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Old 19th Mar 2007, 10:29   #1
Colyngbourne
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Default Mansfield Park - 2007 and 1983

Quote:
Originally Posted by Older Col Daughter (aged 13)
It’s shocking! How dare she [Mary Crawford] show her ankle in respectable company in front of Edmund’s mother? And how dare they smirk and smile whilst Lady Bertram is distressed at the possibility of Sir Thomas dying on the journey from Antigua?
We were given a thoroughly modern Fanny in this ITV adaptation – galloping on horses, chasing non-stop after children (whose?) and Pug (totally out-of-character bit for Pug -running down the corridor - I might say!) – a breathless, reckless, giggling, cheeky and impatient, flirty-eyed miss who spies on Edmund and Mary’s romance, grins all the time and invites her cousin into her bedroom whilst she’s in her nightie, washing her hair. Oh, and she and Edmund, fashionistas that they are, are credited with introducing the waltz to Northamptonshire society... (though at least we weren't given the whole abuse of slaves + lesbian deal that the 1999 film attempted).

It was a barbaric adaptation of the text, that sinned most by omitting the trip to Portsmouth, which leads Fanny to the realisation that Mansfield is the seat of all that is most needful for an inner life of calm and sobriety. I guess two hours just isn’t enough and anyway the point of this "updated" drama was not about morals or sobriety in the least. Hence the women (including Fanny) wore dresses with plunging necklines and they have picnics on the lawn for a 'coming-out' event rather than a ball (did Newby Hall not have a room big enough?). Hence, also, all the hard-hitting shock of Henry’s appalling making-love to both Bertram sisters, the stepping-outside of the moral and literal bounds on the trip to the Rushworth’s estate at Sotherton, the essential moral degradation that performing the play leads to, is knocked on the head and robbed of any impact at all. Maria’s elopement with Henry at the end of the drama seems rather careless and of no particular import.

Others completely asinine dramatic choices included:

a) Fanny being left alone, unchaperoned, at Mansfield Park, for Henry to visit and court her.

b) Blind Man’s Buff at the picnic: Edmund would never have put his hand on a woman’s chest; nor would Fanny have played the game, or dared to manhandle people. But this wasn't JA's Fanny so we are meant not to care.

c) Lady Bertram was too involved and alert and sat upright all the time, and was certainly not meant to be a matchmaker between her son and Fanny.

d) Mrs Norris – one of the nastiest creations in literature – was reduced to a carping waste of space.

e) Edmund and Fanny idly discuss his time with Mary in London, whilst at Tom’s sickbed. (And Tom’s character is meant to be reformed by his illness!)

f) Sir Thomas reveals the horror of Henry and Maria’s elopement with Mary present, when surely a) he would not have allowed her in the house because she is Henry’s sister and a Corrupting Influence b) as a gentleman he would not have shamed her by explaining it in front of her.

Really, there is little point adapting or dramatising Mansfield Park unless you are prepared to honestly take on the character of Fanny (and the misled-by-Mary worthiness of Edmund): if the whole nature of the drama is down to a single inner morality keeping its hand on the tiller no matter what temptations or uncertainties or lack of any hope do to dislodge it, then no amount of jazzing up the characters will show this. Fanny is unique (and terribly important) as an Austen heroine because she maintains her sense of morality and inner conviction of what is right, regardless of the whims of fashion or the pressures of society, even the pressures of those she loves most and has most cause to act gratefully towards. She is the only one who keeps her head (only just) when all around her are losing theirs or are negligent of their care and responsibilities. Being a quiet girl, a physically weak girl, a girl who won’t join in the fun and games, is not fashionable now – and so the most important lesson of Mansfield Park is lost to a modern audience.

We fans of Mansfield Park will return to our 1983 (faithful) dramatisation of the book, where at least if the viewer makes up their mind to dislike Fanny’s passive character, and moan at Edmund’s priggishness, they are at least disagreeing with a pretty accurate portrayal of the characters Austen wrote.

Last word to the daughter:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Older Col Daughter
I'm outraged! Honour Pug for holding the show together and be shocked at Fanny’s appearance and the shocking lack of Portsmouth!
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Last edited by Colyngbourne; 13th Feb 2008 at 12:24.
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Old 19th Mar 2007, 10:41   #2
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Default Re: Mansfield Park - 2007

Nice review Col. I went to bed just after the picnic. I've never read Mansfield Park, but I knew there had to be serious flaws in this adaptation, it just didn't ring true to Austen or the period for all the reasons you've outlined above.

On my classics list now, so I can be properly scathing!
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Old 19th Mar 2007, 11:48   #3
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Default Re: Mansfield Park - 2007

Nice review, Col. Even though I won't see this, it pains me to think that such a disservice has been perpetrated against Mansfield Park. Some worthy person somewhere has been cheated out of the richness of the novel by viewing this movie. Even though I've only read two Austens (P&P the other one), Mansfield is one of my all time favorites precisely because Fanny is the way she is.
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Old 19th Mar 2007, 12:00   #4
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Default Re: Mansfield Park - 2007

Like Digger, I haven't read this, but felt that there was something 'wrong' in the adaptation, espeically having re-watched Emma on Saturday evening.

This is now on my to-be-read list, as I want to know what 'really happened'.

Also, did Billie Piper's hair annoy anyone else?
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Old 19th Mar 2007, 12:11   #5
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Default Re: Mansfield Park - 2007

Yes. She should have combed it and fixed it in a style; and it should have been brunette (in keeping with her meant-to-be mousy character).
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Old 19th Mar 2007, 14:40   #6
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Default Re: Mansfield Park - 2007

I missed this but I have to say I'm not remotely surprised, Col. The very casting of Billie Piper suggested that the producers would take it this direction. I can't imagine her not toothsomely grinning, she has a great smile. Not remotely Fanny-like. Mansfield Park is the only Austen novel that I don't like very much and I'm still not sure why this production seemed like a good idea to anyone.

Slightly unrelated, but is anyone going to see Anna Hathaway in Becoming Jane? Taking all sorts of liberties with Austen is very in vogue at the moment! I'll probably wait for the DVD.
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Old 19th Mar 2007, 14:52   #7
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Default Re: Mansfield Park - 2007

I'm not - partly because I don't like Hathaway, although James McAvoy is good. But also because I get the impression it both takes a liberty with the very scanty information from her letters about a possible tenuous romance with Tom Lefroy , but mostly because I also get the impression the film extrapolates that from this failed/doomed romance, she drew all her inspiration as a writer (or the bulk of it, or the specific inspiration for certain vivid characters) which feels a corny and cheap way to describe any writer's life. I feel that Austen would hate to have her life described around this one 'event' which there is no definite evidence for.
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Old 21st Mar 2007, 16:32   #8
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Default Re: Mansfield Park - 2007

I dunno about all this adaptation business. Its never made cear what they intend by it. Fair enough if you are going to interpret it your own way and create a piece of almost seperate art in the process, but that has to be clear. i recently heard someone involved in the Mel Gibson Mayan film defending their representation of the mayans as cannibals by calling it artistic lisence. the trouble is, such films are usually taken to be intended as fact. it is very damaging, and makes me very angry. I take the representation of past peoples lives very seriously when they arent here to defend themselves. Similarly with Jane Austen. If they were not going to faithfully represent the book, that should have been clear. It was ITV though, so we shouldnt be surprised. The Chav channel it is now called in our house (taking over from channel 5).
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Old 21st Mar 2007, 17:08   #9
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Default Re: Mansfield Park - 2007

Agreed, bradyguido.

Susan Harrison, the co-producer, says in the Radio Times of Fanny:
Quote:
She scampers everywhere like the bit of a tomboy she is...in the book Fanny is not noticeably attractive. but once you've cast Billie, you could never pretend she's anything less than startling-looking so we had to find other ways to emphasise her difference.
Yes, in the book Fanny is soft of voice, self-effacing, passive (but not to the point of immobility like Lady Bertram), dignified, self-possessed, uncomplaining. Not bouncy and tomboyish and flirty. So the problem of terrible characterisation partly resulted from wanting (and getting) a big name to play the part.

She continued:
Quote:
I don't think our youthful audience - or indeed, many of our audience - would understand or relate to the overly pious Fanny Price...a lot of what we've done is extrapolation. The important truth about Fanny is that she knows her own mind. That's what's interesting about her, rather than her piety, which is something people understand less well now.
Fanny more importantly knows what is right, and sticks to it; and that supercedes 'knowing her own mind' - knowing her own mind gives her an awareness that she loves Edmund and that Henry is not to be trusted. But she acts on what is right, above and beyond her own mind: hence she never speaks of her love for Edmund. So every time you handle some facet of a person in a classic/historical piece that is slightly out-of-date with our times, you have to ignore it or change it to its polar opposite?

The actor Blake Ritson said of his role as Edmund:
Quote:
He doesn't wear well by modern standards...we've made him more playful, he's sillier, he drinks more - he's a lot less priggish and self-righteous than the original. All of us were keen not to be corseted by the decorum of the time.
What if 'the decorum of the time' is part of the whole idea of the entire novel?
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Old 21st Mar 2007, 18:32   #10
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Default Re: Mansfield Park - 2007

What a load of pathetic guff from Susan Harrison and Blake Ritson.

Quote:
All of us were keen not to be corseted by the decorum of the time.
You mean, not to be corseted by the book? So why did you make an adaptation of it? Because saying it's a Jane Austen adaptation gives you (a) essential hours of classical drama you can point to when anyone complains about how ITV is a dead channel showing nothing worthwhile, and (b) earns you kudos and viewing figures from ignoramuses who think Jane Austen was a kind of Georgian Helen Fielding.
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