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Almost Persuaded | ITV’s Persuasion

Persuasion 2007The game is afoot in ITV’s Persuasion as Anne Elliot (Sally Hawkins) speed walks down a maze of hallways in Kellynch and jogs down the streets of Bath in what was, presumably, the film makers’ attempt to add action and energy to Jane Austen’s posthumously published 1817 classic. No doubt, the film’s creators felt challenged by a novel with more substance than could possibly be squeezed into a 90 minute time frame and by the precedent of the critically acclaimed 1995 Persuasion which set the standard for Jane Austen film adaptations very high indeed. Screenplay writer Simon Burke and director Adrian Shergold resorted to some rather desperate maneuvers to make this version unpredictable and a bit surprising, but their stratagems were not always successful. Some of the camera work is dizzying, and, at the conclusion of the film, when the compressed plot finally implodes, the viewer may well be left confused as to what just happened and why. If you are searching for an adaptation that is accurate to Jane Austen’s novel, this is not it, but, standing alone as a film, Persuasion has much to recommend it. Sally Hawkins has a sweet, open face, and, like Amanda Root, those large, liquid eyes inspire the viewer to sympathize with her. Ms. Hawkins cries very convincingly. As she is in nearly every scene and has a great many close-up shots, the film proves something of a showcase for Hawkins, who held up remarkably well, not only as an actor but as (more…)
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Barbara Cartland’s Mansfield Park

The 2007 made-for-television film Mansfield Park is not to be confused with Jane Austen’s 1814 novel of the same name. Like Lydia Bennet’s marriage, the ITV Park is “a patched up business.” The best scenes are William Price (Joseph Morgan) dancing a hornpipe and newlyweds Fanny (Billie Piper) and Edmund (Blake Ritson) waltzing on the lawn. In short, the film relies on comely actors, music, dance, Regency-inspired costumes and a beautiful set. If such inducements are enough to sustain you, gentle reader, then you will not be disappointed. Those of us with an affinity for Austen’s book expect more, but, unfortunately, this film was inspired by Barbara Cartland, not Jane Austen. For instance, Billie Piper is a saucy wench. With bold eyes, unruly hair and full lips formed into a perpetual pout, Ms. Piper glares at the viewer from the plastic DVD case. Precariously stuffed into a straining corset and plunging neckline, one deep breath would expose her…. to ridicule, the sultry lass is both expensively and nakedly dressed. But, thus endowed and thus attired, why was Ms. Piper cast to play “creep mouse” Fanny Price, an extremely timid and rather prudish young woman destined to marry her cousin, the local clergyman? It was like casting Marilyn Monroe to play Mother Theresa, without allowing for a costume change. So who is this character who paces to and fro, races through the halls, gallops down the stairways and compulsively tosses her head in a futile attempt to get her hair out (more…)
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Northanger Abbey 2007: The Continuing Saga

Another Jane Austen novel is being dusted off for the big screen. This time, Miramax films is co-producing Northanger Abbey. It’s a $9 million feature adaptation of Jane Austen’s first published novel. Shooting begins this fall in Bath, an historic city to about 150 kilometres southwest of London and well-known to Austen. Bath is noted for its handsome 18th century architecture. May 25, 1998 CBC Infoculture Such was the news in 1998. Now, nearly ten years later, Northanger Abbey has finally made it to film, albeit on the small screen. The story of how it finally made it to television is not unlike Jane Austen’s original difficulty in having her book published! The manuscript for Northanger Abbey (written, according to Cassandra Austen, in 1798-99) was sold by the Rev. Austen to Richard Crosby & Co. in 1803 under the title Susan. It was the first of Austen’s stories to be sold and commanded the princely sum of £10. It is clear that Crosby & Co. had no idea of its value. Though they advertised it as a forthcoming work, they let it rest on their shelves, unread and unpublished. After the sale of Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen was at liberty to buy back her work, though under an assumed name. Crosby & Co. should never know how close they came to success. After retouching the work and writing a preface explaining to her readers why they might find some of her story antiquated, she set the work aside. Though (more…)