Persuasion: a screen adatation of Jane Austen’s novel

There are three films of Persuasion available as DVDs. The most recent, produced for the Clerkenwell/WGBH studio in 2007 and directed by Adrian Shergold, with a screenplay by Simon Burke (Sons and Lovers) stars Sally Hawkins (a memorable Mrs Joe in the recent film of Great Expectations), as Anne Eliot and Rupert Penry-Jones (Richard Hannay in the 39 Steps) as Captain Wentworth. Wonderful Julia Davis (Nighty Night) plays Elizabeth Eliot. There is an earlier (1995) BBC film directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill, Changing Lanes, Morning Glory), with a screenplay by Nick Deer (Byron, The Turn of the Screw), and with Amanda Root (hardly ever off the small or big screen) as Anne Eliot and Ciaran Hinds (Michael Henchard in the 2003 film of the Mayor of Casterbridge, and Joe in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) as Captain Wentworth; Corinne Redgrave is Sir Walter Eliot, an inspired piece of casting. The earliest film available is another BBC film, dating from 1971, directed by Howard Baker with screenplay by Julian Mitchell, and with Ann Firbank as Anne Eliot and Bryan Marshall as Captain Wentworth. This is a longer film, running for 225 minutes, in contrast to the others, both lasting about 100 minutes. There is also a film, made in 1960, with Daphne Slater, an actor with the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Paul Daneman, but copies, even as videotapes, do not seem to be available.
The 2007 Sally Hawkins/Rupert Penry-Jones film, is a conventional straightforward retelling of the story, probably one of the most faithful accounts ever made. It moves us in the way that the novel does, Anne Eliot’s realisation that she was wrong to have rejected Captain Wentworth’s proposal, and her dismay that Wentworth is about to throw himself away on one of the Uppercross girls. Mr Eliot, her cousin, who will in time be Sir Walter himself, is a plausible suitor, and Anne is tempted. But virtue triumphs.
Julia Davis is splendid as Elizabeth Eliot, fooling herself that she is the object of their cousin’s attentions. There is a strange sequence towards the end of the film as Anne Eliot runs around Bath seeking Captain Wentworth. Surely no young lady would have done so? But the ending is magical as Captain Wentworth shows her what her wedding present is: Kellynch Hall, where, although not as Lady Eliot, Anne will reign


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