Mansfield Park as told by Patricia Rozema is a little different to Mansfield Park as told by Jane Austen. In this colourful film, we are introduced to a version of Jane Austen’s gentle novel that contains a family involved in the slave industry (something that is clear, rather than implied), detailed illustrations of rape and torture, and a rather strong sex scene. Austen purists may deem this as nothing less than criminal damage to a delicate and sweet book.
Some may argue that the reinterpretation of this text is more than just a reinterpretation, but the main plot line, most of the characters and the general idea of the book still remains. And I must confess, I love the film to bits. Even though the very free attitude to Austen’s book was something to get used to, the key reason for this free-plotting was clear: not that much happens in the book.
Frances O’Connor is marvellous as the heroin taken in by icy relatives who make it very clear that the charity they bestow on her is resented. Austen’s irony is brought brilliantly to life and, at times improved upon, with clever moments of humour amidst the darker periods. For me the film is a success and an inspired fresh take on a classic novel, rather than a violent vandalising of something pure and innocent. See it and cherish it.
Mansfield Park (1999), directed by Patricia Rozema, is distributed on DVD in the UK by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures UK, Certificate 15.