Our review of Persuasion (2007), published February 6th, 2008, is also available.
He had no fortune, no connections. It was entirely prudent of you to reject him.
Jane Austen's Persuasion has been brought to life in this well put together DVD.
According to the insert that came along with this DVD, Jane Austen wrote Persuasion at the end of her life and the novel wasn't published until after her death. Further reading of the insert reveals that this film was first presented as a BBC television Screen Two series and was the top-rated broadcast for that series in 1995. Now, before you run screaming from the room at the mere mention that this DVD has its origins in the realm of television, let me also assure you that Columbia/Sony had a part in the creation of this DVD and that the picture, while presented in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, is anamorphic and lives up to their high standards. This film has gorgeous imagery and would be worth a watch for that aspect alone. But, if you have patience, there's a lot more than just stunning visuals to be had in this DVD.
The main character in this story is Anne Elliot (Amanda Root—Jane Eyre, Deep in the Heart, Whatever Happened to Harold Smith?). The time period is right after the war with Bonaparte and Anne's family's fortunes have fallen on hard times. After Anne's mother died, their lifestyle had become more extravagant and now they are forced to rent out their property to people in a social class below them and take refuge in the less expensive city of Bath. This doesn't keep them, however, from treating Anne quite shoddily and like the undesirable spinster that she is about to become if her fortunes don't change. We find out shortly that she once loved a man named Fredrick Wentworth (Ciarán Hinds—Mary Reilly, Oscar and Lucinda, Excalibur), but that she had to turn down his proposal of marriage because his social class was felt to be far below her own. Her former love had gone to fight in the war and now returns as the dashing Captain Wentworth, a most eligible bachelor suitable for marriage to a much younger woman in Anne's social class.
The story involves these two main characters and their journey through the minefields of their emotions versus their social roles. Wentworth is still quite hurt by Anne's rejection of him; Anne still loves him yet must be a good daughter and live up to her family's social class and continued contempt for naval men; and everyone else around them seems content to live their lives freely and as they see fit. Many other characters arrive, add their little piece to the story and then leave, which adds interest to the film as well. Both Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds put in believable performances here and the fact that they have worked together before at the Royal Shakespeare Company benefits the plot of them having known each other well before the start of our story.
As I mentioned earlier, the picture is presented in 1.66:1 aspect ratio enhanced for widescreen TVs. On my widescreen monitor the visual presentation was virtually perfect. The sound is presented in Dolby Digital Surround and although it was well separated it would have been nice if there had been more attention paid to it originally. On the other hand, it's difficult to fault the makers for this as I can't imagine that when they were creating this for the BBC back in 1995 that they ever dreamed that home theater enthusiasts would be watching it and expecting a more enveloping sound experience. Extras include theatrical trailers from Sense and Sensibility, Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing, Orlando, and The Winslow Boy. All of these movies are period pieces, but none of these trailers are enhanced for widescreen TVs. I also was saddened to not find the trailer for Persuasion included as it would be interesting to see how it was advertised on British television or for the theaters here in the US.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Now that I've told you all the reasons why you should sit down and watch this movie, it's time for me to point out a couple of reasons why you might find it wiser to skip it. The pace of this movie is exceedingly slow. However, for those that don't mind a dialogue-driven, slower-paced vehicle, it is helpful in combating the other difficulties of the movie; that there are so many characters thrown at you in a short period of time and that the accents combined with the manner of speaking for the period makes for a fairly difficult-to-follow film the first time through. Patience and a good dose of concentration will bear the fruit of understanding the main plot on the first go around, but those who watch it twice or who have read the book beforehand will enjoy many more of the subtleties of the complex plot. Some viewers might want to take advantage of the English subtitles during some of the more difficult-to-follow sequences, but that will distract from being able to enjoy the visual beauty of the film.
Period piece buffs will want to add this one to their collection. Others will probably want to rent before making a purchasing decision.
All involved are acquitted and Sony/Columbia are to be commended for bringing this limited-audience film to the world of DVD.
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