In the novel Persuasion, Jane Austen describes two long-lost lovers torn apart by inauspicious circumstances. “There could have never been two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved,” she writes. “Now they were as strangers; nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted. It was a perpetual estrangement.”
In the newest adaptation of the novel, helmed by first-time feature film director Carrie Cracknell, the writing team, Roland Bass and Alice Victoria Winslow, take some liberties with Austen’s heart-wrenching prose. In the place of these words, the protagonist, Anne Elliot, played by Dakota Johnson, stares into the camera lens and says, “Now we’re strangers. Worse than strangers. We’re exes,” as if lamenting about a college fling – not what Austen emphasizes was likely Anne’s one and only shot at true love and happiness.
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On the beach that comparative literature scholar Leda (Olivia Colman) lounges on throughout The Lost Daughter, the skies are a crystal blue, the beaches a shimmering white, the water warm and translucent. But the shore is also infested with crass, noisy people; Leda’s fruit infected by a malignant rot; her bedroom contaminated with screeching bugs; a little girl’s doll corrupted by noxious black liquid and writhing insects. This tonal tension is symptomatic of the film’s spirit: It’s a glossy apple, rapidly decaying from the inside out.
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There aren’t many contemporary novelists whose work filmmakers are more eager to adapt than Italian author Elena Ferrante. In 1995, her novel Nasty Love was turned into a thriller directed by Mario Martone; The Days of Abandonment was adapted by Roberto Faenza in 2005. And, in 2016, it was announced that her four-part book series The Neapolitan Novels was being taken on by HBO as a 32-part TV show.
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