Monday, March 26, 2007

Mansfield Park (BBC 1986)

Captain’s Log, Supplemental

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Jane Austen miniseries

I love Jane Austen. She’s my favorite classic writer, and I even bought audiobooks of her novels and listen to them again and again.

I also love and visit my Gold Box every day (not that I buy that often). One day I had a deal for the entire set of DVDs of miniseries produced by BBC of Jane Austen’s novels.

No, I didn’t buy the set—but it made me curious, and so I put the miniseries on my Netflix queue. The miniseries are all rather old.

I just finished Mansfield Park. I’m quite divided on it.

Costumes: score 4. They were mostly really rather nice, appropriate to the character’s background and income, and not too flamboyant, although there were several places the women’s headgear was just way over the top.

Acting: score 4. I liked the actors quite a bit. I think they each played their parts very well, although there were a few moments in the later episodes where the actress who played Fanny seemed a bit out of character.

Camera/filming: score 2. I didn’t give it a 1 because there were a few scenes near the end of the miniseries that were rather well shot. On a whole, it was awful. The very first scene shows the camera panning in, and the shot jostles around like it’s being done on a home camcorder. Other scenes where the characters are walking or in a carriage are horrendous. I got terribly sick watching it. It gets better in later episodes, but the poor quality astounded me. How does BBC get away with such poor camera direction? This was appalling.

Musical score: score 3. Low budget, but well-performed with a minimum of instruments.

Script: score 4. To be honest, I wavered between a 3 and a 4 because the ending is even less romantic than the way it ends in Jane Austen’s novel. However, the whole has very good dialogue—mostly taken from the novel, but structured well in the scenes. The acting direction is also rather nice.

That gives an average score of 3.4 out of 5.

I heard from other reviewers that others of the miniseries are better done, so I’m still persevering in watching them all.

I think I must really be a Jane Austen nut to do this. I don’t know why I love her novels so much! My favorite is Persuasion, so I’m hoping that miniseries is better done.

I read in reviews that none of these compare to the 1995 BBC/A&E version of Pride and Prejudice. LOVE that miniseries. I have the DVDs and play them way too often.

(On a side note, I enjoyed watching this version of Mansfield Park while knitting, partly because I could look at my knitting so I didn’t get motion sickness when the camera started jostling in certain scenes. Right now, I’m working on socks for Heather. I made them crew-length so hopefully she can wear it with her cowboy boots if she wants to.)


  1. Camy - if you are such a Jane Austen fan, have you ever tried Elizabeth Gaskell? The BBC's miniseries of her book North & South is fantastic. It is different to P & P as it is set in a northern working class town but is equally fabulous. Let me know if you check it out!

  2. The Pride and Prejudice that is in that BBC boxed set is truly horrendous IMO. I just couldn't STAND it. Probably why I never bothered renting any of the others...perhaps I should...?

    Completely agree with the above comment...Elizabeth Gaskell is WONDERFUL. The North & South miniseries is fantastic, it truly rivals the BBC/A&E Pride and Prejudice as my favorite. Also worth checking out is Gaskell's Wives & Daughters miniseries.

  3. I've never watched any of the BBC productions of Jane Austen novels. I've heard too many horrible reviews of them.

    Mansfield Park was the only Jane Austen novel that really disappointed me, so I probably wouldn't watch the movie anyway. I've considered reading it again to see if it improves on a second read, but there are just so many other works out there that I would rather commit my time to. I feel like I'm betraying Miss Austen to say it, but maybe I can redeem myself by coming back to P&P over and over again. :)

  4. Well I'm jealous! My favorite version of Pride & Prejudice is the A&E version too. Wish I had it dvd:)
    Have you ever read the Austen Series of books by Debra White Smith?
    She takes all Jane Austen's books and writes them in a modern setting....they're awesome! (in my opinion):)

  5. I love Jane Austen too. I've seen this mini-series and the truth is . . . it's just plain hard to put into a movie what you already have played so well in your head! Another reason I was dissapointed with "One Night with the King" . . . cause it didn't line up with what was in my mind's eye.
    Anywho . . . still love the story, still love the little escape that those BBC's do provide.

  6. Oh and just a heads up, Persuasion wasn't done much better. But I'm with you with Pride and Predjuduce . . . . own the DVD's myself.