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.