After I finished reading Mansfield Park (review), I decided that I have to watch the two movies that were made. There’s the 1999 version with Frances O’Connor and Jonny Lee Miller and the 2007 version with Billie Piper and Blake Ritson. [There’s also a 1983 version, but I couldn’t find it].
[Oh my Goodness, I just discovered that they’re making a new Emma, and for meta’s sake! With Jonny Lee Miller and Blake Ritson!]
Fanny Price lives with her aunt and uncle, the Bertrams, and their children, Thomas, Edmund, Maria and Julia. During all of her childhood with them, she has heard by the well-meaning but rather insensitive people around her that she’s not much worth and that she’s forever obliged to them. Only Edmund has ever shown her any real kindness. Thus she grows up a shy young woman with very strong principles and very much in love with Edmund, who doesn’t suspect a thing.
When the siblings Henry and Mary Crawford move into the neighbourhood, things get shaken up quite a bit.
Both movies were okay, but neither were great. I did like the relationship between Fanny and Edmund in the 1999 version a little better (I’m sorry, Doctor, I’m really sorry!), but overall I liked the 2007 version better. But I don’t think there’s much lost if you watch neither.
During both movies I wondered whether the writers had actually read Mansfield Park or whether I had read a different version. My guess is that they tried really hard to make it a little more modern, to make Fanny a little more understandable and to get rid of the cop-out that was the ending. This resulted in some weird stuff, which I will describe for each movie separately.
The 1999 Version
What I did like was that there was some kind of sexual tension between Fanny and Edmund (I mean, they almost kiss at one point). It wasn’t like in the book:
Edmund had greatly the advantage of her in this respect. He had not to wait and wish with vacant affections for an object worthy to succeed her in them. Scarcely had he done regretting Mary Crawford, and observing to Fanny how impossible it was that he should ever meet with such another woman, before it began to strike him whether a very different kind of woman might not do just as well, or a great deal better: whether Fanny herself were not growing as dear, as important to him in all her smiles and all her ways, as Mary Crawford had ever been; and whether it might not be a possible, an hopeful undertaking to persuade her that her warm and sisterly regard for him would be foundation enough for wedded love.
I purposely abstain from dates on this occasion, that every one may be at liberty to fix their own, aware that the cure of unconquerable passions, and the transfer of unchanging attachments, must vary much as to time in different people. I only entreat everybody to believe that exactly at the time when it was quite natural that it should be so, and not a week earlier, Edmund did cease to care about Miss Crawford, and became as anxious to marry Fanny as Fanny herself could desire.
Which I found to be rather unsatisfying.
No, there was some tension, Edmund apparently felt something for Fanny all the time but didn’t want to know. And that makes it kinda better.
But where Fanny is painfully shy in the book and fears her uncle a lot, in the movie she’s rather outspoken and willful (and why does every Austen heroine want to be a writer?) – which made some of the conversation a little weird.
Plus, the book is obviously non-political, mentioning slavery and the colonies only in passing but the movie is all about that, portraying Sir Thomas as a rapist and Thomas Bertram, instead of the drunken gambler he is in the book (because he just never learned what else to do with his time), he’s a sensitive artist who broke because of his father’s cruelty and therefore drinks.
I was very disappointed that they left out William entirely. He was one of the nicest and best characters in the book.
And the characterisation of the Crawfords is completely off. And to quote one imdb reviewer:
The scene with Fanny playing Anhalt to help Mary Crawford rehearse is also completely wrong. Mary starts caressing Fanny, while Edmund watches with his eyes almost popping out of his head. So, instead of Edmund giving in and joining the play in order to spare his family the embarrassment of publicity, we are left with the impression that he takes on the role of Anhalt just so that he can justify having Mary run her hands all over him.
So, in my opinion the movie was much too sexual (though the tension between the protagonists was well done), especially when Fanny accepts Henry’s proposal and kisses! him! in! public!
It felt like Patricia Rozema tried to make a movie that wasn’t Mansfield Park but wanted to keep the name and the marketing clout that is Jane Austen. And that sucks.
The 2007 Version
As well as in the 1999 version, Fanny Price here is not the Fanny Price of the book. Instead we get a strangely childlike Fanny, who runs around laughing with the kids and only freezes when adults are around (what the hell?).
Also, she’s completely aware of the bad treatment she’s receiving, which she isn’t in the book – she always thinks that it’s the appropriate way to treat her, when she never gets anything at all.
Edmund was very good, though, especially because Blake Ritson always manages to look like a hurt cow with a stick up his ass. Perfect Edmund. (Sorry if that sounds a little derogatory – it’s not meant to be. It’s just how I imagine Edmund – a little overcautious, easily frightened and a little stiff.)
The movie suffers extremely from the low budget – they never leave the mansion, Fanny never goes to Portsmouth, there’s no big ball and that kind of turns the whole plot on its head.
At least this time they included William.
You’re spot on about Rozema’s adaptation. She used Austen to make a modern political point, and totally screws with the plot and the characters. Your characterization of Edward made me laugh out loud -blunt, insightful and too, too right.
Blockbuster online and Amazon have the 1980s adaptation with Sylvestra Le Touzel as Fanny. It’s worth the rental if you ever get the chance.
Glad I could make you laugh. :)
And I’ll look into the 1980s adaptation once more. Maybe I can get ahold of it now. [Being in Austria, though, is sometimes a bit of a problem…]
well I read the book and I loved and before that I have watched the movie I mean the 2007 version I liked the both there is a bit difference but it is okay. Anyone can get the theme which is a yound girl fron law classe desreves to be apart of hight classe not by inhirit but my mirit. Thanks to her strong principles.
I haven’t seen a version of “MANSFIELD PARK” that I truly like – and that includes the 2007, 1999 and the more faithful 1983 versions.
The problem is that I don’t like Fanny Price that much. Or the novel.
Well, I guess if you don’t like Fanny or the novel that much, it’s pretty difficult for a movie to make you like it. But I know what you mean…
I don’t believe that a movie adaptation has to completely faithful to a novel in order to be good. I don’t understand why people think that what is good in a novel, will also film well. There is a good deal about “MANSFIELD PARK” that I find critical and does not – in my opinion – translate well to the screen.
Which is why I did not have any problems with some of the liberties that Patricia Rozema took with her 1999 adaptation of Austen’s novel. Frankly, I had approved of some of her changes. However, I was not that enamored with some of her other changes. And there were some aspects of Rozema’s movie in which she was faithful to Austen’s novel – namely Fanny’s inability to become aware of her personality flaws, as well as Edmund’s flaws – that I DID NOT approve of.
I liked the 2007 version more so than the 1999. You’re right Edmund was played very well and so was Henry. William looked as if he and Billie were actually related. Both of the aunts were good and I liked Sir Thomas. Mary Crawford was a little more wicked than I had imagined her to be, but neither Julia or Maria disappointed. It is too bad that the actress that played Fanny Price never read the book , if she had she would have known that Fanny was not simple minded. I can’t believe as much as she strived to please she would let her hair or her clothing look as it did. I got so tired of looking at her bra strap!! She ran and chased around like a simple minded child. Even poor pug was at her mercy!
This version of Mansfield Park is a absolute abomination! If the creative staff responsible for this travesty wanted to express themselves or discuss their views on the independence of women or the evils of slavery, both of which are legitimate topics of discussion, they should have written something original instead of highjacking someone else’s work. If anyone wants to see a wonderful and accurate version of Mansfield Park, they should view the 1983 production with Sylvestra Le Touzel. It is true to the author, the era and the spirit of the novel.
The 1999 version was very disappointing… this is my least favourite of Austens novels but i still enjoyed it, aswell as the 2007 version (even if fanny is a little small minded she is still the “pure” character austen intended her to be)but patrica rozema completely hacked the story to peices!!! She turned a sometimes strict but well loved and respected uncle and made him a scoundral, she missed Austens point on gamblers and drinkers by making tom a tortured artist and not just a spoilt brat and for some reason felt the need to show us the deficiencies in society( the sex scene what is that…) rather then letting us read between the lines, which personally is what i love about Austens works…. All the other novels adapt well to film so there is no reason mansifield park cant aswell.
After watching the 1999 movie version of Mansfield Park, I don’t have the guts to watch the 2007 version. Did the writers actually read the book????? So many shocking differences between the movie and the book. There was even sex scene, Fanny KISSING (????) Mr. Crawford, openly talk about slavery and portraying Sir Thomas as a rapist (SERIOUSLY???)… Fanny’s brother didn’t even appear, Fanny wasn’t shy at all in the movie and Mary Crawford was exposed in front of Bertram’s whole family???
I couldn’t agree more with your opinion!
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