Friday, November 30, 2012

Review of 2007 Persuasion by Lisa Nelson

Persuasion. Dir. Adrian Shergold. Perf. Sally Hawkins, Alice Krige, Rupert Penry-Jones, Anthony Head, Amanda Hale.  ITV/BBC Television, 2007. 2 out of 4 stars.
I must admit that I was very skeptical about liking the character of Anne Elliot on film as well as I liked her in the book. It would seem to be a very hard task to make her deep thoughts and feelings known to the audience without the benefit of the play-by-play of what she is thinking and feeling that we get from Jane Austen’s detailed writing. But I was pleasantly surprised by Sally Hawkins’s strong and sympathetic performance, which was the best feature of the film. It is too bad that the rest of the film was not quite as good. Some scenes were played up for comedy, or were made entirely too dramatic, when they should have been more natural. In this adaptation the grand gestures sometimes drown out what can be breathtaking in the subtleness that Austen creates in her writing. 

Review of 1995 Persuasion by Trevor Contreras

Persuasion. Director Roger Mitchell.  Featuring Amanda Root (Anne Elliot) and Ciaran Hinds (Captain Frederick Wentworth).
BBC FILMS. Millesime Productions, 1995.
3.25/4 stars
               Mitchell’s film Persuasion is a wonderful heartbeat of Austen’s novel. Anne is a pivotal character in which the film weaves in and out a society of characters that is sometimes flamboyantly irritating, and other times darkly revealing, but always entertaining. The story begins with Anne and her family in Kellynch Hall. Her narcissistic father and sister show perfect reason why Anne’s current situation is not so fortunate, disregarding everyone but themselves. Sir Walter and Elizabeth Elliot basically ignore poor Anne. Adding to the dismal list is Anne’s sister Mary, whom is married to Charles Musgrove; Mary is a helpless mother that depends on her elder sister to do everything for her. The fact that Anne is the oddball out is really emphasized in these opening scenes.  

Review of Becoming Jane by Laramie Mims and Jessica Wolfe

 Directed by Julian Jarrold, released on August 10, 2007, it is a great film, but contains little accuracy regarding Jane Austen’s love affair with Tom Lefroy. The film was produced in cooperation with several companies, including Ecosse Films and Blueprint Pictures Limited. Also, it received funding from the Irish Film Board and the UK Film Council Premiere Fund.
Based largely on speculation, Becoming Jane is the story of the untold romance that inspired a young Jane Austen. The character of Jane, played by Anne Hathaway, comes onto the screen as the somewhat troublesome daughter of Rev. Austen and his wife. Jane is portrayed as a bundle of barely suppressed artistic energy from the beginning of the film as she passionately jots down the words of a future novel (First Impressions/Pride and Prejudice) in the opening scene. It is here that we are allowed the first glimpse of Jane’s willfulness and spirit, things that should hardly be found in the daughter of the average country preacher.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Film Questions for Persuasion (1995)

For Friday: Questions for the 1995 adaptation of Persuasion

NOTE: We’ll talk about the film after we finish watching it on Thursday, though these questions won’t be due until Friday at 5pm.  Next week we’ll wrap-up the course by considering what role Austen has in the college curriculum and whether or not she should remain the dominant writer in the English literary canon—the “Austen brand,” as James would have it. 

Answer ONE of the following…

1.         What are some of the most striking omissions in this version of Persuasion?  What scenes, dialogue, or characters are missing, and why do you think the director/screenwriter chose to omit them?  How do they change the tone or message of the film?  Are any of these scenes or characters necessary (do you think) to truly know the book? 

2.         Remember that in Austen’s original ending (on pp.168-177), we see the moment of “understanding” between Anne and Wentworth.  She scrapped this as too much, perhaps, and wrote the more subdued version we have today.  However, in Alan A. Stone’s review of Persuasion (the 1995 film), he chides the director for returning to this ending, because “[the original ending’s] flawed depiction indicates the kind of difficulty that beset screenwriter Dear, who took it upon himself to do what Austen could not. To accomplish his task he ignored that fact that Persuasion was a period piece.”  What do you think about this critique?  Did the director make Persuasion too modern, with its kissing and romance?  Did he go too far—even farther than Austen dared allow herself? 

3.         Discuss the characterization of Anne in the film: are we supposed to like her as much as we like the heroine in Persuasion?  Is she as wise and literate in the movie; or does she appear too passive and ‘good’?  You might also consider why the director makes her often say lines spoken by other characters in the book, such as Captain Harville’s line that “But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men” (156). 

4.         According to the director, Persuasion is the “first modern love story”.  Did you feel this when reading the book?  Does the film push us too far in reading the book as a love story, even above matters of class, satire, family, and education?  Should we ultimately celebrate modern love and its ability to defeat class and social pretension in this work?  Or does the film want us to see a “modern” Austen much more than an 1818 one? 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

For Next Week: Persuasion

For next week, we'll watch the 1995 adaptation of Persuasion starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds (which I personally think is the best Austen adaptation ever!).  Be sure you've finished the book by next week, since we'll discuss the ending in more detail, and particularly, Austen's original ending which you can find directly following the final chapter in our book. 

Also, start writing--or developing ideas towards writing--your final paper.  Don't write it at the last minute!  Use your previous writings, especially Paper #3, as material, and feel free to borrow whatever you think works.  I look at writing as a process of writing, revision, and adaptation, so it's no crime to pilfer from previous papers or even use entire paragraphs!  Writing is never "new," just as long as it's your own writing you're stealing from.  Please let me know if you run into problems or difficulties.  See you next week!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Questions for Friday (Persuasion)

For Friday: Questions for Persuasion: Chs. 1-26 (pp.3-100)

Answer ONE of the following…

1.         In Persuasion, we see Jane Austen at the end of her career (though she probably didn’t know this), and very much in a new century—the eighteen teens.  This was just before the publication of Frankenstein but well after Wordsworth and Coleridge’s major poems, as well as the works of Shelley and Byron.  How do we see Persuasion influenced by the Romantic movement in British literature?  What new touches in the work signal a ‘Romantic’ sensibility unusual in Austen’s writing?  Consider not only what the narrator focuses on/describes, but what the characters say, read, and expound to others. 

2.         In a very amusing and fantastic passage on page 27, the narrator describes the Musgrove’s house which is being invaded by a harp and a piano-forte (an old style piano—piano means “soft” and forte means “loud”).  The old-fashioned demeanor of the house is offended, as she writes, “Oh! Could the originals of the portraits against the wainscot, could the gentlemen in brown velvet and the ladies in blue satin have seen what was going on, have been conscious of such an overthrow of all order and neatness!  The portraits themselves seemed to be staring in astonishment.  As this passage suggests, much of the goings-on of Persuasion would shock and astonish the old order.  Where do we see Jane Austen pitting the new world against the old?  What innovations and ideas seem quite at odds with the more traditional, class-based ways of running the world?

3.         Discuss the education of women in this novel so far, considering characters such as Anne Eliot, Mary Eliot, the Musgrove sisters, and Mrs. Croft in particular.  What does it mean to be ‘educated’ as we move into the 19th century?  Are any of these women ‘ideals’ for Austen?  Or anti-ideals?  Does Anne share some of Lizzie and Emma’s lack of moral insight and judgment?  Does her education allow her to game play?  Or has she retired from the game already? 

4.         How does Persuasion develop Austen’s theme of mothers and fathers?  We get an usual set of parents in this book, from Sir Walter Eliot, Lady Russell (a surrogate mother, though perhaps more properly an aunt figure), and the two generations of Musgroves.  How does Austen reflect on the duties and sensibilities of parents, and their relationships with their children?  Note that this is the only book thus far that actually has young children in it!  Why do you think Austen focuses so much on the younger generation in this book? 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Film Review: Mansfield Park (1999 film) by Joshua McNeeley

 Mansfield Park (Miramax Film 1999): Directed by Patricia Rozema; Starring Frances O’Conner, James Purevoy, etc.

Mansfield Park begins with Fanny Price leaving her family to live with her rich relatives. In spite of being brought up in a rich household, she is not considered equal to the rest of the family. Fanny grows up with her cousins Tom (the rebellious older cousin), Edmund (the kind, brother like figure who needs Fanny to put words to his feelings), and Maria and Julia (the two sisters who are frivolous and desiring of attention, Maria more so than Julia). Fanny is thrust into situations where she has to make a decision between her sense and her sensibility, from an offer of marriage by Mr. Henry Crawford (which she refuses due to the fact that she does not trust him for she sees his true character) to being sent away from Mansfield Park (because she refuses Mr. Crawford) to bashing heads with Miss Crawford (due to a family scandal). Mansfield Park also explores the idea of whether or not two friends can be together. According to this film, it can happen for Fanny and Edmund do get married at the end. Interestingly enough, the plot itself didn’t come off like a Jane Austen story, but the characters do seem to be true to the Austen character types from her novels.