Too much of a good thing is bad enough. Too much of a bad thing, worse. Fanny Hill by John Cleland has always struck me as the latter, demonstrating the thin line erotic and downright boring many erotic novels straddle. Sade walked that line with more success, I believe, with sex being a space where power is negotiated and an integral part to the story. Cleland crams as much sex between the pages as he possibly could – possibly for shock value, but what do I know of his intentions? – rendering Fanny Hill as uninteresting and unerotic as toast. [That’s my opinion, anyway.]
BBC’s adaptation of Fanny Hill cuts out much of the sex and, you know what, it works! Finally, Fanny Hill (the character) is unobscured from ponderous descriptions of masturbation etc etc, and becomes a Woman of Pleasure. The transition of the innocent country girl, to a woman of experience (good or bad, I leave it up to you to decide, as the film closes as well) becomes more compelling as a result. Instead of a gentleman’s (Cleland’s) fantasy of the innocent whore, she becomes a complex woman whose struggles with the notion of virtue reveal the inadequacies of societal norms.
Still unerotic, despite accusations that BBC have turned sleazy (or my threshold for raunch is unnaturally high), a thankfully pared down Fanny Hill was a joy to watch.