Adapting Fanny Price

Andrew Davies, who has successfully adapted Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, and Northanger Abbey, has stated that he will never adapt Mansfield Park. And who can blame him? There have been three adaptations of Mansfield Park and none of them really succeed.

In 1983, the BBC produced a miniseries adaptation.

This Fanny Price, in my opinion, is a pretty fair adaptation of the one in the novel.  And I do like Nicholas Farrell as Edmund. Unfortunately, the whole thing tends to be a tad soporific.  Watch this one if you are suffering from insomnia.

In 1999, Patricia Rozema tried her hand at Mansfield Park

This is an interesting movie, but so not Mansfield Park. The director admitted to creating a new Fanny, one whom she insists includes elements of Jane Austen. Rozema’s Fanny is a writer if that’s what she means. Most of the rest seems to be solely a construct of Ms. Rozema’s imagination. What this adaptation has going for it (in my opinion, anyway) is Jonny Lee Miller as Edmund.  I’ll pretty much watch anything with JLM in it.

Most recently, ITV produced an adaptation, televised in 2007.

I’m a huge Jane Austen fan but I must admit to not watching this adaptation in its entirety. I have no idea who this Fanny Price is, giggling and running around Mansfield Park with her hair down.   This not my Fanny Price and I’m pretty sure it’s not Jane Austen’s either.

What’s so hard about adapting Fanny? Here’s what I think. Fanny Price is the strong, moral center of this book, but she doesn’t have much of a character arc. The Fanny Price who finally wins and marries the man she loves is pretty much the Fanny Price who came to Mansfield Park as a child. The other characters change around her or not (*ahem* Mrs. Norris), but Fanny remains stalwart and true.

What do you think? Is there a way to adapt Fanny without changing her? Do you have a favorite adaptation?  Want to take a stab at one?

About Myretta

Myretta is a founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a major Jane Austen destination on the web. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website, www.myrettarobens.com and on Twitter @Myretta.
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7 Responses to Adapting Fanny Price

  1. Laura says:

    I have seen all three films over the years and think that for me Billie Piper’s Fanny comes close as to how I would imagine Fanny to be age wise and character wise if a little t0o giggly. I mean I could not imagine Fanny without a sense of humor if she was happy. Ms. Rozema’s Fanny Price, has some good ideas but she is not very timid and a little more brazen. The first one was a little too quiet for me.

  2. Janice says:

    I’d show both Fanny’s affectionate nature and her strength of character. Fanny is the soul of passive resistance – no matter what pressure is brought to bear on her, she never does something she feels is not right. I would show the pressure and the resistance and the willingness to stick to her beliefs of right and wrong no matter how she suffers for it. I would also show the loneliness of being the only clear-sighted person in the family – two weak aunts, oblivious uncle, airhead female cousins, louche older male cousin – even Edmund, who has shown moral and ethical beliefs before, falls for a selfish lightweight. Yet Fanny is not strident, nasty or judgmental — she is grateful for what they’ve given her and helpful when she can be. People nowadays think she’s a nothing because she doesn’t fall into bed with Henry, or Edmund, or *somebody*, but she’s not. I see her struggle as being one of resisting pressure from clueless people she loves to do things she knows will end badly and cause her to lose self respect. It takes tremendous inner strength to resist oppression from people one loves. So I hope they show her inner strength.

    • Vivek Tandon says:

      I agree with Janice.
      Fanny is also resisting oppression from people who in important ways hold her very future in their hands: and who are considered by the world (basically even by herself!) to be greatly her ‘superiors’.
      She shows rare strength of character. It’s a very difficult character to portray: someday a rare director, equal to the task, will do it

  3. I think I’m the only person out there who loved Frances O’Connor as Fanny Price and OMG Alessandro Nivola and Embeth Davidtz as the wicked Crawfords. But then I think it’s Austen sexiest book.

    I didn’t like Billie Piper too much. Too bouncy and Billie Piper-ish.

  4. Elena Greene says:

    I haven’t seen the 83 version but the S&S version from that era was a snooze, so I’m not in a rush to see it. Maybe sometime.

    Of the two I’ve seen, I’m with Janet. I like the 1999 version, though as a film, not as a faithful adaptation.

    I think Janice has some good thoughts on how to portray Fanny. I also think Fanny comes into her strength as the story goes on, although that strength was always there.

  5. Michelle says:

    Timely post for me to read, as I’ve just started reading Mansfield Park for the first time.

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