Persuasion (2007 film)
by Jane Austen
|Written by||Simon Burke|
|Directed by||Adrian Shergold|
|Theme music composer||Martin Phipps|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Running time||92 minutes|
Persuasion is a 2007 British television film adaptation of Jane Austen's novel Persuasion. It was directed by Adrian Shergold and the screenplay was written by Simon Burke. Sally Hawkins stars as the protagonist Anne Elliot, while Rupert Penry-Jones plays Frederick Wentworth. Eight years prior to the film's beginning, Anne was persuaded to reject Wentworth's proposal of marriage. Now 27 and unmarried, Anne re-encounters Wentworth, who has made his fortune in the Napoleonic Wars and is looking for a wife—anyone but Anne, whom he has not forgiven for rejecting him all those years ago.
Persuasion was one of three novels adapted for ITV's Jane Austen season. It was the first of the three adaptations to begin development. The drama was co-produced by Clerkenwell Films and American studio WGBH Boston. Persuasion premiered on 1 April 2007 in the United Kingdom and was watched by 5.4 million viewers. Persuasion received mixed reviews from television critics.
Eight years before the story begins, Anne Elliot (Sally Hawkins) had, at the age of 19, been engaged to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth (Rupert Penry-Jones). However, her father Sir Walter Elliot (Anthony Head) and family friend Lady Russell (Alice Krige) had persuaded Anne to break off the engagement and give up the man she loved because of his lack of fortune and connections.
As the story opens, however, the Elliot family is in financial difficulties due to the lavish spending of Sir Walter and his eldest daughter Elizabeth (Julia Davis). To save expense, the Elliot family residence, Kellynch Hall in Somersetshire, has to be let out. Suitable tenants are soon found in Admiral Croft (Peter Wight) and his wife (Marion Bailey). Mrs. Croft is the sister of Frederick Wentworth, who has risen to the rank of Captain and become rich while serving in the Royal Navy.
Sir Walter and Elizabeth Elliot depart for their new residence in Bath. Anne stays behind to visit her hypochondriac sister Mary Musgrove (Amanda Hale) who is married to Charles Musgrove (Sam Hazeldine), and living in the nearby estate Uppercross. Anne soon meets Wentworth again when he comes to visit his sister. Staying with the Musgroves, Anne meets Wentworth several times and has to witness what she perceives to be his attentions towards Charles Musgrove's two young and lively unmarried sisters, especially Louisa (Jennifer Higham). Anne is convinced that he will never forgive her, let alone love her again.
Eventually Anne goes to Bath, and becomes subject to the attentions of Mr. Elliot (Tobias Menzies), a distant cousin who will inherit her father's wealth and title. Mr. Elliot proposes to Anne, who, though still very much in love with Wentworth, does not immediately decline Mr. Elliot's offer. Admiral Croft, having heard a rumour of Mr. Elliot's proposal to Anne, sends Wentworth to ask Anne if she and her new husband require them to quit Kellynch Hall. Anne informs Wentworth that Admiral Croft has been very much misinformed, but in the medley of new arrivals, Wentworth leaves and Anne runs to find him. On her way, her good friend Harriet (Maisie Dimbleby) reliably informs her that Mr. Elliot is currently also courting Mrs. Clay (Mary Stockley), whom it seemed Anne's father might marry. Harriet tells Anne that Mr. Elliot desires the baronetcy above all else, and although his admiration for Anne appears genuine, once married to Anne he plans to establish Mrs. Clay as his mistress. This would prevent Mrs. Clay's marriage to Anne's father, thereby preventing the potential birth of a male heir to Sir Walter which would cut off Mr. Elliot's inheritance rights. At this point Wentworth declares his undying love for Anne and proposes to her in a letter.
After some frenzied running, Anne runs into Wentworth in the street while he is talking to Charles Musgrove. There, she accepts Wentworth's proposal and, when he asks her whether she is sure, she says she has never been more determined in her life. The movie skips to Anne and Wentworth in a carriage, Anne blindfolded. Once her blindfold is removed, Anne finds herself standing in front of Kellynch Hall, Wentworth's wedding present to her. The film ends with Wentworth and Anne on the lawn of their new home, dancing together.
Conception and adaptation
On 10 November 2005, The Guardian's Julia Day reported ITV controller of drama, Nick Elliott, had ordered three new adaptations of Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Elliot commented that the adaptations would be "important remakes for the new generation". He explained "About every 10 years, all the great stories need retelling. These films will be very much 2007 films... we've asked and pushed the production team to make them young. Her stories always make great TV drama and our Jane Austen season will feature the absolute cream of British acting talent." Elliott revealed that he had deliberately shied away from ordering adaptations of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility to focus on Austen's lesser known works. Each of productions were made by a different company, cast and directors, so they had "a distinct look". They were also made to appeal to a younger audience that may have previously switched off other Austen adaptations.
Karen Price from the Western Mail reported ITV had promised the "cream of British acting talent", while they were casting the three adaptations. Actress Sally Hawkins was asked to play Persuasion's protagonist Anne Elliot. Hawkins had studied Austen while she was in school and she revealed that while she was flattered to be asked to play the role, she was initially hesitant about picking up another Austen book again. However, Hawkins re-read Persuasion and "fell in love" with Austen. She then researched the writer, reading her personal letters and biographies. Speaking to The Independent's Amy Raphael, Hawkins explained "Jane was an incredible woman. She was only in her early forties when she died. I became convinced that Persuasion was about her own love life; Anne Elliot took the wrong advice and left the man who turned out to be the love of her life. She is the type of woman you'd like to be: reserved, refined, funny. I totally fell in love with her."
On 17 September 2006, the Western Mail's Nathan Bevan revealed that Spooks actor Rupert Penry-Jones had joined the cast as Captain Wentworth. The role was Penry-Jones' first lead part in a costume drama. He remarked, "In modern drama everything is so overt. In period drama it's all held in. You have to find ways to show the feelings straining beneath the surface." The actor added that he enjoyed playing Wentworth "because, beyond his social grace and charm, there's a bitterness and sadness because the love of his life, Anne Elliot, rejected him." Five days later, it was announced that Julia Davis and Anthony Head would be appearing as Elizabeth Elliot and Sir Walter Elliot respectively.
Persuasion was the first of the three adaptations to begin development. For director, ITV hired Adrian Shergold, known for working on "gritty" films such as Pierrepoint (2005). Producer David Snodin explained, "Bringing Adrian on board is a statement in itself because he is not known for doing conventional versions of the classics. It is a lot to do with the way he likes the camera to move – it's right in on people's faces – and he is creating something much more contemporary than you'd expect." Shergold only agreed to direct Persuasion after learning of Hawkins' involvement, believing that "she inhabits every inch of the characters she plays. And I love her for it."
The costume designer for Persuasion was Andrea Galer. Galer made Anne's outfits simple and basic because she does not join in Bath society. The designer explained "I wanted her to look in tune with nature. Because we were shooting in winter, I could go for faded autumnal colours for her. She gets Wentworth back just by her stillness and I wanted to reflect that in her wardrobe." Galer designed a jacket for Hawkins to wear as Anne using a 19th-century shawl, which she mounted and patched together with a cross stitch. She used hand loom fabric from India and the Sri Lanakan crafted Beeralu lace to decorate some of the garments. In 2008, costumes from Persuasion went on display at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath. The exhibition included creations worn by Anne, Lady Russell and the Musgrove sisters. Four years later, many of the costumes from Persuasion and Miss Austen Regrets were sold in an online auction organised by the Jane Austen Centre. Galer admitted that while it was difficult to part with them, it was time to move on and she hoped they had been bought because of their association with the Austen films. Galer commented "It was difficult to do but I did it. I suppose the one outfit that did sell that I would've been happy if it hadn't was the Harris tweed jacket and dress worn by Sally Hawkins when she played Anne Elliot in Persuasion."
Promotion and broadcast
ITV launched a nationwide campaign to promote its Jane Austen Season. The campaign included three television adverts and cinema, outdoor and press adverts. ITV Creative made the 20, 30 and 60 second promotional trailers, which began airing on ITV channels from 25 February 2007. The following day, adverts began appearing in selected national press publications. The outdoor and press adverts were created by M&C Saatchi, while MindShare carried out the media buying.
Persuasion was the third of the Austen adaptations to be shown in the UK. It was broadcast on ITV at 9:00 pm on 1 April 2007. The drama aired on the TVOntario channel in Canada on 30 December 2007. Persuasion was shown on 13 January 2008 on the US channel PBS as part of their Austen Masterpiece Theatre series. On 8 June, the film was broadcast on Australia's ABC1 channel.
Persuasion attracted 5.4 million viewers and had a 26.1% audience share upon its broadcast in the United Kingdom. The drama had initially attracted 6.2 million viewers. 939,000 Australian viewers watched the drama when it aired on ABC1 in June 2008. Shortly before it aired in the UK, reporters for four newspaper publications selected the drama as their "Pick of the Day." The adaptation received mixed reviews from television critics. The Daily Post called Persuasion "the best of the three offerings in this series." However, Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe opined that the adaptation "pale[d] in comparison with the extraordinary 1995 version," calling its pace "too fast and, by the end, choppy" and its writing "reductive." David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle expressed strong dissatisfaction with the adaptation, especially when compared to previous productions Pride and Prejudice and Emma. He called Persuasion "mediocre and, at times, laughably bad," citing faults in scripting and casting as well as "losses of nuance, character development and emotional complexity."
Reviewers' descriptions of the film's casting varied from "misguided" to "terrific". Variety was positive towards Hawkins' casting, explaining that Persuasion "offers an appealing heroine, with Hawkins proving especially vulnerable as the passive Anne, who again risks letting a lifetime of happiness slip away from her." Calling Hawkins' performance "brilliant", the Daily Mail declared that Persuasion was "the best and most satisfying of the three ITV Austen dramas". In 2009, the same publication added that the actress "gives Anne real emotional depth with a deft use of expression, while Penry-Jones looks and sounds the part as her old love, forced away by his lack of wealth and now returned." Conversely, the Irish Independent's John Boland called Hawkins the "crucial flaw" of the production. Boland continued, "She looked suitably guarded and gauche at the outset but then chose, and was allowed, to become increasingly gormless, so that long before the end you were left wondering what on earth Captain Wentworth had ever seen in this open-mouthed, inarticulate eejit. It was the worst piece of miscasting since Tom Cruise was asked to impersonate an icy hit-man in Collateral." The Age thought Penry-Jones "too cute for the role of Wentworth. His baby face doesn't show enough of the quiet resentment and sadness described in Austen's last novel."
Awards and nominations
Persuasion garnered a nomination for Best Drama at the 2007 Prix Italia. For her portrayal of Anne Elliot, Hawkins was named Best Actress at the Royal Television Society Awards and she won the Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Film award at the Monte-Carlo Television Festival. Davis and Krige also received nominations in the same category, while Head and Penry-Jones were both nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Film. At the 2007 RTS Craft & Design Awards, Kevin Horsewood won the Best Visual Effects – Picture Enhancement award. Shergold earned a nomination in the Director of Fiction/Entertainment category at the 2008 British Academy Television Craft Awards.
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