A few weeks away from the premiere of the new adaptation of the book Persuasion, for Netflix, I allow myself once again not only to talk about one of my favorite books but about one of the best characters in the pages of Jane Austen. Purists blame me, I like Anne Elliot better than Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice.
A few weeks away from the premiere of the new adaptation of the book Persuasion, for Netflix, I allow myself once again not only to talk about one of my favorite books, but about one of the best characters in the pages of Jane Austen. Purists blame me, I like Anne Elliot better than Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice.
Shy, lively, empathetic, and humble, Anne is the fruit of the author’s mature imagination, literally her last heroine. At age 27 at the time, (she would be like 45 today) and resentful of having been persuaded to give up romantic love in order to hope for a union more acceptable to society. She has rejected two suitors, but the first – Captain Frederick Wentworth – is still the love of her life. Eight years later, still single, Anne regrets letting herself be influenced by other people, especially her godmother, Lady Russell, Anne is a sad person, whose “passage of time is clearly seen”.
Nobody really sees Anne, she unites people and different universes, but she is so discreet and correct that not even her family remembers her connection with Frederick. She’s the person everyone can count on and talk to, but she’s the first to be discarded. Ever.
Anne’s strength, as well as her resignation to deal with the consequences of her choices, is what moves and drives the plot. Which made Anne, in terms, of a less attractive role for Hollywood. After all, Emma is the prettiest and richest, Marianne Dashwood is passionate and Elizabeth Bennett is scathing and smart. Anne is like water: odorless and tasteless. Both are passionate.
For these reasons, when announcing Dakota Johnson for the version of the film that opens on the 15th, some people were surprised. Dakota has a distinct prominence – and beauty – from Anne, despite being close in age. And from the trailer, we can see that they made bold choices.
As I described in March 2021, “Persuasion was written by Jane Austen shortly after finishing Emma, when she already had the illness that would take her life. Because of this health limitation, the book is considered less elaborate than Mansfield Park and Emma himself, in which Jane expanded on characters and construction. Casting a mature protagonist was groundbreaking and a gift to herself as well as her beloved sister Cassandra. As she described “all the women who had lost their chances in life and who never gave up on a second spring”.
When the project was announced, Netflix described that the version to be directed by Carrie Cracknell, Anne Elliot will be a sensitive and questioning woman of modern society, dealing with a snobbish but financially bankrupt family. That’s when an ex-boyfriend, who she broke up with at a young age and influenced by relatives, reappears in her life. Anne then finds herself choosing between following her heart and forgetting the past, betting on a second chance, or following the path her family hopes her to follow.
Elizabeth Bennett is scathing and intelligent. Anne is like water: odorless and tasteless. Both are passionate.
In 2021, we still thought the series would be transported to the present day. But no, then we saw that it was really a period film.
What seemed to reassure us, became anxiety. In the cast, more inclusive, brings. Henry Goulding as Sir William Elliot, Anne’s “cousin”. And so we go. To make matters worse, Jane Austen‘s perfect text has been “updated”, with purists despairing when Dakota, like Anne, says “now we’re worse than friends, we’re exes”. The superiority of the author’s choice of words is undeniable: “they were like strangers; no, worse than strangers, for they could never know each other. It was a perpetual estrangement.”
Others have complained that the fourth break seems, when Anne looks at us in the audience, to be very Fleabag language, but the 2007 version, with Sally Hawkins, had already made that choice. Although Amanda Root, from the 1995 version, is still the most perfect according to the book, I have hope for the new version, such is my passion for the story. In fact, giving Anne personality as if she were Elizabeth is unnecessary.
In a few weeks, we will know the result!