I watched this adaptation of Persuasion before I ever read the book, and in many ways, it defined the way I see the main characters and locations. I confess that part of me resisted the task of finding fault with it since in my estimation it is very nearly perfect. Alas, nothing is truly perfect, and more than one goof made its way into this wonderful film. Assuming that you’ve seen it, did you notice any of the goofs I’ve detailed when you watched it?
10.) Not exactly in the pink. – On her second visit to Mrs. Smith, Anne is decked out in a lovely pink pelisse. After Mrs. Smith and Nurse Rooke tell her the latest gossip about how her cousin, Mr. Elliot is living on loans, all the pink color drains out of Anne’s…outfit, and she is seen leaving the residence in a pastel green jacket and shawl over a white gown immediately afterward.
9.) Mass hallucination from a head wound. – The trauma of a head wound can cause people to see things that aren’t there, but when Louisa hits her head in Lyme, the whole world goes a bit skiwampus, and for a fleeting moment in the midst of the chaos, things are seen on the fringes that shouldn’t be there, like a blue car and modern yachts. Later, when asked about the incident, all anyone can say is that although it felt a bit out of time, it was all a blur.
8.) Lip Sync, ventriloquism, or fudged in post-production? – In the scene at the end of the film, when Captain Harville and Anne are talking about whether a man’s love or a woman’s love is more steadfast, there is a moment when the camera pulls back to show us that Captain Wentworth is listening to their conversation. We hear Captain Harville say “If I could only show you…” The problem is that Anne’s lips are moving, not Harville’s, when we hear his voice.
7.) Was Chopin a 4-year-old prodigy? – Frederich Chopin was born in 1810 and was all of four years old in the year this film is set. Assuming that the historical nature of the film would extend to the soundtrack, the two Preludes and a Nocturn by this composer used in the soundtrack are therefore anachronisms, as they had not yet been written in 1814, the year in which Persuasion is set. Those who have watched the film will certainly recognize this Prelude in G major by Chopin from the Lyme montage.
6.) The mysterious case of the flying feather. – Quill pens, with their feather shaft, invoke a certain romantic sensibility, but in this case, one might wonder if the quill Captain Wentworth used was infused with magical properties beyond the eloquent words it committed to paper. This feather wanted to lay in a different direction, apparently, and somewhere in the scene, when we weren’t looking, did a little flip in the box.
5.) Elizabeth a beauty? Elizabeth, Anne’s older sister, is described by Jane Austen as handsome, well-bred, with elegant manners, and as the most beautiful of the Elliot sisters. She is supposed to be as beautiful at twenty and nine as she was at twenty, and she is proud of both her appearance and station. I’m not sure what was going on with the casting and directing of this character, but it is distractingly off to me. Phoebe Nicholls was 38 at the time she played the role, and Amanda Root, as Anne, was clearly presented as the prettier of the two throughout, although it was difficult to find a good shot where they were side by side. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I could have let that point go as she is not unattractive, but, Elizabeth is shown as inelegant in nearly every scene she’s in. She slouches like a commoner, chews with her mouth open, and has a shrewish, pinched expression that sours the whole image. The contrast between her inward soul and outward appearance just isn’t there.
4.) Candles are tricky. – We must give credit to the filmmakers on their use of candles. The candle-lit scenes all feature that soft golden glow of candlelight so beautifully that one would never realize that candles, especially wax candles, were very expensive and generally carefully conserved, even among the wealthy. Liberal use of candles in these scenes is likely something of a goof, but there are a few scenes where the height of the candles dances around creating a continuity error, admittedly a difficult one for the production to avoid with repeated filming of the same scenes. In the sequence below, the candles on the table beside young Charles Musgrove are the object of our attention.
3.) What’s with the uniforms? – Throughout this adaptation, we frequently enjoy the sight of Captain Wentworth and Admiral Croft in their naval uniforms, even though we learned in the opening scenes that the war with Napoleon was officially over. Sadly, the casual wearing of the naval uniform off duty was not allowed, a fact that Jane Austen referenced in this passage from Mansfield Park:
William had obtained a ten days’ leave of absence, to be given to Northamptonshire, and was coming, the happiest of lieutenants, because the latest made, to shew his happiness and describe his uniform.
He came; and he would have been delighted to shew his uniform there too, had not cruel custom prohibited its appearance except on duty.
While this is technically a historical inaccuracy, it is in no way a complaint. Ciaran Hinds as Captain Wentworth cuts a fine figure in that uniform!
2.) Sink me! – At the dinner party in the Great House at Upper Cross, the Musgrove girls look up the ships Captain Wentworth commanded, the Asp and the Laconia. Along with the name, there was a rate for each, the Asp being a sloop, and the Laconia, they read, was “a frigate with 74 guns, second rate.” The rating system of ships, however, was very specific, and during the time of the Napoleonic wars, the highest number of guns you would find on a heavily armed frigate of the day would be 44. Frigates were smaller and more swift than the larger ships of the line and were classed as fifth rate. 74 gun ships would fall into the third rate category.
1.) Planted by a time traveler? – In an early scene, when Anne is packing up Kellynch Hall in preparation for their removal to Bath, she comes across a folded paper boat she had tucked into a book, which she gazes on with a degree of melancholy. The words on the little boat are seen for just a few seconds, but closer examination reveals that they are the words of the letter he writes to her in one of the last scenes. “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again…” The time travel idea is (obviously) the least probable explaination for this goof. I even wonder if it is deliberate, like an easter egg, using those words as bookends to the film. In any case, since the letter hasn’t been written yet in the early scene, we’re counting it as a goof.
Now doesn’t that just make you want to go and watch it again? Or for the first time? Are there any goofs I missed that you’ve observed? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!