Having finished reading the novel a few days ago, last night I sat down to watch the 1998 film version of Frenchman’s Creek. A huge amount of the story was changed. Instead of being set in the Restoration court under Charles II, it was set during the Glorious Revolution in 1688. There are loads of Dutchmen as a result of William’s invasion of England – and whilst I usually love 1688 stories, there is no reason why they couldn’t have kept it in the 1660s. The first scene of the film was shot inside the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, and that was a treat.MaAnthony Delain, who was physically perfect as the French pirate, but I felt that he smirked a bit too much to be like the Aubery of du Maurier’s novel. Aubery is pensive and a prolific artist of birds (not once was this referred to in the film). Aubery is also half-Irish in this when he was a full Breton in the book. I had to get used to Tara Fitzgerald as Dona, mainly because I associate her so strongly with her role in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. (Last year, I literally bumped into Tara Fitzgerald on High Street Kensington, which was nice). But she ultimately won me over.
Harry, Dona’s husband, is supposed to be an idiot and was played as such until, miraculously, at the end of the film he is sober, selfless, and almost heroic – another huge change from the original story. Dona’s daughter, only a very little girl in the book, was insolent and malicious in this version and I found this added an unnecessary and even slightly annoying plotline. There were some beautiful shots throughout the film, including what you can see in the still from below.
It was quite a short adaptation (less than an hour and 45 minutes) so many little things were left out such as Aubery and Dona getting to know each other, fishing, cooking and eating together. It was the little moments of tenderness between them in the novel that I had hoped would be translated onto the screen, but it appeared that they jumped into bed rather quickly. If the film had been a miniseries or maybe 2 1/2 hours long, there could have been more time to evolve the relationship between the two main characters. Dona and Aubery are soul mates with a beautiful relationship – and this was sadly not emphasised enough in this adaptation. All in all, it was an entertaining and enjoyable film to watch but very different from the original story. I’ll next see the 1940s version and see if that’s any closer to the original.
I’d give it 3.5/5