Mansfield Park (1983) Movie: Musings & Discussion: Day 3 Give-away

Movies

This six part BBC mini-series was adapted from Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park by Ken Taylor and broadcast in 1983 in the UK winning a BAFTA for costume designs by Ian Adley. Sensitively directed by David Giles, this interpretation of Jane Austen’s most complex and challenging novel is by far the most accurate attempt to follow Austen’s plot and characterizations of the three film adaptations now available on DVD. Featuring a stellar cast of notable British actors, the two main leads where played by Sylvestra Le Touzel as Fanny Price and Nicholas Farrell as Edmund Bertram. Supporting roles went to Angela Pleasence and Bernard Hepton as Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, Robert Burbage and Jackie Smith-Wood as Henry and Mary Crawford, and most notably, Anna Massey as the most annoying Mrs. Norris that anyone could envision! 

At 312 minutes over six episodes, we are privy to almost all of the novels scenes and veteran readers of Mansfield Park will recognize much of Jane Austen’s choice and witty dialogue. Some viewers might be disappointed in the production quality, as this was originally filmed on video tape and the sound does not supply the quality that we have become accustomed to since it was produced twenty five years ago. Its strengths lie in the actors performances, costumes and visual beauty as many of the scenes were actually filmed on location, which considering its budget, was a bonus. 

Because of time restraints, I will not attempt to critique the entire movie but focus on one favourite scene which I will call the ‘Sentinel at the garden gate’ from episode 2. Fanny Price and her cousins Maria, Julia and Edmund Bertram travel with Mary and Henry Crawford to the grand Elizabethan era estate of Sotherton Court to visit Maria’s fiancé Mr. Rushworth. As the couples walk through the wilderness parkland adjacent to the estate, director David Giles reveals Austen’s comedic genius in a scene that could have inspired any vintage vaudeville burlesque or modern television sitcom. When Fanny becomes fatigued, she is deposited on a park bench in the shade adjacent to a locked iron gate that has bared progress through the park. As the different groups and individuals arrive in search of each other, Fanny acts as the ‘sentinel of the garden gate’, relaying messages and explaining to everyone who has come and gone, and why. Austen’s brilliant comedic timing is in full play, and the director David Giles knows how to emphasize the right moments to build tension to the point of hilarity.

You can view the scene online here. Enjoy these screencaps with descriptions.

 Fanny Price, Mary Crawford and Edmund Bertram arrive at the locked garden gate.

Fanny is fatigued, and left on a bench as Mary and Edmund walk on together.

Henry Crawford, Mr. Rushworth and Maria Bertram
 arrive to  find Fanny and the locked gate.

After Mr. Rushworth goes to the house for the key, Henry and Maria become
 impatient and squeeze through the bars to enter the park in pursuit
of a better vantage of the grounds, or is that really the motivation?

 Fanny is alarmed and advises them to wait, but to no avail.

 

Heyday! Julia Bertam arrives in pusuit of Henry and
Maria to find Fanny alone on the bench.

Julia will not wait for the key either, and squeezes through
 the bars seeking to find Henry and Maria.

Fanny is further alarmed and worries that Julia will
harm herself or her gown, but is unheeded.

Mr. Rushworth arrives with the key! Where is Maria?

Mr. Rushworth sits with Fanny despondent, deriding the shortness of Mr. Crawford.

Mr. Rushworth decides to unlock the gate and pursue Maria and Henry. Fanny is left
 alone to continue waiting for Mary and Edmund’s return, which was much,
much longer than a anyone anticipated!

Further reading 

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 3 Give-away

 Leave a comment by August 30th. to qualify for the free drawing on August 31st. for one copy of

Mansfield Park (1983) 

BBC 6 part mini-series, adapted by Ken Taylor and directed by David Giles. 312 minutes. Staring Sylvestra Le Touzel as Fanny Price, Nicholas Farrle as Edmund Bertram and Anna Massey as Aunt Norris. 

Upcoming posts
Day 4 – Aug 18            MP Naxos (Juliet Stevenson) audio
Day 5 – Aug 19            MP novel discussion chapters 9-16
Day 6 – Aug 20            Metropolitan movie discussion
Day 7 – Aug 21            MP novel discussion chapters 17-24

16 thoughts on “Mansfield Park (1983) Movie: Musings & Discussion: Day 3 Give-away

  1. From what you have written here, this does sound like an excellent adaption. I’ve seen the 1999 adaption with Frances O’Connor as Fanny, and the 2007 adaption with Billie Piper. Neither one impressed me, so maybe I’ll try watching this one.

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  2. This is the best movie by far over the other two. I watch the whole boxed set all the time! Your review is right on! Have a great weekend!

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  3. Since I’ve not read the book (yet) or remember seeing this movie, can someone tell me if they are close to each other. I know that sometimes the book is not much like the movie versions.

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  4. After reading your review and seeing the clip of the 1983 mini series, I’m now convinced I should give it a try. I’ve seen the 1999 version and the 2007 version and were not at all pleased. My sister has the set and I shall borrow from her.

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  5. In a way I like the mini series, it’s very close to the book and none of the characters seems to be completely wrong. I like that fact that much of Jane Austens dialog has been included in the script. At the same time I think that sometimes too much of the book has been include in the script. It’s so close to the book that it doesn’t really ad anything and it’s so long (5+ hours) that I’m almost able to read Mansfield Park and that’s something I would prefer. The other two adaptation are not better, because they did not get the book and Fanny at all, so if I were to suggest a Mansfield Park adaptation to a Jane Austen fan I would suggest the 1983 mini series. I would however never suggest it to a friend who isn’t crazy about Jane Austen to begin with. It’s very long and also kind of badly filmed (well not really, it’s just filmed in 1983 standards).

    I suppose that I’m still waiting for the perfect Mansfield Park adaptation (and I kind of doubt that it’ll ever be made).

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  6. Laurel Ann, I love that you chose this scene in the movie! […it is reminiscent of the scene in Persuasion when Anne is visiting her sister and everyone in the family brings their complaints to her!] Here we have Fanny as the pivotal figure with all the other characters rushing around her…her expressions are perfect as she is more and more appalled by everyone’s behavior. Le Touzel is a perfect Fanny, sitting back and passively observing all the wrong choices of the other characters….this is how she learns about herself and Austen wants the reader to follow along and figure this out as well. We forget that Fanny is very young, pulled from a family that has no social standing and put in a home where she is treated no better than a servant. Though Bronte would hate the comparison, her Jane Eyre has a simlar background and learns who she is by very gradually standing up to those around her. Fanny is always criticised as being so passive, but if you really watch her and see what hints the narrator gives you, you will see how very strong she is, so very sure of what is right for her….she never waivers in her love for Edmund, she never once is conned by Henry Crawford, she sees through Mary from the outset, she accepts Lady Bertram’s laziness, and rightfully recoils from Mrs. Norris…
    I confess to not reading this along with you, and perhaps need to do this (I re-read it 2 years ago) to really follow along. Just wanted to say that I like this movie alot…it follows the book so very well… BUT the fact that Fanny always looks as though she is scared to death, and Edmund a great big bore, just perpetuates those constant criticisms of the book…there is so much more to be found in it (and I shall be pilloried for bringing up the Rozema film MP, but it certainly DID offer a more lively interpretation!)…but like Kira, I will wait for a more perfect film (where is Emma Thompson when we need her??), view this one each year for my MP fix, but not recommend it to anyone who might be expecting another P&P with the likes of Colin Firth!

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  7. I borrowed a copy of the book and am thoroughly enjoying it! The movie sounds great and will really make the characters come alive. I can see why the scene you outlined is one of your favorites. I’m looking forward to seeing this version of the movie.

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  8. I recently watch this miniseries and I found myself liking it very much compared to ITV’s 90 minute movie and 1999 movie version. It really captures all the major scenes in the novel. However, I would love to watch an update of this adaptation that is hopefully as good or even better than this, or just like Kira said the perfect Mansfield Park adaptation.

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  9. i hate to make the one lame, non-thoughtful post but um…dude, i loooooove nicholas farrell. but to be more thoughtful…he is a fine, fine actor, and it turns out that david giles has directed a number of excellent things. now i am very curious about this version. thanks for tipping me off.

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  10. Hello to all Mansfield Park Madness participants – Day 3

    Rachel – I think that you will find the 1983 version of MP interesting and much truer to the txt than the 1999 or 2007 versions. My only complaint is that it sometimes drags a bit. In comparision to today’s movie pacing (break-neck speeds) you might think the same.

    Janeen – Thanks for the complement. I’m glad you like it also. Your positive reinforcement may nspire others to view it too.

    Dina – yes, this movie closely follows Jane Austen’s text. Much of the dialogue is taken directly from the book.

    Felicia – I am glad you are nspired to view it from this review. It has its charms. I love to hate Anna Massey as Mrs. Norris and Angela Pleasence as Lady Bertram is so funny in a drug haze sort of way.

    Kira – Your accessment of its faults is so spot on. It does need trimming and is too long. Hopefully, a new version will be made as a mini-series that will be a bit tighter.

    Janeite Deb – Thanks for your very thoughtful and insightful comments. You are right about Austen wanting us to watch Fanny. She is the silent sentinel to the author’s viewpoint.

    Marsha – thanks for joining in. I hope that you enjoy the journey. A visit to Mansfield Park is an experience.

    Luthien84 – I to wait for a better version. Something Austen to anticipate, right?

    ren – Too funny! I liked Nicholas Farrell in Chariots of Fire too. That movie sometimes gets a bad rap, but I liked it.

    Cheers, Laurel Ann

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  11. Oh, finally a good MP adaptation! I’ve heard great things about this adaption. Apparently (I haven’t seen it) it takes the time to fully develop all of the characters, as all MP adaptations should be, which I guess is easier if it’s a 6-hour movie. I can’t wait to watch it =D

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  12. I adore this version of MP, but do not own it yet! One day I should like to get it! The acting, script, set-up, filming, everything is just perfect!

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  13. It’s a pretty good adaptation, but it’s not my favorite. Because it is a closer adaptation of Austen’s novel, it came off as rather tedious in many parts. And Sylvestra Le Touzel’s performance as Fanny is a bit too mannered for my tastes.

    I really cannot think of a first rate adaptation of “MANSFIELD PARK”. But so far, the 1999 version is my favorite. If someone would portray Fanny as the flawed character that she really was, instead of ignoring her flaws, I would probably be satisfied in the end.

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  14. This 1983 adaptation of “MANSFIELD PARK” was a lot closer to Jane Austen’s original novel. Not completely, but a lot closer. However . . . I still don’t consider it better than the other two adaptations.

    I’m beginning to suspect that either “MANSFIELD PARK” is one of those stories that might be hard to film. And I think that what makes it difficult are the characters of Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram. Both characters suffer a major flaw. Neither barely managed to grow or develop by the end of the story. While one can cheer Fanny for sticking to her guns and refusing to marry Henry Crawford, she still failed to acknowledge her own personal flaws and Edmund’s, as well. And this made it difficult for me to feel any sympathy or acknowledge her “happy ending” with any cheers.

    However, if a future adaptation of “MANSFIELD PARK” would either allow Fanny and Edmund to develop or portray their lack of development as something not to cheer about, I would probably be satisfied.

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  15. I forgot to add that another aspect of this version of “MANSFIELD PARK” that I found unalluring was its pacing. Because it seemed determined to follow Austen’s novel as closely as possible, the slow pacing nearly dragged the miniseries to a halt in many scenes.

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