1995-This version rates slightly higher in my estimation for a few reasons. It is beautifully shot cinematically and I adore the classical music soundtrack which is appropriate and also gives a slightly nautical feel at times (although my husband found the music annoying, so it is all personal taste). Ciaran Hines is weatherworn and looks like he could have been at sea for 8 years. Amanda Root is quiet, strong and makes you want to root for her (OK, I couldn’t resist the pun). The other reason for placing this adaptation slightly higher on my list would be the fact that they kept the "best scene" basically intact as Austen wrote it. When Anne is overheard by Captain Wentworth in the room at Bath, debating with Captain Harville whether man or woman is more constant, my heart soars. “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.” This is one of Jane Austen’s best scenes and in this film it is very well done. I also love the minor characters in this one, particularly Phoebe Nicolls as Elizabeth Elliot-”She is a Viscountess!” and Corrin Redgrave as Sir Walter Elliot. His slight lisp makes me laugh. Sophie Thompson was at her best, being a just neurotic enough Mary Musgrove who will now always speak in my head as I read the book. And Susan Fleetwood (sister of Fleetwood Mac’s drummer Mick Fleetwood) was luminous as Lady Russell, although she was battling ovarian cancer while filming this and died soon after.
2007- This version is also very well done, even though all the running of Anne around the Royal Crescent and through various streets in Bath has been parodied on You Tube and seems very modern, however we do see a lot of lovely Bath scenery this way. The dragged out kiss at the end as well made me want to throw something at the screen so that they would just get on with it, and yet there are many tributes to the ending kiss on YouTube, so many would disagree. Ah, one person finds this scene sexy and another person fixates on the spittle at the side of her mouth.
However I cannot deny that Rupert Penry-Jones makes a delightful Captain Wentworth and that Sally Hawkins does a kick ass job of Anne. She can even fix a dislocated collar bone. Why wait for the apothecary? And it is filmed mostly in Bath, which adds to the visual appeal. And although they do tinker with my beloved eavesdropping/note writing scene, it is done for plot reasons and comes off fairly well with the letter being delivered to Anne instead of being surreptitiously passed to her. One does certainly feel Anne’s anxiety as she searches the streets of Bath for her yummy Captain, determined not to lose him once more.
No, both of these adaptations are quite welcome in my DVD library. And I like that Wentworth buys her Kellynch Hall at the end of the new one. Apparently the Elliots really mismanaged their fortune, although wouldn’t Anne sort of be forced to then invite her stupid father and sister to live with her there? I rather enjoy the end of the older version, where Anne is on board ship with her Captain and leaving her inane family behind in England. OK, I know I am over thinking these adaptations, but when you get fond of a character, you wish to have them really live happily ever after.
And, as Anne always gets her Captain, I will always be happy with the ending. So I guess we won't have any more Persuasion adaptations for a while. If we do, perhaps we can get a true longer miniseries so that we get more of the juicy bits between Anne and Wentworth. Come on BBC, adapt this again like you did with the recent Emma. Sigh.........