Friday, 17 August 2012

Review of the 1999 'Mansfield Park' movie

Part of Austen in August, hosted over at Roof Beam Reader.

'Mansfield Park' is not really a favourite of mine. Although I prefer it, as an Austen book, to many other books, I would much rather read 'Pride & Prejudice' or 'Persuasion'. I stumbled onto this movie version of 'Mansfield Park' after watching the superb 2007 'Persuasion' movie and rather enjoyed it, to my own surprise. Previously I had only seen the 2007 BBC TV series which only affirmed me in my disliking of the story.

My main problem is the character of Fanny.She is very different from Austen's other heroines and reminds me, character-wise, much more of Mary from 'Pride & Prejudice' rather than a lead role. In the memories I have of the novel, I'm planning on rereading it soon, Fanny is a bit bland, too easily scared and her devotion to Edmund came across more slavishly than anything else. In this movie, Fanny has been given some of the wit that the other Austen heroines have. She is a lot more likeable, she can stand up for herself and is not such a victim to the others. When her aunt, Mrs. Norris, is rude to her in front of all the guests, you actually feel for her, whereas in the novel I wanted to scream at Fanny to stand up for herself.

Mansfield Park PosterThis is quite an "experimental" movie in the sense that the director, Patricia Rozema, has experimented with the way of filming, sounds, etc. to get the story across rather than relying solely on the text. For example, at times Fanny talks directly to the camera, reading aloud her letters and stories to her younger sister. Even the costumes were slightly updated, allowing for a more modern look. I quite liked this approach to the story, especially because I feel that at times the story in itself is lacking. For example, I never really bought the love between Fanny and Edmund. If he loved Mary Crawford first, he couldn't have fallen in love afterwards with a more polar opposite, in the novel that is. In the movie, the bond between the two appears always very strong and it is therefore easier to believe he was actually in love with her as well.

My biggest problem with this interpretation of the novel is that they made Henry Crawford so charming. I was half in love with him by the time he proposed to Fanny and I really felt that she mistreated him. In the novel I felt sorry for him at times because I feel Fanny played with his emotions; encouraging him yet never giving him a real chance. In keeping with the modern approach to the story, the movie really shows his genuine affection for her and his disappointment when she cannot let Edmund go, who, at the time, is completely engrossed by Mary Crawford. I even got angry over the fact that Fanny then dared to be angry over the fact he seduced someone else, because I felt that in rejecting him she lost any claim she had to his affection.

Overall though, I really liked this movie. Fanny was nice, even funny, and reminded me at times of Catherine Morland in 'Northanger Abbey'. It has definitely made me want to reread the book, in case I have been misjudging Fanny all along and she is actually a nice character. Is it my favourite Austen book? No. Is this movie adaptation up there with my favourite Austen movies? Yes.

Have you seen the movie? What did you think of it, especially in comparison to the book?


  1. I just finished reading the book about a week ago and have seen the movie several times. I agree with you about Fanny not being a typical Jane Austen heroine. She is very timid and quiet in the book, but I still liked her. I did like the movie, but I enjoyed the book more.

  2. I did see this movie and I have to agree about the problems with the adaptation - I too found Henry Crawford to be so charming and Fanny came across badly.

  3. I saw this movie before reading the book so I couldn't really compare them although you are giving me a good incentive to rewatch this (and the 2007 adaptation) since I've read the book now. I am sure though that I prefer P&P, Emma or Persuasion.

  4. I love this movie! I didn't know there was one made like 50 years ago and I want to see that too.