Bringing Jane Austen to the 21st Century
Kaitlin Saunders: A Modern Day Persuasion

“She is tolerable, I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me.”

Posted by Kaitlin Saunders in Blog on March 9, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen!

According to the survey results from my website, the majority of voters believe that Pride and Prejudice has the best film adaptation to date. This I would agree to, yet I have to ask—which one? There have been so many great actors and actresses that have dared to fill the shoes of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.

There’s the 1980′s mini-series (my mother’s favorite) which showcases a sharp and beautiful Elizabeth but a rather stiff Mr. Darcy.  Although not as masterfully crafted in comparison to what BBC is now capable of doing, this version still ranks as one of the best.

Next is the 1995 mini-series starring Jennifer Ehle and the now uber-famous Colin Firth.  This five hour adaptation, written by the legendary Andrew Davies, does wonders in bringing the book to life, staying so closely in tune with the story that it could almost be considered educational.

Mrs. Bennett gives her daughters the scoop!

And lastly, we must consider Keira Knightley’s take on Elizabeth in the 2005 film directed by Joe Wright.

Picturesque and beautifully filmed, the acting is superb and this adaptation attempts to portray the differences in wealth and station more closely than others. Yet if one has not read the original novel or watched any of the prior adaptations, this version may leave newcomers feeling somewhat lost and confused. Still one of my favorites (I personally believe Matthew Macfadyen did a wonderful job playing Mr. Darcy—don’t tell my husband this though!), I have to say it lacks in comparison to the complete package of the 1995 mini-series. I recommend that you check all three out and form your own opinion. You can pick up the 1980′s version at your local library—and it’s definitely worth sitting down for.

In reference to the other Austen film adaptations, Mansfield Park, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Northanger Abbey, allow me to say a few words about them as well. Over the next few weeks, I’ll give you my critical review of each version, starting with Mansfield Park which I’ve included below.

Mansfield Park has not been represented well on screen whatsoever. Although this love story is one of my personal favorites, I would feel quite differently if judging solely from the film adaptations—which leaves no mystery as to why this story is not as popular as the rest of Jane’s novels.

First there was the 1983 mini-series. Although this stays close to the original plot, the acting is its downfall—particularly the casting of Fanny. Although I have enjoyed Susan Edmonstone in other BBC projects, Susan must have either misinterpreted Fanny’s character or was ill-directed in her portrayal.  Susan’s take makes Fanny appear uptight, spiteful, and sometimes rude—so unlike the Fanny from the novel.

Edmund and Fanny

Then there was the 1999 version which I referenced in a previous post as an adaptation that would make Jane roll over in her grave.  Straying from the plot in ways you’d much rather be spared, this version was a major letdown.

Honestly not worth watching.

And then let’s not forget the newest 2007 release.

So far the only really worth watching!

Although delightful in a few ways, the amount of cleavage will make you squirm. Not only that, but once again Fanny was miscast, being played by Billie Piper. Billie, though beautiful and popular in the UK, brought a new element to Fanny—impishness. This new slightly vixen quality made it unbelievable that Edmund would have taken so long in viewing Fanny as more than just a “kid sister” and friend. So you see, my tasters have yet to be satisfied with a Mansfield Park that I can stand by and fully recommend. Speaking of which, can I share with you a little dream I have? One day, I would like to have a hand in bringing about a mini-series of Mansfield Park that would finally do Jane’s story justice…and who knows…stranger things have happened!

Adieu for now my friends,

Kaitlin

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