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!
- A review of MP 1983 from The Jane Austen Centre Magazine
- Jane Austen on Film: Or How to Make a Hit, by Ellen Moody
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.
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