I received as a Mother's Day gift the new Masterpiece DVD set that includes Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, and Miss Austen Regrets. Having read Persuasion for book group a couple of months ago, then rewatching the Hinds/Root movie version, the storyline is rather fresh in my mind. Yesterday, after a day of shopping with the Theologian, we watched this new movie version, and found it lacking as many of you did.
First of all, they missed the true character of Anne Elliot. This Anne was a witless wallflower. She displays none of the qualities for which Capt. Wentworth admires. The book tells of an Anne who is of such intelligence, integrity and compassion that Capt. Wentworth falls in love with her all over again despite his hurt feelings and resolve against her. But this Anne has no strength of character. She comes off as a doormat. Her few attempts at using her head are hesitant and easily go unappreciated.
Secondly, the camera work was disorienting and disconcerting. The cameraman follows or leads the actors in many the scenes, in a Blair Witch type fashion. This was completely out of place considering the context of the story. I really hope the rest of the movies don't follow this style.
Thirdly, the movie was way too short but it was made shorter by long stretches where nothing in particular is going on, like the numerous times that Anne stares into the camera. I assume this is supposed to give you a feeling of intimacy with Anne in what she must endure but it only serves to waste valuable time. How much was lost in character and/or plot development to these silent periods! My husband, who hasn't read the book, asked many times for clarification or an outright, "What just happened?" This was a bad move.
And now onto the biggy; why did they have to cut and piece the story like a quilt? When will the movie-makers that be learn that when making an adaptation of a well loved book they would do better to stick to the story in the book? Now I'm not a purist. I understand that there are just some things that don't translate well from the written word to a visual form; so make appropriate changes. Atonement is the perfect example of a well made adaptation that included a touch of revising. And sometimes enough changes take place as to recreate a story into something better, like the Notebook. But when you are a production company that only makes adaptations for a small, focused audience, like Masterpiece with these Austen remakes, then you really ought to stick closely to the original. Their entire audience is made up of Austen enthusiasts. This is not the forum for experimental revisioning. If this is the quality of the work that we should expect from Masterpiece then most of us are just going to look elsewhere.
But.....I do have something nice to say after all that steam. There are a few places here and there where the story is told with more accuracy than in other movie versions. They did a much clearer job of showing why Capt. Wentworth seems to be hot and cold about Anne near the end, explaining his jealousy and uncertainty about how Anne is situated with Mr. Elliot. Also, Anne's close friend Lady Russell is portrayed in a much better light. She doesn't seem dead set against Capt. Wentworth just because she thought him an unsuitable match 8 years earlier. In this new version she just doesn't know about Anne's and Wentworth's growing attraction because she is taken in by the gossip about Mr. Elliot and the exciting idea that Anne could become the mistress of Kellynch Hall. It was the first time I understood her and thought her worthy of Anne's good opinion.
Overall, I found the production a disappointment but I had heard as much from so many of you out there so it was not a total surprise. I am comforted to know that most people thought the rest of the movies were better than this one.