The BBC 1995 adaptation of Persuasion by Jane Austen is my favourite filmed version of the book so far. In keeping with the novel, the last section is set in Bath and filmed among the city’s very recognisable landmarks – and fans can even stay in the same house as the characters.
Persuasion is a novel that is deeply loved by its fans, many of whom count it as their favourite Jane Austen novel. It’s a quiet, low-key and deeply-felt story, centred around an unassuming heroine, her life, her regrets, her hopes and her experience. I think this probably makes it harder to dramatise successfully; the story is more ‘internal’ than other novels, and readers will identify with Anne Elliot and have a very decided image of her. If the portrayal of the character and the mood don’t fit with readers’ interpretations, they’ll be very disappointed. (Note: this article obviously contains spoilers).
Persuasion: the 1995 version
Amanda Root in this BBC production is very close to my ideal Anne Elliot. She acts the role intelligently, and makes Anne a thoughtful and reflective woman with an inner strength that we see grow during the course of the movie. She’s self-sacrificing in her efforts to care for her relatives while still seeing, like the viewer, their ridiculousness and the injustices around her. We see the action from her perspective and read its meaning and Jane Austen’s judgement in her expressive eyes. Her Captain Wentworth, as played by Ciarán Hinds, is a strong and decisive naval captain but also touchingly out of his depth when it comes to love.
One of the things I particularly like about this production is the naturalistic look: the lack of make up and the award-winning costume design (by Alexandra Byrne, designer for the recent film of Emma.) Unlike many period dramas, in which women in everyday situations are presented in perfect outfits suitable for balls, and utterly unsuitable for the English climate, in Persuasion the clothing reflects personalities, and looks practical, well-worn and suitable for the location and weather; just what the viewer can imagine these characters would wear in these situations if they were real people of their era.
It’s a shame that this production hasn’t been remastered and produced on DVD to the standards of other classics, as the quality on my DVD isn’t great, especially on large modern screens. I think the first scene or two are also rather awkwardly put together. However once you become involved with the story, the technical quality ceases to matter much. The performances are excellent, and the novel’s characters come to life in a way that most readers would be more than happy with.
Inevitably there are a few changes to make the novel fit the medium of film, and into 100 minutes. While I wouldn’t argue with most of these, the good thing about having different productions to watch is seeing how they each approach the characters and the necessary cuts, additions and adjustments. If you love the book, or want to find new ways to consider it, watching both this and the 2007 ITV production makes a good opportunity to compare and consider different aspects of Austen’s characters and elements of her plot.
Persuasion hasn’t been as over-exposed as Pride and Prejudice and these productions are able to stick to the story without the need to try anything new or controversial. They maintain the low-key, intimate and character-driven story that Austen created. In 2021 I saw some of the location filming in Bath for the upcoming Netflix production of Persuasion, with Dakota Johnson, and though I’m concerned about a Bridgerton influence, it will still be good to see another adaptation of the novel to add to the collection.
Persuasion (BBC 1995) filming locations in and around Bath
The George Inn at Norton St Philip played the part of the Inn at Lyme Regis where Anne, Captain Wentworth and their party stay, and encounter her cousin Mr Elliot (both the interior and the exterior are featured).
Once the story shifts to Bath in the rain, the first scenes are inside the townhouse rented by Sir Walter for the season. Persuasion and Austen fans will be delighted to discover that the house used for filming, 95 Sydney Place, is actually a stylish B&B (Sir Walter Elliot’s House) where you can stay. The interior is used in the film as well as the exterior, where we later see Anne gazing out through a window, so guests at the B&B can engage in elegant conversation in the drawing room, re-live the triumphant penultimate card party scene, or stare longingly through the window like Anne. Jane Austen herself lived nearby at 4 Sydney Place.
In first outdoor Bath scene Anne strolls through Abbey Churchyard with Lady Russell, before the two ladies take the waters in the Pump Room, where they encounter Admiral and Mrs Croft (photo at top of page).
Anne and the Admiral discuss their mutual acquaintances as they stroll across Abbey Green, where the curved windows of what is most recently the Abbey Deli is dressed a printer’s shop. It’s here that Anne learns important news of Captain Wentworth, Louisa Musgrove and Captain Benwick as they promenade past a bootmakers and drapers.
I’ve done a bit of detective work on the location of the tearoom in which Anne greets Captain Wentworth, leaving him adorably flustered (a favourite scene). I’m fairly sure that this scene was shot on Old Bond Street, inside a shop with two curved windows – at the time of writing it’s a branch of Jigsaw – facing a row of other shops with attractive historic shopfronts. (Watch the Abbey Green and tearoom scenes)
Our heroine’s growing confidence is also shown at their next meeting, where she urges him to remain at a concert, frustrated with the interruptions preventing their potential rapprochement. The concert is filmed at the Assembly Rooms, one of the most important destinations of Georgian Bath and a popular filming location.
After a trip back to Sydney Place we’re taken on a call to the ‘White Hart’, where the Musgroves are staying, a location with a view down onto the colonnades of Bath Street. Then another trip to the Pump Room with Lady Russell, and an encounter with Frederick, who has a brief but satisfying verbal duel with the woman who persuaded Anne to reject him. Next Anne pays a second call on her friend Mrs Smith, and this time we see the exterior of Mrs Smith’s lodgings: North Parade Buildings near Abbey Green.
After another visit to the Musgroves, Anne emerges onto Bath Street, which is the setting for the happy resolution of her romance, and a classic Period Drama Kiss, as a circus passes by, before the happy couple stroll companionably away.
Other locations in the film include, of course, Lyme Regis. Sheldon Manor near Chippenham was Uppercross, home of the Musgroves, and Barnsley Park in Gloucestershire was used as Kellynch Hall.
Follow in the characters’ footsteps
Like Anne Elliot, you can stay in
Watch or read
- Buy Persuasion (1995) on DVD (Amazon UK)
- There’s some interesting background on the Wikipedia page for this film.