In North Carolina, the summer Jane Austen Program at UNC at Chapel Hill is featuring Mansfield Park. If you have not looked at this annual program, it might be a good way to learn more of what some consider their least favorite Austen novel.
Announcing the Fourth Annual Jane Austen Summer Program!
“Mansfield Park & its Afterlives”
June 16-19, 2016; Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Mansfield Park 2007 (BBC mini-series)
Directed by Iain B. MacDonald
Douglas Hodge ….. Sir Thomas Bertram
Maggie O’Neill ….. Mrs. Norris
Billie Piper ….. Fanny Price
Blake Ritson ….. Edmund Bertram
James D”Arcy ….. Tom Bertram
Michelle Ryan ….. Maria Bertram
Rory Kinnear ….. Mr. Rushworth
Catherine Steadman …… Julia Bertram
Hayley Atwell ….. Mary Crawford
Joseph Beattie ….. Henry Crawford
Jemma Redgrave ….. Lady Bertram
Unlike the Miramax (Rozema) production, this adaptation of Austen’s Mansfield Park emphasizes the societal depiction of Austen’s time. Even the opening scene is staged quite differently. In the 1999 film version, the young Fanny is portrayed as intelligent and possessing of resolve, where in this production the child Fanny is well dressed in a red cloak and hat. She is shy and only speaks when spoken to. Her home life displays a sense of “disorder” and “distracted parenting,” rather than poverty.
When Sir Thomas announces Fanny’s second-class status to his family it is done in private. Fanny does not hear Sir Thomas’s disparagements. Sir Thomas’s apprehension that either of his sons might take a liking to Fanny is from not thinking Fanny worthy of his offsprings.
The interior sets draw the viewer’s attention to the period decor. Many of the scenes are shot outdoors with the characters strolling through gardens and rustic pathways. The novel gives the impression that Mansfield Park is a modern manor house. “Miss Crawford soon felt that he and his situation might do. She looked about her with due consideration, and found almost everything in his favour: a park, a real park, five miles round, a spacious modern-built house, so well placed and well screened as to deserve to be in any collection of engravings of gentlemen’s seats in the kingdom, and wanting only to be completely new furnished–pleasant sisters, a quiet mother, and an agreeable man himself–with the advantage of being tied up from much gaming at present by a promise to his father, and of being Sir Thomas hereafter.” Newby Hall, Skelton on Ure, North Yorkshire, was used for Mansfield Park in the mini-series.
Unlike the 1999 version of the story, this one keeps William Price as an important character in the story. As we all may remember, Henry Crawford’s assistance in getting William a commission for military service brings Fanny many moments of introspection after Crawford’s proposal to her. In the 1999 film, Fanny is heard in voiceover reading letters to her sister. In this mini-series, Fanny’s voiceover is directed to William. In her letters, she summarizing many of the events at Mansfield Park. William also plays an important role in the ball given by Sir Thomas in honor of William and Fanny.
This production also portrays Henry Crawford in a less than kindly light than does the Miramax film. Crawford “plays” with Fanny, seducing her to fall in love with him. This is more in character to the Austen novel than the 1999 film, where Crawford appears to fall in love with Fanny. Mrs. Norris is seen as too ingratiating in her relations with Sir Thomas’s family. Like the novel, Lady Bertram is seen as disengaged from her family. She cares more for her pugs than her children.
As in the novel, Sir Thomas chastises Tom Bertram for Tom’s excessive expenditures. Tom’s inconsideration forces Sir Thomas to sell a benefice meant for Edmund. Tom accepts the fault, but he does nothing to change his ways other than to “hope” he will have better luck at the gaming tables and the horse races.
In this adaptation, Fanny’s costumes are plain and “useful.” She wears white or pastel colors. Mary Crawford’s character wears pastel colors also, but her costumes are elaborately elegant. Neither Fanny, Mary, or the Bertram sisters show much décolletage.
In the scenes where the group perform the play, this mini-series stays close to Austen’s novel. Fanny is reluctant to participate in the play and is more reluctant to serve as the “partner” to both Mary and Edmund when the pair are learning their lines. Fanny must witness Edmund’s “courtship” of Mary Crawford.
The ball scene shows how Fanny enjoys the dance with Edmund best. She dances first with Henry Crawford, after Sir Thomas demands that she lead off the ball. The dance with Henry is slow and stately. Next, she dances with her brother William to a lively jig. The dance with Edmund is formal, but we see them clasping hands and enjoying each other’s company. After the ball, Sir Thomas orders her to bed, as if he extended his benevolence long enough.
In both the novel and this mini-series, Fanny is in Portsmouth when she learns of Maria and Henry’s flight. She also learns of Tom’s illness, and Fanny wishes to be of service to those at Mansfield Park. Edmund comes to Portsmouth and escorts Fanny and Susan to Mansfield Park. Fanny learns from Edmund his change of heart toward Mary Crawford. A flashback is used where Edmund calls on Mary in London. Mary is angry at her brother’s and Maria’s escape, not because of adultery, but because they caused rumors, which affect her reputation also. Mary claims that if Fanny accepted Henry then none of this would happen. Mary develops a plan to “re-introduce” Maria and Henry to society if they marry.
Fanny’s voiceover to William in a letter advances the film’s ending. She tells the viewer that Rushworth receives his divorce, Julia and Yates elope and marry, and Mrs. Norris is to set up a home for Maria. Then we see Fanny’s wedding day as Fanny continues to tell William that she and Edmund will live in the parsonage for Dr. Grant has departed the neighborhood. The ending scene is Edmund and Fanny together with Pug on the parsonage’s grounds.