Differences Between an Original and a Modern Adaptation

>> Friday, July 11, 2008

The 1995 film version of “Persuasion” directed by Roger Michell is a beautiful adaptation of the text. Though certain scenes are changed it shares the same tone and message of the text. Specific themes are more clear by the focus of the film and the director’s translation. One noticeable theme, was the importance of illuminating the focus on the Napoleonic wars. Also noticeable was the overall desire for Anne to be able to escape all of the Elliots. The end of the movie is very different from the text as the film reveals the focus of war as an element of escape for Anne Elliot.
The end of the book is quite different from the movie for many reasons, as the mediums are different and the audience At the end of the book, Captain Wentworth comes to Sir Walter’s rooms and is amiable, but no other significant events occur. In the last chapter Anne and Captain Wentworth end up together with little opposition or interest from the Elliots. Contrasting, in the end of the movie, before Captain Wentworth makes it to Sir Walter’s rooms, Anne overhears that Napoleon has escaped from Elba and that indeed the navy would be requested at once. Then Anne goes and sits by her cousin, Mr. Elliot, whom she knows to be only interested in her because of his own interests within the Elliot family; he requests her decision upon his proposal. Before Anne can answer Captain Wentworth comes in and announces to the whole room of their proposal and his request from Sir Walter to secure a date.
The differences between the two endings are striking because of the proposed themes revealed in the different mediums. The film has a more direct focus upon the value of war as an element of escape for Anne Elliot that the book does not qualify so well. In the book, Anne is mortified because of her own family connections as she was severely conscious:
…Of having no relations to bestow on him which a man of sense could value…The disproportion in their fortune was nothing; it did not give her a moment’s regret; but to have no family to receive and to estimate him properly; nothing of respectability, of harmony, of good-will to offer in return for all the worth and all the prompt welcome which met her in his brothers and sisters, was a source of as lively pain as her mind could well be sensible of, under circumstances of otherwise strong felicity.
(p 202)
The acute pain Anne suffers is lost in the movie as it does not show her embarrassment at her own relations, rather, Sir Walter makes a scene as he wonders why Captain Wentworth should have taken an interest in Anne, and this is a close translation to make Anne’s internal feelings shown through her family’s peculiar reactions. Anne’s value on sense versus rank is evident in both the film and the text as it is clear to the audience that rank should be nothing without sense. As Sir Walter has only his rank he is a ridiculous man for Captain Wentworth to desire to have a connection with.
Anne’s desire to have good sense over rank and social status estranges her in her family. The movie had to have a war for Anne to truly escape from her family, whereas the book leaves her marrying as separation enough. The values for when the movie was made about travel made this change necessary as travel is a lot more feasible and sixteen miles of good road are nothing. Thus Captain Wentworth has to necessarily draw Anne out of her family circle by the new worry of war resuming. In the book, Anne’s friends are worried about her as Captain Wentworth’s; “profession was all that could ever make her friends wish that tenderness less; the dread of a future war all that could dim her sunshine. She gloried in being a sailor's wife, but she must pay the tax of quick alarm for belonging to that profession which is, if possible, more distinguished in its domestic virtues than in its national importance”(p 203). The movie felt it was right in refuting the worry as Anne should be able to go seafaring along with him.
The book does not end with a return to war, but rather the fear Anne's friends have of their being one as she is now married to a Captain of the Navy. This illuminates the texts use of war, for if there never had been war, there would not have been a rise in social class for so many men in the Navy. “Persuasion” uses the war to elevate Captain Wentworth to be someone that the Elliot's old rank will have to respect. Since the change was so drastic for the old nobility, it can be no wonder that in order for Captain Wentworth to leave all of the nonsense of the Elliot’s behind, that the film would more practically resume war and have Anne be on a boat far away from the Elliots.


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