I'll admit it. I'm a Jane Austen snob. I've read her books. Some more than once. I consider myself an educated fan. However, I'm not an expert. I'm not claiming to know all the dialogue by heart, nor all the details of Austen's life without looking at the timeline. But I know how to read, and what the screenwriters are doing to her books makes me cringe.
So far, they have shown, on Masterpiece Classic, three adaptations of Jane Austen Novels. Persuausion, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park. Persuasion was forgivable. A few details were left out, but this was because of time. However, the character of Ann was solid and obviously well-researched (meaning, the screenwriters must have read the book! Imagine that!). Northanger Abbey was brilliant. It matched all the high points of the book; the character of Katherine was perfectly brought to life, and Mr. Tilney? Perfection. I thought it was very well done. Mansfield Park? I was highly disappointed. To be sure, it must be hard to adapt such a long novel to the big screen for only an hour and a half. I forgave a few things --the lack of society, Julia (she was hardly there!), and the dance Fanny was given (there was no picnic! Where do they come up with these things?), the man who actually suggested the play (it wasn't Tom's idea), the lack of details in the storyline, etc. but what I couldn't forgive? The interpretation on Fanny's character.
Fanny Price was not all giggles, and let-down hair. She was a shy and nervous creature, kind --to be sure! --but not prone to act like the child she did in the movie. It was like they were trying to make her all "Disney" --full of independence and gusto, but the giggling imaturity of a spoiled princess. It was weird. Did they even read the book? Did they see how she behaved? In fact, when reading the book, when we get to the end and Edmund finally realizes he does love her (although the book makes it seem he's finally "settling"), we don't feel very happy for Fanny. If anything, I think most would agree that she'd probably be better off being alone. Ah. But there you go, you can't put that in a movie, can you?
I had a thought:
Kiera Knightley once said (basically) that people saw Elizabeth Bennet as their own, and would be upset with anybody else's interpretation. She, of course, was speaking about her role in the new Pride and Prejudice movie. I understood her point. But I think she was wrong. Jane Austen wrote the words down. She described her characters in such detail that it left very little room for imagination (except for mayber hair and eye color, but even then she sometimes provided those details!). These characters do exist, most completeley in these novels, and for anybody to take them, strip them to their own "interpretation" is like telling Jane Austen what she wrote wasn't good enough. How cruel to take something so perfected and twist it around for a quick movie. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Okay, now that it's said, I will say this. The movies, standing alone as intriguing storylines are very good. I have nothing against the entertainment value, the acting, or the costuming (although, please put up Fanny's hair next time! She looks 10 years old!). It's only when comparing them to the original books that I get all huffy. In fact, I will admit it, but I'm sure I'll watch Persuasion and Mansfield Park again. I may even like them. [Just remind me not to think of the original sources as I do!]