Masterpiece Theatre’s production of Mansfield Park

As I told Floyd yesterday, Masterpiece Theatre's productions of Austen's works are one of the few joys in my life right now. So maybe that is a gross exaggeration given all the things that I'm filling my days with, but it is true that rereading Austen and watching the latest BBC productions have given me great joy during the past few weeks. I have always loved Austen but have never considered reading all of her works in succession as I am now. I have about fifty more pages left in Northanger Abbey—which I find tiresome right now because Catherine is really so silly(!). Then, I'll set off to reread Mansfield Park.

I enjoyed Sunday's BBC Production of Mansfield Park. Mansfield Park has to be one of my favorite Austen books (after Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion). I like its treatment of social climbing and (minor) descent and the sweet love story between Fanny and Edmund. My only complaint was that the first portion of the film seemed to be lacking something—though I still can't quite figure out what. I would assume that this sentiment just relates to the absence of the full character and story development that are found in the book. I'm sure that the other problem is that beyond comparing the production to the book, I also tend to compare the current production to the previous BBC version I've seen.

Nevertheless, the setting, costumes, and characterizations were solid, though David Weigand of the San Francisco Chronicle was less than happy with the portrayal of Fanny. Indeed, I was troubled by her appearance. I would have imagined a plainer and less wild (as in her hair) Fanny in comparison to her fair cousins. Though she did look familiar, I wouldn't have guessed that Billie Piper, who played Fanny, is a former pop star.

I'm sorry for being so redundant in my posts regarding the new Austen productions. I promise that I will have something new to say about Sunday's show—Jane Austen Regrets—which is a new story based on the author's life.

Postscript (1/31/08): After watching the second showing on Thursday, I think I figured out what was unsettling about the production. The music, camera angles and general direction make some scenes seem really soap-opera-ish. That makes it entertaining but more overly dramatic that I'd have liked.

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