Mansfield Park, the novel by Jane Austin, will be 200 years old on May 9. In celebration, I am reviewing as many spinoffs and DVDs as I can find, and today I am reviewing the second DVD, based on a screenplay by Patricia Rozema, who also directed the shooting.
Fanny is not the Fanny written by Jane Austen. The basic plot elements are the same, and the three interlocking love triangles are still there: Fanny-Edmond-Crawford, Edmond-Mary-Fanny and Maria-Rushworth-Crawford. But Fanny becomes a combination of the Fanny of the original Mansfield Park and Jane Austin herself. She is a storyteller and writer, and many of the lines she is given were actually written by Jane Austen, in the juvenalia as well as the novels.
Ms. Rozema’s research into Jane Austen also turned up the fact that she greatly admired abolitionist writings. The original Mansfield Park has several veiled references to slavery, which was the ultimate source of the wealth Sir Thomas derived from his estates on Antigua. Ms. Rozema has brought the problem of slavery to the foreground of her adaptation, and made it the source of all the problems Sir Thomas has with his children.
As an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (which I like as it is) this did not work for me. As an independent movie looking at the interrelationship between the horrors of slavery (some of which are portrayed in Tom’s sketchbook) and the wealth of the landed gentry of England, it is excellent. But it is not Mansfield Park.