a bit hesitant before because I loved the 2007 version and I didn’t want to introduce an earlier version into the mix in my head but in the end, my love for the novel won out so I went out to pick it up. Spoilers ahead!
Overall, I thought the 1995 version was an enjoyable adaptation, much more faithful to the novel than the 2007 version. I also like that they placed the novel in its historical context (in between the time that Napoleon was exiled to Elba and his return pre-Battle of Waterloo). Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds have a wonderful chemistry that you especially see in the second half of the adaptation (I especially love that last scene after the infamous letter with him waiting just outside as she leaves the Musgroves to go home ;)). Their ages irked me for a brief moment (then again, getting actors around the age of their characters wasn’t a priority in the 1990s adaptations) but I got over that quickly because they were wonderful actors and they brought their own interpretations of the characters into this adaptation.
For comparison purposes (since I just watched the 2007 version earlier today), I thought Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones also brought their own interpretations of their respective characters to their version that was different from their 1995 counterparts (not that I’m complaining, I appreciate the differences). Re-watching this adaptation again, I liked how the filmmakers’ stuck through Anne’s reactions and private moments throughout (since this is first and foremost her story). But I also understood why we got all the extra bits with Wentworth before his appearance in Bath; I remember reading somewhere that they were so confused as to why it was revealed early on that Wentworth was really in love with Anne all along and thus ruining the whole point of the surprise later on that Louisa Musgrove was to marry Captain Benwick. I think we got those scenes because it was trying to show how much he was coming into realization of his own feelings and his love for Anne. We’re not only seeing Anne’s journey throughout the story but also Wentworth’s, which is profound.
(Personally, as awe-struck I am by Ciaran Hinds and his talent, I think that Rupert Penry-Jones made a better Wentworth only because I really felt he was such an ass in the first half of the story (the same feeling that I got when I was reading the book), pointedly avoiding Anne and such. But both were wonderful, I love Ciaran’s expressions in the softer scenes he had with Amanda Root.)
Back to the 1995 version however, I thought the cuts from scene to scene was a bit jarring, like the scenes weren’t flowing smoothly. Luckily the weird cutting issues stopped around halfway because I wasn’t noticing it as much, haha. Also, I thought the supporting cast’s performance in the 2007 version was a lot better than the 1995’s in some respects. On one level, I appreciate how annoying and ridiculous the Elliott family was portrayed in the 1995 version (because they really were ridiculous in their own self-importance) and it makes you want to throttle the whole lot of them and shake heads with Anne about it. On the other hand though, for example, I thought the actress’s performance of Elizabeth Elliott in that version was too much; I don’t remember Elizabeth being that impatient in the novel (or at least, that’s how I read it as). Additionally, I thought Tobias Menzies made a better Mr. William Elliott (and I’m not being biased, hahaha…wished he had more scenes though, he’s just such a great actor to watch); the 1995 version sometimes gave looks that looked rather creepy and not at all charming.
Just a random note, I really love the second last scene in the 1995 version where Wentworth comes to the party and announces that he and Anne were engaged. I love it because you see that Mr. William Elliott realizes that he lost and Anne’s father is being a complete confuddle as always but Anne and Wentworth don’t care because they are just so, so, so, so happy and in love. I also like it because we get some resolution on that part whereas in the 2007 version, you don’t see what happens to Mr. William Elliott and Anne’s family (maybe it’s on the cutting room floor somewhere?).
Overall, I liked the 1995 version. It was true to the novel and it had its own share of wonderful moments and great performances by Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds. It was definitely worth checking out. Personally though the 2007 version still wins me over because of the way it was filmed (loved the way some of the scenes were shot) and the fact that I love, love, love, love the score, I thought it really added to the overall atmosphere of the adaptation (btw, Martin Phipps needs to release an album. I’d buy it in an instance). In the end, they both have their merits though and they both stay true to the themes of the novel so it’s all good in my books =)