Director Carrie Cracknell had two major influences as she set out to reimagine a faithful yet subversive adaptation of Persuasion. The first was, of course, the book itself, the final novel written by Jane Austen and published after her death in 1817. The second was the inspiration behind Cracknell's iconoclastic approach to that source material: 2006's Marie Antoinette, which presented the ill-fated queen of France as a rock 'n' rolling, Regency-era rebel.
"I enjoy Sofia Coppola's boldness in Marie Antoinette, and the confidence with which Kirsten [Dunst] both exists in the film but also outside of the time. I love the modernity and the kind of punk of the film," she explains. "It's a beautiful piece of cinema."
Of course, Cracknell also has her picks when it comes to previous adaptations of Austen's oeuvre. An acclaimed theater director (2019's Tony-nominated Seawall/A Life), she binged both the film and television adaptations of Austen's classic texts as she prepared to make her feature directorial debut with her own take on Persuasion. Below, Cracknell shares with A.frame her personal favorites.
Where to Watch: Hulu
Directed by: Simon Langton | Written by: Andrew Davies
That was my entryway Austen adaptation. I was 15 and I watched it all when it came out. I completely loved the sexual chemistry between Jennifer [Ehle] and Colin [Firth], and also the wit and aliveness. It was just a really evocative adaptation of that book.
Directed by: Roger Michell | Screenplay by: Nick Dear
At least in the U.K., this is considered the classic adaptation. The late Roger Michell was a friend and mentor of mine and a colleague of a lot of people who worked on our film, so we were devastated to lose him in the autumn. [Michell died on Sept. 22, 2021. He was 65.] I love the film because it has the trademark complexity and sensitivity of Roger's work. It was a really beautiful touchstone to go back and revisit when we were putting our Persuasion together.
I think they have quite different souls, the two pieces, but I always find it really moving to see the same material rendered in different ways. Particularly with this film, locations are the same. For example, The Cobb in Lyme, you go back and watch that sequence shot on the same bit of rock in the same bit of sea, and you know that Jane Austen walked down those steps, that she swam in the sea there. There's this incredible sense of not only the literary history of the novel but also the history of all of these adaptations that go before you.
Directed by: Ang Lee | Screenplay by: Emma Thompson
It's always interesting to see a perspective on the material that's not a British director's perspective. It has a real freshness. It's so beautifully cast, this Sense. I found the majesty of the cinema really moving, actually. That was a good touchstone as I was preparing for Persuasion. I was watching it with my 13-year-old daughter, and I remember she said to me, "Why do all the women fall over in Jane Austen? They always hurt their ankle." I was like, yeah, that's pretty much it.
Directed and written by: Douglas McGrath
There's a sort of iconoclasm and a playfulness in Gwyneth [Paltrow]'s version of Emma, which I really enjoyed. I think it's a really beautiful, accessible version of the film.
Directed and written by: Amy Heckerling
Clueless was an iconic movie for me as a teenager. I think we all wanted to be Alicia Silverstone at some level. And the fact that they really made completely their own movie out of the material is really refreshing. It was just an absolutely seminal teenage movie for me.