Monday, January 15, 2007

Mansfield Park (1983)

This 6 part adaptation of Mansfield Park follows Austen’s story very closely and belongs to the, for the time, opulent costume dramas made for the BBC in the 1980s. Although stagey in parts, particularly when the actors walk away from the main sound mikes, it uses outside footage complete with wobbly cameras and parts of it are clearly filmed in an eighteenth-century house and not a set. The script concentrates on the dialogues between the main characters, though some first-person narration from Fanny Price in the form of letters to her brother is used to move the plot along. It is rather slow moving, though that does allow the tedium of Lady Bertram’s conversation and daily life at Mansfield to be captured rather well.

I am, as said before, no fan of Mansfield Park and would unashamedly go for Henry Crawford rather than the staid Edmund Bertram. Here Robert Burbage physically resembles Byron (bar the clubfoot) and clearly models his snakish rakish Henry Crawford on him. The dandy style of Mr Yates and fashionableness of Tom Bertram come across well compared to the older dress of Mr Rushworth, Edmund Bertram and Sir Thomas. Anna Massey is superb as the interfering and supremely catty Mrs Norris and manages to convey the right amount of spite in her trite comments.

Although the selfishness of all, bar Fanny, in this bleak novel is portrayed well, the screenplay is slow moving and lacks sparkle. There is very little sexiness given that the novel concentrates on appropriate and inappropriate sexual attraction. It is hard to see why Mary Crawford is so captivating or how Maria had the spirit to elope and Edmund and Fanny bore each other into marriage. I rarely agree with Kingsley Amis, but his comment that Fanny and Edmund are complete prigs who could not be worse dinner companions is dramatised well by this adaptation.

Trivia fact: Jonny Lee Miller appears as Charlie Price in this adaptation and later went on to play Edmund Bertram in the 1999 film of the same novel.

Directed – David Giles
Writing – Jane Austen (novel), Kenneth Taylor
Samantha Bond – Maria Bertram
Robert Burbage – Henry Crawford
Nicholas Farrell – Edmund Bertram
Sylvestra Le Touzel – Fanny Price
Anna Massey – Aunt Norris

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Buy in UK


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The main theme of Mansfield park is about vice and virtue. There isn't supposed to be any "sexiness". All of Jane Austen's novels have always had a central theme and pattern. There are characters who are well principled and then there are those who fall because of a flaw in their nature or vice. This is considered one of Austen's most mature and serious novels. It is not meant to be a romance story centrally speaking. The purpose of this novel is to depict a corrupt aristocratic society that is governed by the importance of rank, wealth and estate rather than virtues, values and morality. Maria and Julia as well as Tom Bertram are loose principled characters who make poor decisions in their lives. Henry Crawford is a flirt and shows his true shallow character when he displays his libertinism by eloping with maria and then living with her. In short I found that this film despite the need for better acting from certain actors stayed true to the novel. I find that the more adapted or considerably changed a movie is from the original novel the less the book in its originality is appreciated. For instance a film does not need sexuality or crude humour to make it successful. For the most part the acting was good and when the acting is well carried out and natural as if it were not acting I believe one should forget everything else.

7:13 PM  

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