Sunday, 13 January 2008

Persuasion - PBS Masterpiece version

Even though I watched this only a few weeks ago on TVO, which is a publicly-owned tv station here in the province of Ontario, once I saw that the PBS station we can get on cable from the US was showing the entire Jane Austen works, well, I had to sign up for the mini-challenge and begin watching, starting tonight! I am going to watch all the films for this challenge, and read at least two of her novels, in order to complete my version of the Jane Austen Challenge, mostly because I am so familiar with her work already. (see prev blog)
Persuasion is one of my favourite books of all time, as is just about any movie version. I own the version with Anne Root and Ciaran Hinds, and will probably put this version from England's ITV channel (just made last year) on my Christmas wish list. It doesn't matter which version I watch, because it is the story that is so key, and most versions can't tamper with Jane Austen because her stories are about love. The ITV version moves some things around - there is no mention of the Wentworth brother who is a curate, that at one point Anne thinks means Captain Wentworth is married. The whole description of 'card playing' which is so key in the Anne Root version and in the book is also missing. But on the whole, the ITV adaption is faithful in tone and setting to the book, and the slow transformation of Anne as she moves from spinsterhood to a woman in love, and how her hope grows and lights her up as his love is revealed, is as powerful as ever. I love the story so much, that I don't think there are many versions that I can't watch!
Rupert Penry-Jones is another gorgeous man to add the Austen collection. And he does an admirable job of portraying Captain Wentworth as a man who was jilted once, due mostly to society frowning on a young man with no connections or money, and I came to like Sally Hawkin's portrayal of Anne during this second time of viewing this version.
I was thinking about why Jane Austen has such enduring novels and movies, and why I can read and watch her over and over, and never tire of them. This is unusual for me, for I dislike repeating things once I have done them, and I hate tv repeats of shows if I have seen them! Unless they are particularly good, which is not often, and I have a handful of tv series I collect - Buffy, X-Files, Dr Who (new version), Battlestar Galactica (new version), the Star Trek movies (someday I will get the original tv series, but right now $300 is too much).....all the Jane Austen movies but Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park. I haven't found the one version of Northanger Abbey on dvd yet that I have seen, so I am looking forward to this new ITV version of Northanger Abbey and hoping I can find it for Xmas this year. I own the Gwyneth Paltrow- Jeremy Northam version of Emma, Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility, and the two versions on Pride and Prejudice - Keira Knightley's new movie version (a satisfactory 2 1/2 hour version) and of course, the one and only 6 hour Colin Firth -Jennifer Ehle version. Unfortunately we only have it on VHS and since our video player was stolen two years ago we have only bought a DVD player and not replaced all the movies yet on DVD, so it has been over two years since I last saw the full version and I am so looking forward to seeing it on PBS!!!!
I don't watch the movies only; I have read all the books (except Mansfield Park, and now I am wondering why!) at least once. Persuasion and P&P I have read several times; at least once every two years. They both, to me, are perfect books - each one explores different kinds of love and marriages that people settle for, and the people - characters - are delightful and awful and real. We have all known people like tonight's Anne's sister Mary, who refuses to acknowledge half of her husband's family because they are lower on the social scale than they are, and yet her own father barely recognizes them - but then he is the worst social snob (and character) of all, and as played by Anthony Head tonight, very unpleasant to be around, very shallow and cruel.

There are real plights depicted in Austen's books, too; in every novel there is the unmarried older woman and her worry about what will happen to her because she couldn't work in those days - today, in the words of Miranda in Sex and the City, single people end up with cats who eat them when the single people die alone in their apartments! (Which, until I unexpectedly met my second husband almost 8 years ago, I was on my way to becoming....) Widows, ill people, the bereaved, the unmarried, the unhappily married.....they all have a place too in exploring all the places people can end up in if they don't marry wisely (and I think, have some fate on their side). People marry for money, to not be alone, for protection, and these are all reasons (whether good or bad......) that still, people marry today. Her works are a study of emotions and are endlessly appealing because the main characters end up happy, with the love and choice of their life - their soulmates. We see the roles women play, the dances and society and rules of behaviour that still aren't so far from today's generation, even if today women and men have relationships and sex long before marriage, the same pain of loss and joy of love found is present today as well as yesterday. Because we all need love, and all yearn for companionship that meets our deepest needs, Austen's works speak to us and show us how people find their way. No matter how often I read her novels, they have layers of richness and meaning that I delight in. She is so accurate in her descriptions of characters that I am amazed at her perceptiveness and her wit - and what she values most of all are qualities most of us value - truthfulness, honesty, kindness, a sense of humour, a willingness to work, - who wouldn't want to be any of Jane Austen's heroine's friends?? - and loyalty - these are all qualities we all strive to have in our own natures now today.
Anyway, I didn't mean to lecture on Jane Austen, these are just some of the thoughts I have had over the years of reading her novels and watching the movies based on them. I hope you, Gentle Reader, were able to watch the first of the PBS Jane Austen movies tonight or this week sometime, and if you care to, drop me a line and tell me why you like Jane Austen so much. I'd love to hear from you!
and thanks to Becky once again over at http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2007/12/updates-on-austen-mini-challenge.html who started this challenge. Next week, Northanger Abbey!

10 comments:

Patricia said...

Must say, I haven't read any of Jane Austen's books. I've watched both "Pride and Prejudice" movies and "Emma". Maybe I should pick up a book and read it? I'm impressed by your reviews... almost makes me want to read some of these selections ~ ha ha ha.

Love, *P*

Table Talk said...

So many of you have been watching these and I wondered which version it was you were seeing. I loved the Root one and although I thought the more recent one had its merits it didn't give me the same pleasure. Like you I have frequent re-readings of this and 'Pride and Prejudice' After all we should all fall in love with Mr Darcy afresh at least once every couple of years or so!

Susan said...

Hey, Patricia, if you read Pride and Prejudice you would realize that Elizabeth realizes Darcy is her perfect match because they balance eachother's weaknesses - ie she breaks his pride, and he shows her she is prejudices too, and vice versa - it is a great novel, and fun to read.
Table Talk - you have to get your own blog so I can write to you there, too! You have some really good insights, and it looks like we read the same books! You're so right, we should fall in love with Darcy every couple of years! Sometimes all i have to do is see his picture! (Ok that sounds really bad, but Firth as Mr Darcy? Not many men can beat that!!!)

Table Talk said...

I have my own blog. You can find me at:

http://web.mac.com/ann163125/Table_Talk/Table_Talk_Blog/Table_Talk_Blog.html

Do come on over, you'll be very welcome indeed.

Susan said...

Table talk - I can't get into your blog, I get as far as webmac.com, and anything else is 'not found'......any chance you can send me a link? thanks!

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