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Mansfield Park

It took a while this time around. I hope it is still coherent, it was written in parts over two days with sentences added wherever I remembered something else without going through all of it again before posting.

Mansfield Park is a bit special to me among the six completed Austen novels. I actually saw the 1983 tv series before reading the book and I read it a few years later than others because of availability issues.

The general plot for those who have not read it: Fanny's parents have more children than they can afford and lives with her rich aunt's family. She is constantly reminded that she is not equal to her cousins. The family gets close to charming and shallow Crawfords and several relationships develop. She is the only one who sees them for what they are. Eventually the family starts to realise the timid and highly moral Fanny's worth while her female cousins demonstrate lack of virtue and principles and she gets married to the cousin she has loved all along.



Besides rereading the book I watched three adaptations - one series and two movies. With Mansfield Park the problem is that Fanny is not an attractive character. Austen's own mother called her insipid. She is shy, timid, highly moral and infinitely grateful for any small kindness. We are used to have heroines who rebel against the parents' conservative ways. Sparkling, lively , charismatic people, Fanny is exactly the opposite. At least the two latest adaptations try to "fix" it by giving Fanny some more spirit. It is hardly the same story.


The three versions are very different despite having mostly the same dialogue and events. The most important point here is Fanny's character. The versions I saw were 1983 tv series and 199 and 2007 movies.

1983 tv series is probably as close to book as you can get. Eighties Austen adaptations are not nearly as visually pleasing as the later ones and feel more like theatre at parts. The characters in this one do speak rather theatrically here. Whether it is the production or is the clear and practised speech with distinct emphasis on every other word supposed to reflect the the social customs of the time, I'm not sure. I suspect the latter. Still quite distracting. Another thing I'm not sure of is whether it was the subtle emphasis of the production or the fact that I was watching the same story for the nth time, but for me this version made the most clear what was so wrong in climbing through a gate or home theatricals, even more than the book. The words are the same, but Crawford feels very wicked tempting Maria to go past the gate. It is not really the gate they breach, is it? At places some lines felt unnatural like they were info dropping. The series as a whole is like Fanny, not without merit, but does not catch your attention with particular spark.

1999 version completely took out Fanny and put Jane Austen in her situation and then added slavery and feminism issues. The new Fanny makes it possible for more social comedy. The image of mr Norris literally dropping dead during dinner, lady Bertram high on opium, the exaggerated reactions to the Crawfords. It also addresses more a woman's dilemma of poverty against loveless marriage. And then there is the slavery. It doesn't feel quite right in Mansfield Park. The original only mentions it once. Fanny asks her uncle a question (we are not told what it is) and he is happy to educate and sad that it isn't one of his own daughters. As an original film it all could work and work well, as an adaptation of the novel it fails. Of all the versions this one feels the most like a big drama

2007 version is in many ways between the two. It tries to give us Fanny that is a bit less of a doormat and more noticeable, yet keep the reactions to her the same. And to catch up with that, the other characters' flaws are emphasised as well, so we would get it in the first scene they are in. I think it tries to take on too much for its short length without having time to properly develop relationships etc. It's neither here nor there. I have seen worse movies, but what bugs me is that it butchers Fanny's character while still carrying the airs of being faithful to the book. At least it was visually pleasing.

Fanny
The way Fanny is depicted is such an integral part of the story that a lot has already been said about her. 1983 Fanny rarely showed her emotions. Sometimes when she spoke she gave the impression of lecturing. In both book and this version she is really enthusiastic about natural beauties etc. It feels fake to feel it to that extent, yet I know she is sincere. What makes it worse is that Edmund taught her to feel that way. I have nothing against cousin marriage, but to through in Pygmalion is taking it too far like it wasn't enough for lady Bertram to need her husband's opinion in things like which card game she would prefer. 1999 Fanny is sharp tongued and witty. She runs about the house and doesn't have a problem with talking back to sir Thomas if needed. Edmund is the supporter of her literary exploits. He is in love with her all the time, he just doesn't notice or doesn't act on it. While book Fanny had frail health, 2007 Fanny also doesn't have a problem with running around the house. They gave her loose blonde curls and a big smile. She is always smiling and laughing a hearty laugh. How is she supposed to be the unnoticeable poor relation is beyond me. She also tells aunt Norris about an errand she has when she wants to go riding with Edmund. Her gratitude is tuned town to the point where from her introductory speech you could feel she thinks she was treated poorly. She is right, it's just not a Fanny thing to think.


Edmund
The 1999 and 2007 Edmunds fell for miss Crawford's charms much earlier than in book and 1983 versions do. In 1983 he is basically what he is in the book - Fanny's best friend, mentor and the man who shaped her into what she is. Looks like the newer versions feel the way I do and leave the part where he taught her what to think and how to feel and concentrated on their companionship instead. Is 1999 version genuinely in love with miss Crawford? He later tells he has loved Fanny all his life and several people suspect a connection early in the story. He is charmed by her though, it takes some time before he starts to talk about her flaws. the original Edmund was the opposite, he saw the flaws first, but influenced by her charm, he finds them excusable. Nothing much to say about the 2007 Edmund except that in the end when he suddenly decided to be in love with Fanny, he was a rather annoying lovesick fool.


Miss Crawford
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of 1983 Mary is the short hair. How often do you see a female character from that time period with short hair? 1999 miss Crawford more experienced with the ways of the world. I know the character is supposed to and they are, but somehow with this version I felt it more keenly. In the end she does more than she does in the book. To really get the point across about her character, she doesn't mention it in a letter to his cousin, she tells about the merits of Tom's passing away in front of his whole family while he is sick. 2007 Mary is served wicked from the very beginning. While walking to Mansfield Park for the very first time she tells about her plans for the eldest son, in the next scene she is flashing Edmund her stockings. It feels like with all the upgrading Fanny gets, it was felt necessary to make miss Crawford's faults more obvious.


Mr Crawford
Again and again I find myself with nothing to say about the 1983 depiction of the character. It follows the book. 1999 mr Crawford doesn't need his self-made challenge to make Fanny fall in love with him to start to notice her. With him it might actually be true that if Fanny had not refused him the next day after accepting his proposal which 1999 Fanny does, he might have left mrs Rushworth alone. 2007 does seam to need his charming personality to help his average looks - all it took for Maria Bertram was a single look.


Mrs Norris and the rest of the Bertrams
1983 mrs Norris is a horrible nag who only sees where she can gain something cheaply, how she can guide other people, her darling miss Bertrams and the need to look out that Fanny doesn't feel equal to them. 1999 version feels somewhat crueller, but less outwardly silly. I don't think any of the others would go as far as reprimand Fanny for being in company and sending her away to do some chores and all that in front of guests. 2007 mrs Norris is... dismissive? of Fanny. True, she reminds her of her place, but she is not nearly as devoted to it as the other versions. i was surprised when I learned that the 2007 character was mrs Norris when I first saw her. She looked too much a well groomed lady like her sister.


1983 lady Bertram is really out of it like she was in a permanent state of confusion. Even her voice drags. 1999 version gives to it some explanation by having her on some kind of drugs. 2007 Mrs Bertram is surprisingly alert and going as far as playing the matchmaker for Edmund and Fanny.


Sir Thomas mostly appears rather kind in 1983. With 2007 I can understand the severe character that made Fanny fear him without proper cause in the book. 1999 sir Thomas is something else. He is the slave owner giving the appropriately ignorant speeches occasionally showing despotic behaviour with his children. He only sees looks in Fanny, he's bad relationship with Tom is because of this and not his eldest son's spending habits.


Maria is mostly the same everywhere. Julia is more sympathetic in 1999 and doesn't elope. 2007 can't elope because Mr Yates doesn't exist. I don't remember her doing anything in the movie.



Completely random, but their parents really do love naming children after themselves, don't they? *looks at Tom, Maria and Fanny* I wouldn't be surprised if Fanny's father's name was William. And we never learn what is Mrs Norris's.

Propriety and kissing
Austen novels don't have any kisses. Adaptations almost always have.

1980 has Mr Crawford and Maria kissing while "rehearsing" their mother-son scene. And again when he tries to get close to her again. That is meant to be improper. They are seen by Mr Rushworth's mother right away. I wonder if there had been any hope of Crawford changing his mind if it hadn't happened so fast.

1999 Fanny lets herself be comforted by Crawford and cry in his arms. She accepts his proposal, it is followed by public kissing. And then she changes her mind the next day. I know Austen did it herself, but I can't see book!Fanny doing it. With Maria and Crawford we are treated an actual rather revealing sex scene. At Mansfield Park. And Fanny walks in on them. After giving it some thought I'm surprised Edmund didn't do anything about it. At this point only he and Fanny knew. Instead he chooses to walk out and almost kiss Fanny. The next day the lovers are gone and the following scandal shames the whole family. Later he and Fanny come to an understanding and again there is public kissing. His parent see and all they have to say is "at last some development".

2007 had Crawford and Fanny almost kissing if she hadn't turned away at the last moment. Later Edmund and Fanny kiss before he has even proposed, without even asking about her feelings first. On their wedding day they waltz. True, they are married and the others are making surprised faces, but of all the characters those two?

This has become long enough. I have made picspams of all the versions to share more pictures of fashions and and anything else that caught my attention. 1983, 1999 and 2007

And now I go to sleep.

Comments

I'll admit, I like the 1999 version the best even with all the flaws you pointed out. The film makers were definitely trying to make their own mark on it, that's for sure.

I find it sort of sad that Fanny is so often changed so much. She is not the typical heroine character- and is miles, legues from being Elizabeth Bennett, who ever film maker secretly wishes all Austen characters to be- but she is interesting because she is different. Flawed, but more real perhaps. The themes and stories are more complex too. Its the first story she published that was not a re-write from an earlier draft and was written a number of years after S&S and P&P. I think that shows in the slightly darker tone too. I know that Jane's sister Cassandra really wanted Fanny to end up with Crawford and reform him (Jane, obviously did not) and perhaps this is what gives the book the sense that things could very easily have turned out differently. I like that sense though because real life always give you that sense too.

The properiety issue is an interesting one. Mostly, we see more because our standards today are different. However, I think part of it is the fact that film is a visual medium and they can communicate a lot of story in a kiss/action. Also, Austen notoriously did not write about what she did not know and, being an old maid, she didn't know about that part of life much at all....


Sorry for the tl;dr comment. Thank sooooo much for the fun post and picspams!
1999 is a bit like the Keira Knightley version of P&P. The world is lived in and the characters seam to enjoy life. It is not Mansfield Park, it is inspired by Mansfield Park. On its own an interesting story, you just have to remember to forget the book. It is a movie with some meat on. 1983 is a very good adaptation, but it lacks that special something that would make you love it.

Hm, P&P and S&S are different from the rest, they are more romantic describing the obstacles the lovers can put on their way themselves and different ways to marriage. I say romantic, but for an author specialising in writing about young ladies getting married Jane Austen has a surprising lack of romance.

I find the lack of kisses in the novels very appropriate. I would like it much better in the movies if the kisses were not public so often. Or you know maybe kissing hands or cheeks can work if acted out well. 2005 P&P did well in that regard.

*looks up at her post* How can you call your comment tl;dr? :P
1999 is a bit like the Keira Knightley version of P&P

Perfect analogy really.

Those two novels are more romantic and... hopeful, I'd say. Very little obstacles to overcome. Northanger Abbey is rather romantic too, when you think about. And they were all written closely together before she was consider an old maid and before her father died. Austen lacks a sense of romance, it is true.

What about Emma then? No considerable obstacles besides the main character's silliness.

P&P, S&S - the road to marriage
Emma, NA - silly heroines
MP, P - a woman's place and duties to family?
Emma and Anne (who, along with Fanny, are the three herione's Austen wrote about later.) are both unusual heroines. Anne, obviously, is older than her other lead characters. She is, by the society's standards, an old maid. She has regrets and has had a past (it could even be said that part of the story took place off screen). Jane Austen said of Emma that she was a heroine that most people would not like. She is wealthy and pretty and vibrant. Essentially she has all the charms of Elizabeth or Marianne but none of the social status disadvantages. However, she does have real, if internal obstacles to overcome. She is, in many ways the opposite of Anne. Anne is an adult with adult mistakes; Emma has to grow up. She is in many ways still a child at the start of things. Her mother figure has just left, she's never been anywhere, never had close, non-relative female friends (well, the teacher but she lived with them). She has to learn to put herself in others' shoes, which to me is the biggest thing about growing up (sadly not all people manage this)

PP and SS- both are about the value of love over other reasons (usually material) for marriage. It is about seeing the person, not the social statuses.

Emma and N.A,- both are about growing up, I think, and are about learning after making a fool of yourself.

MP - famial love and duty
P- Second chances, regret and, like P&P and S&S is about marriage for reasons other than money.
MP&P
For both the falling in love part actually happens before the story starts. Both main characters are in subservant status in their family and easily persuaded. It is told Anne she shouldn't marry Frederick because of his social status, Fanny is persuaded to marry Crawford for his. They both "owe" it to their family, 'a daughter's duty' as sir Thomas calls it to marry advantageously. The rest of Austen's main heroines have been relatively free in their choice of husband - the obstacles come from the other side. One could argue that Marianne didn't exactly marry for love, but the situation is different. Anne is encouraged to marry her cousin, Fanny is at least initially discouraged from it. In the end love does triumph and they both marry who they want. Of course Persuasion has the additional theme of regrets and missed chances.
I think we are suppose to assume that Marianne does fall in love with the Col. it is just more told than shown. Personally, I always read Edmund in MP as falling in love with Fanny afterward the main action of the story, but I know sometimes it can read like he just didn't realize he'd been in love too.....
I got the impression that Marianne fell in love after getting married because lukewarm feelings were not her thing. I agree about Edmund, I was talking about Fanny here.
Mmmm...with Marianne that is entirely plausible. I've always read her as having never considered the Col as a love interest due to age etc. but that after her illness her wild sensiblities (thinking its romantic to die for love etc.) is tempered and she sees him in a new light, so that she probably does love him before they marred. I like the idea that she learns to love him after marriage too though, because it implies some interesting things about nineteen year old's and their sensiblities.

Aaaand after rereading your comment, I feel silly; I'm not sure where I got the impression you were talking about Edmund at all! lol.
*loves on post* Thanks for the write-up!

As my own experience has been limited to the 1999 and 2007 versions, I can't say much about the 1983 version, but 1983!Fanny actually fits my idea of canon!Fanny best with regards to looks. A staid wallflower. I felt that the slavery issue was a bit shoehorned into the 1999 version; and I guess I was annoyed by 2007!Fanny for running around SO. FREAKING. MUCH. that it's hard for me to recall much that I liked about the adaptation, though surely it wasn't that bad. 1999!Fanny's wit appealed to me the most, though it was distinctly un-canon.

*boggles at 1983!Mary's short hair* Interesting, I wouldn't have thought any women went with short hair in the Mansfield Park time period. I felt a bit sorry for 1999!Henry Crawford. The picture of 1983!Mrs. Norris, though... XDDD such an amusing facial expression.

I have a soft spot for 1999!Julia, though that's more because she's played by Justine Waddell than anyone else. I've always liked JW since she played Molly in the mini-series Wives and Daughters.

Picspams! *goes to investigate* :D
I felt that including such a serious issue as slavery diverted the attention from what was the real point of MP. The 1983 version is so close to canon that there is hardly anything to compare. However I would like a more modern remake with more scenery and glimpses of everyday life in it. something that would embrace Fanny's timidness, yet give some life to the production. One can dream.

It boggled me so much that I actually looked it up. The wiki entry on regency fashion does mention that a few daring women had short hair. It also speaks of the conservatives not letting go of wigs and long hair for men. The 1983 is the only one that has most of the male cast with ponytails. Edmunds hair is longer than miss Crawford's!

The 1983 Mrs Norris didn't like to keep still long enough for me to take a picture of her. XD She was such a busybody. She was quite amusing.

Ah, 1999!Julia. It's impossible not to think of Molly Gibbons. She is also much better behaved, I don't know they did it because of the actress or the other way around. She is quite reasonable with fighting over mr Crawford, she never elopes and in the end she gets a letter from mr Yates hinting that there may come a love marriage. It was quite disappointing to learn that Yates was her getting away ticket in the book.
I quite agree. MP was much more about family relationships & duties and propriety than social issues like slavery; if anything, the most applicable social issue would be class differences.

That's really cool! And haha, I was surprised by the ponytails too.

You mean they made Julia better behaved just because of the way JW acted? I looked up W&D and it was made in the same year, so. *shrugs*
Hm class differences they could be worked in much better and there already is some base to them.

Not your usual Austen adaptation yet it's not out of the realm of possibility.

Or made her better and then looked for a cute actress. It's just a theory.
That's true. In which case, why did they make Julia better? It's not like it really adds anything to the plot. I don't really object though. XD
Maybe it's the opposite. Her being better behaved simplified the plot with them not having to deal with her at all? her fancy of Mr Crawford is barely touched and her elopement is left out. What does she do in this movie?
That's true, it simplified the plot. But then again, she actually doesn't do much in the movie. I guess she could've just been left out...
I saw 1999 version and thought it had very little to do with the book >.> Sadly. And sadly there is not that much about this movie that I remember.
The only one that has much to do with the book is 1983 version. You could say 2007 somewhat has, but not with the way they depict Fanny.
I haven't read Mansfield Park, but I loved the analysis. I'll have to read the actual book (of course) to find my own interpretations. I'm sorry I can't contribute to a discussion.

It's interesting how the three adaptations contrasted with each other as well as being different from their source material. Which one was your favourite?
Any plans of doing that? It was mostly made to share, having read it is not compulsory. You can still point and laugh at the costumes :P

With Mansfield it is difficult to say. It depends on what to base the judgment. As an adaptation 1983 was best, put 1999 is more fun. 2007 gets the characters too wrong to be a faithful adaptation and adds too little original content to try to be an independent movie. And I just wish Fanny would stop running. And the waltz.