2 Mar 2009

Clarissa (1996)

I was looking high and low for this movie a couple of months ago but it seemed impossible to get it on DVD by then. So when I found it in a local store at a bargain price last week, I didn't have to think twice before buying it. A costume movie (mini series actually, if you're nitpicking) set in the 18th century, that you haven't already seen, is like Christmas and your birthday together!

The film is based on Samuel Richardson's novel Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady from 1748. I haven't read the novel (some time long ago I read Pamela. Well, most of it at least) so I judged the film on it's own merits, and I thought it did really well.

The heroine of the film is, as you might have guessed, Clarissa (Saskia Wickham), a young and rich woman known for her virtue.
When Clarissa is being forced into a marriage to this by her rather nasty excuse for a family, she gets so desperate that she runs off with Richard Sharpe Robert Lovelace (Sean Bean), a notorious rake and libertine who gladly anticipates the challenge to seduce a woman so known for her high morals and virtues (sounds a little like like Les Liaisons dangereuses, no?).

But could Clarissa actually be able to reform Sharpe Lovelace in the end, or will he drag her down with him? You get no spoilers from me - go and see it for yourself. I would recommend it.

Yes, I liked this flick. I liked the script and the acting and you could tell the team had a pretty good budget for this production - there were quite a few outdoors scenes with lots of bit players which adds such a nice detail to a period movie.

That also brings us to the costume department, and there I'm afraid I was a little bit disappointed.
As in many other period movies, we see a too great diversion in styles to make it look convincing (we learn in the end of the film that it was set in 1749, which I couldn't buy). The costume designer also had a big thing for gowns laced in the back, another typical miss in this kind of film. And bows. Lots of them. Everywhere.

But altogether there was not a complete lack of eye-candy (many yummy accessories for example), and since we're not exactly spoiled with 18th century costume dramas these days, I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth!

Clarissa gets a 4/5 from me. It was also nominated for 5 BAFTA:s, whichever is more qualifying.

You can haz pickshers nao!

Isn't that Mrs Hurst, née Bingley, from P&P in the middle? What are you doing in a disguised brothel, mrs Hurst?


  1. Oooooh wow! Have to keep an eye out for that one! =D Love the costumes! ;D Love period dramas too of course, hehe ;P

  2. I saw this a while ago and I have to say that I couldn't quite get into it, mainly because the character of Clarissa was just SO ANNOYING. She drove me crazy. When Lovelace raped her my best friend and I went "Finally!!" and we thought it took her forever to die. I feel like I really would have gotten into the story if I liked her, but I didn't.

    If you want a great 18th century miniseries you should check out The Aristocrats, another BBC production. It follows the famous Lennox sisters throughout their lives and is fabulous.

  3. Oh I'd love to watch Aristocrats again, I've been planning to get it on DVD forever, because I haven't seen it since the late 90's. If I recall correctly, there were some fabulous costumes in that one.

    Re: Clarissa. No, I didn't quite connect with this heroine either, probably because I found the plot a bit dated (what else could you expect from a 250+ year old novel?) I kept thinking: "Just let him, already! Have some fun while you can!"

    Maybe I'm more of a Fanny Hill-persona than a Clarissa... :D

  4. "I kept thinking: "Just let him, already! Have some fun while you can!""

    Me too!! I was just like "Geez lady, you could do a lot worse than Sean Bean".

    I did like that Lovelace never repented what he did to Clarissa though, which makes him a proper rake in my book. Unlike Valmont from Les Liaisons Dangereuses who had to go and fall in love, ha ha.