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Which Adaptation is Better? Mansfield Park Edition

Photo: Miramax
Photo: Miramax

Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park has been adapted to the screen quite a few times. The two versions for my romantic competition is the 1999 version starring Frances O’Connor and Jonny Lee Miller versus the 2007 version with Billie Piper and Blake Ritson. Both adaptations have excellent points about them. But which does the romance between Fanny and Edmund justice? Which on-screen version best brings to life Jane Austen’s classic tale? Let’s see how the two versions stack up against each other.

mansfield park1999 Mansfield Park

I always call this the mature version of Mansfield Park. This version represents the themes of the novel in darker ways. From Maria getting caught in the act with Henry, the family’s connection with slavery, to the poverty of Fanny’s family, the movie offers it all in stark detail. This adaptation does deviate a bit from the books in this way however. I think perhaps they were trying to appeal to non-Austen fans as well or just intermingle Fanny with a little of Jane Austen herself. For instance, Fanny’s character is truly charming, an independent young woman who wants to become a writer. She is witty, loyal, and passionate. It’s a contrast to the Fanny in the classic novel. In Austen’s work, she was quiet and shy. And while this Fanny is still rather shy, I rather liked the more vocal Fanny Price here. Her relationship with Edmund is even more passionate in this adaptation.

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You can sense the underlying tension between the two throughout the film for starters. Edmund is attracted to Mary Crawford, but I always believed he was distracting himself from his true feelings towards Fanny. They both believe that they shouldn’t be together, but they can’t deny their feelings over time, having multiple romantic close calls during the movie. Their interactions are a definitely more heated than in the other adaptation. I will never forget that almost kiss….  Jonny Lee Miller also made a great Edmund, but then again, Miller knows how to play an Austen character like a pro.  Check him out in Emma (hint: he’s fabulous). In short, the 1999 version has a bit more spice.

Mansfield Park 20072007 Mansfield Park

The 2007 TV adaptation captures the Jane Austen period drama spirit. Still, overall, there was a lack of screen time for important characters from Austen’s book, like the Bertram sisters. I always felt this version, though charming, was rushed in its short 90 minute time frame. Fanny’s family in Portsmouth doesn’t even factor much into the plot. There were also a lot of gaps in the movie that made it frustrating to watch. Nevertheless, there are merits to the film. Billie Piper’s Fanny was truer to the book as Fanny suffers in silence a great deal and Billie Piper brought that to the screen extremely well. For instance,much like Austen’s classic, Fanny Price was sweet, kind, and much more timid than Frances O’Connor’s Fanny.  Her romance with Edmund is closer to the novel as well.

Ritson and Piper made a charming pair, though their romance is quite different from that of Lizzie and Darcy’s. They remind me of teenagers with crushes on each other at the prom, with one who must make the first move. Their first kiss had just enough passion to make Austen fans cheer. As a whole, this version kept the tone of Austen’s original novel much better.

My Verdict

I can’t help but prefer the 1999 version over the 2007 Mansfield Park. The 1999 adaptation may take a bit more liberties, but it made me like Fanny more. It was hard for me to love her in the books as I like my heroines more like Lizzie. Furthermore, I felt more chemistry from the main couple in this version as well. The 2007 version just cut out too much from Jane Austen’s original for my taste.

What adaptation of Mansfield Park did you like best? Sound off in the comments.

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By on July 8th, 2015

About Mandi Harris

Mandi Harris is a freelance writer and blogger. If she isn't writing, she has her nose in a book. Books are her ultimate addiction. Her other weaknesses include period dramas, chocolate, and her pets. She is working on her own novels now and hopes to one day get published. You can read her book blog over at thepennedpiper.com.

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8 thoughts on “Which Adaptation is Better? Mansfield Park Edition”

  1. The best adaption of Mansfield park is one that you omitted. It is the 1983 version that is the most faithful to the book. It takes a little concentration and effort to get into it because the acting is a bit stiff, but the substance of the book truly shines in this adaption. It is the most faithful to Austen’s character development, in my humble opinion. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085052/

    Reply
    • I agree completely. The modest production values may deter some from the 1983 version., however it’s rewarding to those who can immerse themselves. It stands up to repeated viewings—I re-watch it every two years or so.

      Reply
    • Thanks a lot for mentionning the 1983 version which I just ordered and I already feel sure that it must be the best – already because it is more than 3 hours long. Until now, my preference was the 1999 version – the actors were splendid. But after having just finished the novel, I see that some liberties were taken. In the 2007 version, it is a great shame that you do not learn much or anything at all about Fanny’s social background and that ruins it for me.

      Reply
  2. I really love the 1999 version apart from the scene were Fanny suddenly accepts the proposal of Mr. Crawford – what is that about? It almost ruins the film for a Jane Austen geek as myself.

    Reply
  3. Recently I was reading an introduction to Persuasion, printed by The Modern Library. In this introduction, the writer makes reference to Fanny Price accepting Henry Crawford’s offer of marriage in the novel Mansfield Park. I suspect the writer watched the 1999 movie version and thought “Oh, she accepted!” I gulped when I read this, because I have read Mansfield Park numerous times and could not remember that happening. I just wonder how many high school students fell into the same trap. You have to read the novel if you want to know what the novel is all about. And by the way, so many writers say Fanny Price is boring. I disagree. She will always be sweet, dear, and very lovable to me.

    Reply
    • Yeah, that is very possible they made that mistake by watching the movie. Sometimes it is easy, over time, to start combining books and adaptations together in one’s mind. I love the book and love Fanny. She’s lovable to me too and relatable.

      Reply
  4. I was hoping you would’ve reviewed the 1983 BBC mini series as well. I didn’t know about the 2007 adaptation. I’m reading M.P. at the moment, and have the 1983 one ready for when I’ve finished. I’ve heard it’s the closest to the book.

    Reply

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