Mansfield Park, a romantic movie directed by Patricia Rozema, was released in 1999 and is one of the very latest amongst the countless motion picture adaptations based on Jane Austen’s novels.
|Starring||:||Frances O’Connor, James Purefoy|
Fanny Price (played by Frances O’Connor), at the age of 10, is obliged to leave her relatively poor parents who finds it difficult to support their large family, and goes to live at the “Mansfield Park”, the home of her wealthy uncle Sir Thomas Bertram. Fanny is sent by her mother to the care of her two elder sisters: Lady Bertram and Mrs. Norris, who also lives in the vicinity of “Mansfield Park”. From the start, Fanny feels like an intruder and her aunt Norris and her cousins Thomas, Maria and Julia treats her in such a way as never to let her forget that she is dependent on them. Only Sir Thomas’s second son Edmund behaves kindly and it is with him that Fanny slowly develops a bond of friendship and love.
When Fanny is eighteen, Sir Thomas starts facing problems related to his business in Antigua and leaves England with his eldest son to resolve the same. In his absence, Henry and Mary Crawford, relatives of the local clergyman, arrives and soon befreinds the young Bertrams. Mary and Henry, good looking, rich, fasionable and well-versed with the world, changes the life at “Mansfield Park” with their charms.
While Edmund falls for Mary, Henry is coveted by both Maria and Julia, though Maria is engaged with stupid but rich Mr. Rushworth; however, Henry doesn’t care about this. Tom comes back and brings a friend with him, who infects them all with the stage fever and together the young crowd decides to stage a drama in the house. Suitably, the play is “Lovers vows” and allows everyone an excuse to openly flirt with one another, much to the detestation of Fanny.
But Sir Thomas comes home, just when Henry and Maria are playing lovers with much more feeling than would be required in acting the part, that too in front of her fiance; and puts an end to the business. Maria rushes into marriage with Rushworth for the sake of his money and independence and leaves her home, taking Julia with him. Henry Crawford decides to persue Fanny now as he is left with no other amusement, but soon he discovers Fanny’s virtues and finds himself getting emotionally attached to her. But Fanny, who has been observing his behavior to her cousins, does not trust him. And when Henry asks Sir Thomas for her hand in marriage, she remains firm in her denial, even to the displeasure of sir Thomas, who sends her back to her poor family hoping that when faced with the discomforts of that home, she would agree to marry Henry Crawford.
At home, she bonds with her sister Susie, who has been her regular correspondent throughout her stay at “Mansfield Park”. Henry is still persuing Fanny, and Fanny almost makes a decision in his favor when Edmund writes to her that –Mary is the only woman in the world that he can think of as his wife-, but her love for Edmund and her distrust for Henry wins, and she continues in her denial. By this time, Edmund comes to take Fanny back to help in looking after Tom, who is on his deathbed.
One night, while attending Tom, Fanny accidently walks on Henry and Maria, busy making love to each other; Edmund also arrives and witnesses the scene while Maria confesses to him about her guilt. Edmund goes back to Fanny to console her, and caught up in the moment, almost kisses her but soon pulls away. As the new of the scandle spreads, Mary proposes a plan that, Maria should marry Henry after divorce and she would marry Edmund; and as Tom is dying, Edmund is going to inherit his father’s property and by throwing a few lavish parties, they would make everyone accept Maria back in the society. Seeing her so cheerfully wishing Tom’s death and building her future on it, Edmund is appalled and disgusted. The spell is broken and he asks her to leave.
And at last, as time heals the wounds, everyone gets their share of either love or solitude, happiness or sorrow and things end on a good note for Fanny.
The movie differs from the novel and introduces / reorganizes many events like Sir Thomas’s business in Antigua being slave-trading, Fanny’s finding a journal of Tom’s that depict the horrors of slave trade and its effect on his mind, Fanny and Edmund catching Maria and Henry, Julia receiving a love-letter from Yeats instead of eloping with him, Fanny’s letters to Susan (instead of her brother Wiliam, who is a very important character in the novel but is not present in the movie) that act as an important part of the story-telling in the film. And most importantly the character of Fanny herself, who is much stronger, less timid and outspoken than the novel. Also, she is made to resemble Jane Austen herself by her ability and inclination for writing stories. But in essence the movie brings to life the world that Jane Austen created in the novel, quite effectively.
A nicely portrayed love story in periodic setting of early 19th centruty England…Enjoy watching….