Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mansfield Park: The Movies

1983 (BBC)
Since this is one of the older versions, it’s not as well made, and seems a little like a play; however, I thought it was better than some of the other older ones, and I enjoyed it. I thought Fanny was cast well; Edmund not so much, and if it had been me I would have chosen a different Mary – probably a different Henry, too. It stuck close to the book though, and that is very important, and something which I cannot say for the other ones.
   I think it’s funny that Jonny Lee Miller (Edmund on a different version, and Mr. Knightley in Emma [2009]) is in there, only very young, as one of Fanny’s little brothers…though you can hardly see him, his hair must be covering half his face! (You need to give him a haircut, Mrs. Price…)
   I enjoyed this version. I’ve seen it all the way through twice, and some more besides; and I’m sure I’ll be watching it again.
Fanny: Sylvestra Le Touzel
Edmund: Nicholas Farrel
(You can see this couple again, but older, in Amazing Grace.)
Length: 5 hr. 12 min.

1999 (Miramax)
I have never actually seen this version, nor have I any intention of doing so. From  what I hear, it is repulsively unlike the book. Even if it weren’t for the fact that someone took a Jane Austen story and completely changed it, I wouldn’t watch it. There are very inappropriate things that Jane Austen would never have made up. All right, there are some scandals in the book that could be taken to extremes, but everything is mentioned so very discreetly in Jane Austen books; mentioned, not shown; talked of, not written about directly. There’s also probably other stuff in there that wasn’t even slightly alluded to in the book. From a single quote I happened to see, I also know that they didn’t do Fanny at all right, either. It might have been interesting to see Jonny Lee Miller (Emma 2009) as Edmund and Justine Waddell (Wives and Daughters) as Julia, but for all I know they messed up those roles, too.
Fanny: Frances O’Conner
Edmund: Jonny Lee Miller
Length: 1 hr. 52 min.

2007 (ITV/Masterpiece Theater)
This one I started watching with my family, but we didn’t finish it. For one thing, all the dresses had really low necklines – mostly all the time – more so than usual. And the way the people were acting was rather…er…low-class. Now the Bertram girls don’t always have the highest morals and Mary is sort of flirty, but they weren’t like that. Fanny wasn’t much better than them on the movie, as far as how she dressed, from what I saw. Which brings me to the next thing – Fanny. That actress was really annoying me – how she looked and acted; and she never puts her hair up! And it’s rather short. Really, I find that quite unauthentic. She always seemed to be scowling, and didn’t give that impression of sweetness like Fanny is supposed to. And then there’s Edmund – he was Mr. Elton in the 2009 Emma, and he suited that role, but he doesn’t suit Edmund in my opinion. He’s too creepy or something. A lot of the dresses had too low of a waistline to be Regency; they’re more 1790s. (The book was published in 1814, and unlike some other of Jane Austen’s stories, it wasn’t first written when she was younger, so they have no excuse.) I’ve read that it didn’t follow the story very closely, either. In short, I’m not fond of Jane Austen stories with a modern feel.
Fanny: Billie Piper
Edmund: Blake Ritson
Length: 2 hr.

My Favorite
Well, that would be the mini-series from 1983. I enjoyed it and it follows the book, so I approve. ;-) (Really, Mansfield Park deserves a new movie. Let us not be negligent, BBC; give us another mini-series!)

So, which is your favorite?

Which, in your opinion, is the best version of Mansfield Park?
BBC 1983
Miramax 1999
ITV 2007 free polls


Miss Laurie said...

This is a wonderful post! I love the story of Mansfield Park, Fanny is probably the sweetest character Jane Austen created! My favorite version is the 1983 one because it's so much like the book and has the Fanny who is most like the books. The difference with the actors who played Henry & Mary Crawford is that their acting is more like stage acting with the pauses and dramatic effect. I disagree about Edmund though, Nicholas Farrell is one of my favorite British actors and I do like him as Edmund. I won't say he "is" Edmund Bertram but I did enjoy him in the role.

I disliked everything about the 1999 version except the music which I like to listen to while reading the book. It's perfectly alright that you haven't seen this version. Fanny is so totally wrong that any good points or casting go right out the window. Feminism and slavery are also huge themes in the film, and Sir Thomas is made out to be a villain! Also there's some uncomfortable scenes between Fanny and Mary Crawford that are just a bit weird.

I do like the 2007 version, especially if I need a quick Mansfield Park fix. I do like Blake Ritson as Edmund, but maybe it's because I saw him in MP before I saw him in Emma. Also I watched an interview with him and was pleased that he really seemed to understand the character and enjoyed wearing the costumes. I think that Henry and Mary Crawford were cast well cast and I didn't mind Tom, Sir Thomas, Aunt Norris, Mr. Rushworth or even that Lady Bertram was more quick witted and insightful than in the book. Some of the costumes were lovely but others were like you said not suited to the time period. Fanny was a big disappointment, they made her into more of an annoying little girl than the sweet good-hearted soul that she is! I found myself wishing that the girl who played Julia would have been cast as Fanny because her demeanor was more suited to the character. I know they wanted a bigger name actress for the main role but they shouldn't have done that to the character. There are some sweet moments but overall it's just not Mansfield Park.

The BBC does need to take on MP again and have someone like Sandy Welch (script for Emma 2009) write the script for the new MP miniseries! Or maybe Andrew Davies because MP and Persuasion are the two Austen novels he hasn't adapted yet and he did okay with S&S 2008.

Your trailer is lovely, I really like the clips you chose. If I knew how to I'd put together trailers for some of these miniseries.
Sorry this is so long, it's just when it comes to Jane Austen adaptations I have so much to say! :)

~Miss Laurie

Melody said...

Miss Laurie,

I know! I love Fanny. :) She's such a good example, and I'd like to have a friend just like her! Yes, I agree with you about Henry and did seem to be that way. Maybe a lot of the people in the old BBCs were used to acting in plays. ;-) I didn't dislike Edmund; he did a pretty good job, he just seemed a little too old or something.

Yuck, that sounds...icky.

Fanny was a big reason why I didn't like (what I saw) of the 2007 version. She wasn't right for the role - we agree on that point. :)

Has Andrew Davies done Emma? o.O I didn't know that. And which Northanger Abbey did he do?
I think Sandy Welch is a good idea. Andrew Davies...nowadays, I wouldn't trust him with Mansfield Park. He seems to like to add inappropriate things in, in later years. (S&S and Little Dorrit come to mind.)

I'm glad you liked the trailer! And thank you for your comment, and I love long comments! :) And I know exactly what you mean about having a lot to say! I'm that way too. ;-)

Abby said...

I actually thought the 1999 version was ok: when not taking it as an adaptation of the novel it isn't a bad film, although it definitely isn't a good or faithful adaptation of the book any way you look at it! But on it's own some parts are enjoyable, if you forget that it makes a complete mess of the original story :/ And yeah, there are some weird bits that didn't really sit right with me - I can't say I'd really recommend it!

I quite liked the 2007 version, although Fanny was horribly miscast, which pretty much ruined the whole thing for me! Plus a lot of parts seemed really out of place with the period and so on.

I find it annoying how they always seem to feel the need to change Fanny's character so much: film makers can't seem to be able to leave her as she is! I guess as a character she’s not as appealing to modern audiences as say, Elizabeth Bennet who's more outspoken etc. :/

I'll have to get round to watching the 1983 version: from all the reviews I’ve read it seems that it's the best version :)

For some reason Mansfield Park seems to be a difficult book to translate to film...perhaps in a few years a version will be made that really does it justice! And yes, Sandy Welch would be perfect :) I agree that I wouldn't trust Andrew Davies not to add something irrelevant in...although he did do a good job with Northanger Abbey 2007.


Maria Elisabeth said...

I'll try to find the 1983 BBC adaption. My mum and I started and stopped the 2007 one too, partly becasue of the really low necklines and partly because from what I saw they really took a lot of liberties with Edmund and Fanny. As you said, Edmund seems more like a Mr. Eltonish character, and Fanny is a not pretty, rather grumpy Lizzy Bennet.

Maria Elisabeth said...

I forgot to say this, but I think the trailer is quite nice. I don't normally watch trailers, but I was eager to see what you did. It made quite interested in the mini-series!

Melody said...

Thanks for commenting! =)
In general, I don't watch things that are rated more than PG; so, that version would be crossed off my list anyhow. ;-) I know what you mean, though - I've seen movies where I think "you know, this wouldn't be so bad if they changed the character's names and didn't say it was 'based on' a novel..." (I always wish they'd say something like "Idea from the novel by ____" or "Loosly based on the novel by ____")

Yes, that's quite irritating! I like Fanny very well the way she is. I can see it would be a little hard since Fanny doesn't express much, but they could employ the use of a diary or some such, sort of like what they did with Anne in Persuasion 2007.

Sandy Welch did North and South, too, which proves that she can do very different sorts of stories. :) There were some things in NA 2007 that were a bit weird too, I thought...

Maria Elisabeth,
Yes; and Fanny IS supposed to be pretty. =D hehe. I'm glad you agree. :)
I'm glad you enjoyed the trailer! =) Thank you for telling me. As for myself, I love watching trailers...even if (actually, maybe especially if) I've seen the movie before. Haha!

Melody said...

Loosly? I think I meant loosely. haha

Mel said...

I really enjoyed reading this post and seeing your thoughts on the various film adaptations of MP.
I have only seen parts of the 1999 version...and i don't plan on watching it- considering what I have heard about it. But what I did see I remember not liking at all.

Firstly I should say Mansfield holds a special place in my heart it was when I was reading this novel that I feel in love with the world and writing of Jane Austen- so no film adaptation will ever come close (in my mind) to the beauty of the novel. However I absolutely ADORE the 2007 ITV adaptation.

I love Blake Ritson as Edmund, I thought that he gave Edmund something real special (and I think that the fact that he was able to play Mr. Elton so convincingly shows his talent for acting). I loved the constrast between his scenes with Mary, they were more playful and had more of a serious tone but then had such a tenderness and respect in the scenes with Fanny.

I actually liked Billie Piper as Fanny (my Mum thinks she was great as well). I believe she gave Fanny the right amount of sweetness and a truly gentle touch. Of course I am not completely satisfied with her portrayal (I don't supose there is anyone who could play her perfectly) but I honestly would put that down to the fact that the film was too short. Had it been longer I believe she may have been able to develop the character more.
I think the character of Fanny is also such a hard one to portray because I find people often take her two ways: as a shy, perfect steadfast woman or as sort of a judgemental, silent, depressed snob. I can understand both ways, although I tend to favour the first, She has great judgement of character yet she does come across to be quite judgemental times. I think that in effect Billie's portrayal of Fanny gave us an insight into both these sides of Fanny (if thats what you would call them) :)
I also think Fanny (Billie Piper) was very pretty :)

I would however be interested in seeing a BBC mini-series of MP. I think it could be quite lovely :)

Sorry that this is such a long comment, I think I got a little carried away. I really enjoyed this post especially because it got me thinking a lot about the characters :)

Thanks for posting this :)


Melody said...


I'm glad you enjoyed the post, despite our differing opinions; and since I said what I thought in the post, I really have no remark to make now, other than I was glad to read what you think. :)

About Fanny - I definitely don't think of Fanny as a judgemental, silent, depressed snob. The only thing she is out of there is 'silent' (and only sometimes). I know what you mean about people saying she's judgemental, but I think sometimes people go a little overboard about people being judgemental - personally, I think it's better to lean towards that side than the other; not judgemental, but discerning- that's the word.

Miss Elizabeth Bennet said...

I remembered this post from a while back. To answer your question Melody, I think the 1997 Emma (with Kate Beckinsale) screenplay was written by Andrew Davies. I would agree with you about him doing a version of Mansfield Park, though: he's gotten quite a bad reputation lately about adding unnecessary and inappropriate scenes (and it seems to be within the last couple years he's been adding those scenes). He writes great (and usually accurate) screenplays for the most part, but they would be much improved if he didn't add in those inappropriate scenes.

Melody said...

Miss Elizabeth,

Indeed. It seems like everything he's done after 2005 (around the time of He Knew He Was Right and Bleak House) he's been adding inappropriate stuff in; it's a shame. He does do some very good screenplays.

But I think I read that the Northanger A. from 2007 was actually written earlier than that; sometime in the 90s I think, and Miramax was going to make it, but didn't and it was pulled back out in 2007.
It was in Jane Austen for Dummies I think.

I figured that must of been the Emma he did.

Molly Gibson said...

Mansfield Park is one of my favorite Jane Austen books, but I doubt it would ever make a good movie. For some reason no one ever wants to stick to the exact story of the book for M P or Jane Eyre. They always leave something out.
However, I just wanted to comment and say that I have seen all of these movies and my the 1999 version! It's actually not as bad as many people say and it's pretty accurate to the book [for a movie]. I think it was the best portrayal of the story, although not the most accurate, and depicts the characters very well.
Anyway, I just recently found this site and I am enjoying reading your reviews of all my favorite movies. And might I add that I especially love your favorite music link. It's so nice to listen to the music from great movies while I study.

Alexandra said...

Rose from Doctor Who as Fanny?! Weird. She's an idiot for choosing Mr. Elton over the Doctor. Randomness there.

I've thought about checking this (2007) one out...they really need to make a new adaptation of Mansfield Park. I didn't care for the 1999 one AT ALL. Hey, something we can agree on that concerns Jane Austen?! Hahahaha. :-P

Melody said...

You mean Billie Piper plays someone named Rose?! What a pity! She doesn't deserve such a nice name.

Oops, did I just say that?

They do indeed need to make a new adaptation. So, since WE all know it, how's come THEY don't know it? o.O
Ha, I'm glad you didn't care for the 1999 one. 'Tis a disgrace to the name of Jane Austen if you ask me.
Indeed, how about that? We have found something to agree upon. :P

Amy and I have joked about watching the 2007 version just so we could make fun of it together... hahaha.

Miss Dashwood said...

We shouuuuuuld watch the 2007 version and make fun of it. For a future list, perhaps? :D

And I was SO amused by the bit about Jonny Lee Miller needing a haircut in the 1983 version. Imperative business indeeeeeeeeeeeeeed. Was that an intentional connexion? :P

Miss Dashwood said...

And perhaps we talked about this at some point, though I don't remember... did you know Amelia Warner played teenage Fanny in the horrid 1999 version????????

Juanita's Journal said...

All three versions are tolerable in different ways. But if I have to be honest, I'm not a major fan of any of them.

Rebecca said...

I must say I think you should give the 1999 version a chance. The acting is superb all around, particularly the actors portraying Mary and Henry Crawford. Johnny Lee Miller convinces you of how it is possible for him to love Fanny and be besotted by Mary. Mrs Norris is hilarious!

Frances O'Connor also does a great job playing the Fanny of the screenplay, who is rather more discerning and critical than the Fanny of the book. I agree it is a shame that no-one wants to portray that Fanny as I find her endearing and admirable.

A lot of the subtext is brought very strongly to the fore, but Mansfield Park is one of the hardest novels to adapt for modern audiences - the immorality of the play is a hard thing for us to understand. The film at least provides a stronger basis for why it is a bad idea.

By the way, have you seen 'Metropolitan'? It's a very loose retelling of Mansfield Park, set in the Upper East Side of New York. It's an excellent film!

Would you rather hear the story...

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