Reviews of this film have been very varied, from very positive to the exact opposite. It is true that it makes explicit what is not even implied in Jane Austen's book about the way in which Sir Thomas makes his wealth - it's the slave trade. Having said that, historical fact makes this at least a possibility, and even if Sir Thomas were not directly involved, the exploitation of black labour must have had some role in his interests in the West Indies, and he must have had knowledge of this, visiting the area for long periods of time as he does. Having said that, I find the film rewarding for a number of reasons. Fanny Price, not at all an easy character to play, is presented with just the right balance of clear-headedness and uneasy deference by Frances O'Connor, who is excellent. Harold Pinter is good as Sir Thomas and Lindsay Duncan a convincingly absent presence as his wife. Henry and Mary Crawford are as attractive and unreliable as they should be. I was worried about the directness of some of the dialogue, but checking with the book found that it came very close to what the author actually wrote ; and dramatically it works. In the rest of the cast I found no serious weakness. The film is visually satisfying and well paced. It will not please those who require an absolutely literal approach to Austen, and they are fully entitled to take that view, but I enjoyed it.
on 4 October 2012
This is a lovely film, but the character of Fanny is the creation of someone other than Jane Austen. In this film, her younger sister Susan says of her: "Your tongue is sharper than a guillotine", and Lord Bertram compels her to read the society page about Maria's elopement saying: "You have such a strong, clear voice." That, if you have ever read the book, should tell you all you need to know. The Fanny Price of this film is spirited and outspoken. It works artistically, in and of itself, but for those wanting to watch "Mansfield Park" it would be less jarring to see Othello played by Jude Law.
The sexiness in the film doesn't bother me, and the issue of slave trade being Bertram's income is a bit heavy handed, but not entirely unjustified. No, what bothers me is Fanny's complete make-over. The Fanny of the 1983 production is so dull (and completely unaided by the director), and I can't get past the cover photo for the more recent production with Billy Piper (she reminds me of a 13 year-old girl I once saw who, with pre-maturely large breasts, had the habit of walking with obscenely good posture). Is it too much to ask for a Fanny who is very pretty, sure of her own heart, but beaten into timidity by her superior relations?
This movie adaptation of Austen's novel has plenty going for it in terms of cast, and it has a big-budget look about it, but in trying to be original, if often falls wide of the mark. While the screenplay keeps itself reasonably closely wedded to the plot of the novel, the sexed-up (for want of a better expression) way it is conveyed on-screen is often jarring. In particular, the sex and nudity, and the depraved antics of the men in Antigua,are unexpected. The idea of adding implied antics onto the screen makes sense, and has been done in many other productions, but rape and assault, and on-screen naked bonking in an Austen movie are a step in the wrong direction. Use of aerial photography also seems oddly out of place. The other thing that bothered me was the female costumes. They seem out of period, being cut correctly in 1806 style, but made-up in fabrics that look much later. This makes some scenes look almost to be in the 1920s; a problem compounded by the out-of-period racy attitudes and behaviour of some of the characters.
Putting these surprising novelties aside, the movie is a well-constructed retelling, with wonderful locations, wonderful cast, and wonderful photography. The story trots along at a good pace, and we get a decent romantic clinch at the end.
There are very few productions of Mansfield Park available on DVD. I wouldn't bother with the 2007 ITV version (Mansfield Park [DVD] ). It stars Julia Joyce (no problem there), but suffers with a woefully miscast Billy Piper as Fanny Price. The best one to watch is probably the 1983 BBC version (Mansfield Park (Repackaged) [DVD] ) starring Anna Massey.
on 9 May 2004
I must say this adaptation of Mansfield Park is appalling. Fanny Price comes across as obstinate, crude, and insensitive. She is far from the subtle, gentle character of the book who stands for everything good of human nature. Perhaps this is a honeyed view of life but isn't this what we should aspire to?
Also the whole plot deviates from the original book, turning the story into a sex driven, charicature. William who is a key friend to Fanny in the original book is totally omitted which I think is a mistake, Edmund comes across as weak and foolish which is not at all how is supposed to be, for he is steadfast in his principles in the book, and the greatest insult of all is the portrayal of Maria and Henry who are found by Fanny bonking in the middle of the night! I know life cannot be all sweetness and idealism but surely this is not how Jane Austen would have wished her characters to be portrayed.
on 17 February 2005
Beware potential buyers; some reviews given here confuse the film with the BBC TV drama. Full marks, however, to Ms Louise Barada from France, who hits the proverbial nail full-on. This film 'adaptation' is THE WORST, and I had to FORCE myself to finish watching it the first time, and even obliged myself to watch it a second time, in order to be as fair as I could in attempting to review it. I have also given it one star (the photography was quite good), mainly because I am obliged to give it SOMETHING, or not review it at all. As any old film, based on nothing at all, it has some merit; as a Jane Austen 'adaptation', it fails miserably and aught never to have been made.
Slavery, and the abolition of it, was becoming the 'hot issue' of the day, but formed no part of the novel. The Bertram's fortune may have derived in part from their use of slaves, but the dawning realisation it might be wrong was an intellectual movement which can best be compared to our present-day moralistic attitude to bombs and war, i.e. it was still unquestioningly accepted by the old school as the way things had always been done. That a mere coachman should voice an opinion is as ridiculous as putting the burden of conscience on the shoulders of Tom Bertram, who's only interest was that the money should continue to flow in, from whatever source: he would have been up there raping and abusing with the best of them.
Mrs. Norris, like Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Bennett before her, and Miss. Bates after her, is one of Jane Austen's outstandingly vocal portrayals; here, however, she might as well have been axed, being given little to say, and that little so badly written as to challenge the acting powers of a Dame Maggie (who would not, incidentally, have been a bad alternative). Fanny's brother William heads the axe list, which only serves to illustrate how completely the writers have failed to understand the complex weave of the original; his promotion at the hands of Mr. Crawford having been the main reason for Fanny weakening in her resolve against him. This said, she at NO POINT weakened to the point of accepting his attentions, and Mr. Crawford's fancying himself attracted to her was almost entirely due to her steadfast refusal of him and consequent unattainability, as an obstacle to be overcome. The fact that Jane Austen herself DID become engaged, only to back out of it 12 hours later, together with some of her earlier juvenile writings, have been grafted onto Fanny with a view to spicing her up, but the end result is a Fanny as unlike the heroine of the novel as can well be. Fanny NEVER grew to be comfortable with her relations, and was always scared to death of her uncle and was always adverse to 'putting herself forward'. Incidentally, there is NOTHING autobiographical about MP, save the naval brother(s) and the present of the amber cross, which, of course, are deleted from the film, making a total nonsense of the gold chain sequence with Miss. Crawford, which seems to have been retained only in order to introduce a gratuitous allusion to lesbianism, wet blouse and all.....!!
The Grants at the Parsonage are also axe victims, so we have no idea why the Crawfords are even there; the principal houses were transposed, MP actually being the 'new' and Sotherton being the 'ancestral'; the Bertrams were going through a phase of 'belt-tightening' because of Tom's extravagance, but were still relatively wealthy, not within a inch of having to sell up, as portrayed here. The preposterous scene with the fireworks and doves occupied time and (undoubtably) money that should have been better spent bringing information thought less important to the audience. Huge chunks of the novel are missing, which only goes to underline the folly of 'adapting' a long and complex work when you have neither the time nor the money to do it anything like justice.
Francis O'Connor did the best she could with what she was given; Harold Pinter's Mr. Bertram is credible, as is Embeth Davidtz and Allesandro Nivola as the Crawfords; and Jonny Lee Millar is perhaps the most convincing (and authentic) of the bunch as the younger Bertram son.
A final word to Miramax. The jaunty, tongue-in-cheek approach worked well with Gwyneth Paltrow's Emma, but that doesn't mean all of Jane Austen can be treated the same way; that was a one-off.
... unfortunately these happened to be the name of the film and the names of all the characters!
Mansfield Park is perhaps the most complex of Austen's novels, and certainly one than many readers have difficultly with. The hero and heroine are solid and worthy, but there are those who miss the sparkle of an Emma or a Lizzie Bennet. Nevertheless, it reamins my favourite work.
Without wishing to condemn this as a bad 'film' as it was well done in many respects, I still fail to understand why someone would chose to adapt a classic text, and then change virtually everything about it! Fanny Price is here unrecognisable from Austen's gentle tower of moral strength! If she's wanted to do Lizzy or Emma again I'm sure Austen was quite capable! Romenza has her heroine acting in ways that would make any Regency Lady blush! I'm guessing Jane Austen was just used to sell this film - and this unfortunately put a stop to other adaptations in the pipeline (a new Northanger Abbey for one!).
The classic BBC series with Anna Massey is far superior, if you're looking for something that resembles Austen's novel!
on 17 April 2013
This film bears little relation to the novel upon which it is based. Quiet, obedient Fanny Price who finds the courage to stay true to her morals when tested is portrayed as a cross between Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Austen. It also tries to manufacture a theme of slavery and abolition when this rates barely a mention in the novel. Watch the BBC 1983 Mansfield Park instead.
on 15 September 2010
Reading the reviews submitted on the topic of Jane Austen novels, I wonder why so much criticism is directed toward a film's total adherence to every aspect of her books. I have all her novels, and read them periodically and know the stories as she wrote them. I find it interesting to see the various features, within her stories, used by producers to try and interpret how she wanted her characters to come across to her readers. Whatever form of interpretation is offered by whatever producer, it will never satisfy everyone as the script writers have to be selective as well as inventive because of the film's time-scale. For me, any production of her work simply immortalises Jane Austen novels still more. When the need arises that I want to relive the originality of her stories, I open her books in my collection. I enjoyed this film adaptation of Mansfield Park and felt Frances O' Conner's portrayal of Fanny Price, quite entrancing, though a little more assertive than previous adaptations, and perhaps there, strayed a little from how the character comes across in the book. I was intrigued to see Edmund played by Johnny Lee Miller; a part that was worlds away from the Hackers character he played in the mid nineties. I found his performance convinced me of his brotherly relationship with Fanny, gradually mutating to a romantic conclusion. On the whole I felt this production worthy to enter my collection alongside the many other versions of Mansfield Park in it.
on 26 January 2015
I liked this film. I have read the book twice, the last time very recently, and I wanted to check out this film version. I think the book is Austen's darkest, bleakest novel, and the film, while it deviates from the novel and is clearly an interpretation of the story, is an interesting spin on the implied themes contained in Austen's fiction. If you read between the lines, Mansfield Park IS about a patriarchal society, the slave trade is barely present in the novel, but it is there. Fanny Price is unusual among Austen's heroines in that she comes from a humble background and her role in society is undefined (similar to Belle in the recent film?) and therefore she does not have the confidence of an Elizabeth Bennet or an Emma Woodhouse.
The Fanny Price portrayed in the film is quite different from the heroine in the novel, but it does make Henry Crawford's attraction to her more plausible. I also enjoyed the implication that Edmund had always loved Fanny and was wooing Mary Crawford more on his father's instructions, as then at least we don't feel that he is simply settling for second best. I know that's a bit of a romantic cop-out, but I enjoyed this film, and the book equally, even though they are very different.
The acting here is great too, and I don't find the sexuality shocking, as Henry and Maria did commit blatant adultery in the book, and there are plenty of sexual references (not forgetting Mary Crawford's fabulous joke about Rears and Vices in the navy!) simmering beneath the surface. Harold Pinter as Thomas Bertram is wonderful and the scene when Fanny discovers Tom's drawings of the West Indies really brings the 'real' 18th century to life.
on 12 August 2003
More in the way of warning propective viewers, this is a nice enough film, well executed (not entirely true to the period though) but it is not Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. The producer admitted (in the credits) to writing it. My question is: why did she call her effort by the title of Jane Austen's great classic when it is not an adaptation of that book? To be certain of box-office sales I suppose, Jane Austen being an excellent ticket to sure-fire success in the 1990s.
Critical review of a classical author will change according to era and films often provide us with an unspoken commentary on
an era's prevaling morality. In fact, Rozima's view seems seriously outmoded - a little late to be abhoring slavery in the manner in which she brings it into this film. Her offerings (along with the single semi-nude scene) are cliches of modern cinema and a bit of a turn off - you simply can't escape them! What's more susprising is that the BBC, with many acclaimed adaptations to its credit, put its name to this effort.
The BBC and Arts Council could have done better with our money.