Monday, April 7, 2008

A movie review

It is very difficult for a society swamped with feminism and anti-religious sentiments to understand the book, Mansfield Park, let alone make a movie of it. The 1999 version of Mansfield Park, directed by Patricia Rozema, clearly demonstrates this.

In each of Jane Austin's novels, she creates a matched set in her hero and heroine. Their personalities suit one another and they are able to bring out the best in each other while exercising their own strengths.

Mansfield Park is about a humble, Biblically submissive young woman who lives by principle, trusting that in the end her long-suffering will be worth it because there is a God who watches over the lives of men and rewards the pure and upright. Appropriately, her kind, serious cousin who plans to take orders and become a clergyman marries her in the end, after a short "fling" where his judgement lapses and he is drawn in briefly by a woman who mocks everything he stands for.

People may not like that this is what the book is about, but it is the truth, nonetheless. Such a theme obviously doesn't go over well in our society in this day and age. I have never seen a movie version of Mansfield Park that makes the least bit of sense, because nobody alive these days (especially the feminists who have taken such a quaint interest in Jane Austin) can even begin to understand Fanny Price's motivation.

The lesbianism in this movie is creepy, as is the lechery that is suggested in both Fanny's uncle and her father (there is a scene where Mr. Price ogles Fanny on her return home, then says, "It will be nice to have another young woman in the house." The camera then shifts to her younger sister, who makes a nervous hand motion by her throat, suggesting that the father has been sexually molesting her and will now branch out in his attentions). The uncle, also, is silently attributed with lust for Fanny and an active pursuit of his female slaves in Antigua. This insidious suggestion that all fathers are evil and incapable of treating a young woman with decency is another feminist shading that wildly diverges from Jane Austin's meaning or intent. As an author, Austin always makes a clear delineation between good, decent men and wicked ones, and she allows for the existence of both.

I did not understand the parts about slavery that were thrown into this movie, or why they were there, except perhaps as a feminist foil to show the overarching evil that occurs when one human being submits to another. However, the voluntary submission of a woman to a good man is completely different from the forced submission of a captured slave to his master. In the book, even Fanny refuses to submit against her principles when the cousins all decide to put on a play. She is quite sure that she is right to stay out of it entirely, but they cajole her so much that she begins to doubt herself, even more so when Edmund bends his own morals and decides to take a part. But she holds true to her conscience despite grave mental anguish, and she is rewarded when her uncle comes home and she is the only one who has done as he would have wished. This does not come out at all in the movie--the whole significance of the doing of the play is lost entirely.

This movie has some good points, and would surely be a help to someone reading the book for the first time--provided they actually read the book, so they could discern what is accurate and what is not. Fanny should be prettier, Mary Crawford should be younger, cousin Maria should be better looking than cousin Julia. Lindsay Duncan as both Lady Bertram and her sister, Mrs. Price, is the best thing about the whole movie. The men were all decently cast.


Crawley said...

I am a recent fan of Jane Austen. I haven't read this book yet, but it sounds like it would be a great read. I've been meaning to rent this movie since I missed the airing of Mansfield Park on Masterpiece Theatre (PBS) earlier this year.

I, too, find it interesting how people attempt to change Austen's works to reflect the common thought of the day, not realizing that isn't at all what should be portrayed. I think the new version of Pride and Prejudice (with Kiara knightly) is a good example of that. It's subtle, but it's there.

ruth said...

Thank you for commenting. I didn't care for the recent BBC version of Mansfield Park on PBS. The characters were even less developed and sympathetic than the ones in the 1999 version. They did include the character of Fanny's brother, William, which was nice. It was also less sexually edgy than the 1999 version. However, the character of Fanny was totally bizarre--a tomboy (not at all true to Austin, actually the polar opposite of the "real" Fanny Price) as opposed to the 1999 version which made Fanny into a literary whip with a wry wit, a sort of symbol for who the director must think Jane Austin herself was. Also, the actress in the recent BBC version was distractingly ugly. She had pretty hair, and maybe in her own way she was pretty, but against the other characters, she looked like an ape. Maybe it was intentional, but I found it incredibly distracting. When she was on screen, all I could do was hope that the camera would somehow shield the horsey profile of her teeth.

Yes, the Kiara Knightly version of P&P was also feminist-colored, but I liked it pretty well anyway. It was possible to ignore the undertones and still enjoy the basics of the story.

ruth said...

Oops. I meant Lady Bertram, not Lady Rushmore (above). Also, I take back what I said about the Fanny Price in the recent BBC version of Mansfield Park having pretty hair. I just went back and looked--she had distractingly messy blond hair and really weird, big, black eyebrows. I don't know what they were trying to do with her face?