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?