Mansfield Parked

I feel compelled to add my comments to the many others that have been made about the new "Mansfield Park", shown on ITV a week or two ago, and watched by me and the rest of my family last night via recorded DVD.

The production as a whole is the usual sincere, respectful but somewhat glossed-over (for time constraints) interpretation of a "classic" novel that one sees so often these days. Sometimes, when watching the formidably detailed set design or costumes in these productions, I wonder if people in those days really were as conscious of their own period’s constraints as are today’s film designers. The acting is good, particularly Douglas Hodge and Jemma Redgrave as the parents, though some characters barely appear after the first third, and the play scenes were truncated ruthlessly.

But the core of it is Billie Piper, and I am very sorry to say this, but I just have to: hopeless. She is no more Fanny Price than Kevin Costner was Robin Hood. She is the "star", so the production orbits around her, exactly counter to Fanny’s character. Her hair is golden, curly, long and free; in almost every scene she is running– down or up stairs, along leafy avenues, among the fancy furniture, etc. Her neckline is plunging; her bosom heaves attractively and constantly. Her accent veers between extremes of posh diction enunciated slowly and carefully, and cockney aitches or dropped "ts". Her dialogue, actually, is safely kept minimal (as in the recent Philip Pullman adaptation), though of course she is given a line at dinner to indicate her emancipated disapproval of the practice of slavery. Most gratingly of all, she laughs out loud all the time to indicate joie de vivre , giggles, stares knowingly and adoringly at Edward for the entire duration: in sum, she is a thoroughly modern young female who has been beamed down intact, unchanged and unchangeable, into nineteenth century England. Fanny Price, she most definitely is not.

Cathy and Jenny loved her and the whole caboodle. Malcolm and I felt a strong common urge to immediately read the book again — for me, on the "wash your mouth out" principle, I think. If you want to watch a production of Mansfield Park (as opposed to reading it), see the American feminist "hint of lesbiana" reworking, or see the ancient but worthy BBC production, both of which remain true to the essence of  Austen, but don’t see this. 

3 thoughts on “Mansfield Parked

  1. Sounds quite dreadful. Fanny Price has hung with me far more than any other Austen heroine, though I didn’t like her nearly so much at first read (she seemed quite a pill compared to, say, Emma).
    Subconsciously, I must have known that new TV version of “MP” was coming on because I actually found myself thinking about Fanny the other day: I had a vision of her up in her cold, cold room, the fire unlit because she was “only a governess.”
    What did you think of the recent version of “P & P” with Keira Knightley? I thought it was okay, but no improvement over the Colin Firth TV version from years back. And that kiss was a shocker — never happened on-page in Austen’s novels!
    The only real innovation in Austen I’ve seen in recent years is the Indian version, “Bride and Prejudice.” Excellent, a mon avis.

  2. I haven’t watched the new MP yet. I’ve recorded all three shows. I well remember the ancient version :-). Back in the days when shows were serialised over 6 weeks or more – Jane Eyre, the P D James books – much better than these 2 hr condensations.

  3. Well I have held forth on this and the other ITV Austen dramatisations at length so will not repeat myself. The old BBC Mansfield Park is still excellent, I have it at home and will now rewatch after this debacle. And the Persuastion last night – DIRE

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