At 10, Fanny Price, a poor relation, goes to live at Mansfield Park, the estate of her aunt's husband, Sir Thomas. Clever, studious, and a writer with an ironic imagination and fine moral ... See full summary »
At 10, Fanny Price, a poor relation, goes to live at Mansfield Park, the estate of her aunt's husband, Sir Thomas. Clever, studious, and a writer with an ironic imagination and fine moral compass, she becomes especially close to Edmund, Thomas's younger son. Fanny is soon possessed of beauty as well as a keen mind and comes to the attention of a neighbor, Henry Crawford. Thomas promotes this match, but to his displeasure, Fanny has a mind of her own, asking Henry to prove himself worthy. As Edmund courts Henry's sister and as light shines on the link between Thomas's fortunes and New World slavery, Fanny must assess Henry's character and assert her heart as well as her wit. Written by
Jane Austen's usual themes (love, snobbery, the place of women in society) are all addressed in this film of 'Mansfield Park', but fans of the book claim that the film is unfaithful to the original. Not having read it, I can't comment on that, but whereas I enjoyed Douglas McGrath's 'Emma' and Ang Lee's 'Sense and Sensibility' (both praised as faithful to their texts), 'Mansfield Park' is certainly less successful, losing coherence but gaining stridency compared to those works. In 'Emma', for example, the joy was in a precocious young heroine gradually learning that there were things she did not know; but haughty Fanny Price, the main character in this film, is always right, witty, invariably possessed of good judgment and anachronistic feminist attitudes - in other words, completely unbearable. Some of the dialogue seems similarly out of time, the young Fanny and her sister are inexplicably played by a couple of self-consciously adorable American kids, and audience is consistently encouraged to apply modern values to judge the characters. Other things also seem odd (Fanny has lived with the family for many years, but they continually treat her as if she had just arrived; the social placement of Fanny, her aunt and mother are never explained; and as Fanny and the leading male are mutually in love throughout the story, it's hard to see why it takes them a whole film to get together).
If one scene serves as a good example of what's wrong with this film, it's when Fanny catches a suitor in flagrante with another woman. Jane Austen wrote highly subtle dissections of the social structures around her, disguised in the form of acceptable romances - that's the merit of her work. The beauty of the story lies in the form of its telling. The absence of explicit sex from (some) old books isn't necessarily a failing, just as you don't necessarily improve a classic thriller by remaking it with bigger guns and louder explosions. It's a small scene, but one senses that director Roezma doesn't really understand her own material. A disappointment.
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