donderdag 27 mei 2010
Patricia Rozema is the award-winning Toronto director and adapter/screenwriter of the 1999 film Mansfield Park. She also wrote the HBO version of Grey Gardens (I loved that! Didn't you?). I was completely captivated by Patricia's Mansfield Park when I watched it this month as part of my immersion in all things Jane. The protagonist in this story is Fanny Price, a highly moral and intellectually gifted girl who is sent from her poor family to live with her rich relations at Mansfield Park. She is treated as less-than-equal by everyone in the family, save for her cousin Edmund, a kindred spirit who shares her interest in literature. The CBC Book Club tracked Patricia down to ask her several questions about her film, Fanny Price and what she's working on now.
Q.: A decade ago, your adaptation of Mansfield Park was a part of the explosion of Hollywood interest in Jane Austen. You wrote and directed Mansfield Park. What drew you so strongly to this book?
A: First and most importantly, the plight of the main character -- her status as an outsider moved me. Then, I was interested in how different this novel was from the others. What was going through Austen's mind when she wrote it? It's so much more grave and engaged with issues of morality than the previous ones to that point. Then I read a couple of academic essays which suggested that this book was something of a meditation on the ideas of captivity and is born from a position of anger about the treatment of people as property. Then I read about the fact that the slavery issue was HUGE at the time of writing, raging in every wealthy home, and there was a court battle that resulted in something called the Mansfield Judgment -- the first case that restricted slavery in England. It was part of the public discourse of the time. And there were a few mentions of Austen loving a favourite abolitionist writer of the time. All these things together made me think I could engage with one of the greatest writers in English on one of her most unusual novels about something deeply important. I felt like I could make something new and add to our perception of Austen in an authentic way.
Q: In your film adaptation of Mansfield Park, you have Fanny Price speak to the camera, directly to the audience. Why did you do this?
A: I've always been interested in direct-to-camera address -- I love the intimacy of it. I think it replicates, to some extent, the intimacy of a writer and a reader. Film is about intimacy.
iage is indeed a maneuvering business," Fanny says in one of her letters to her sister. Is that still true for women today?
A: I think marriage was especially complicated in Austen's day because women really had no power. So all their freedom in the world was dependent on their husband's wealth and goodwill. Having your financial and social status depend on the mercurial nature of love required extraordinary...maneuvering. I included that quote because Jane Austen never married and was entirely dependent on the goodwill and charity of her brother. She was terrified of poverty and clearly had a taste for the finer things. I found it all rich and complicated territory.
Q: What do you think about YouTube and the fact that Mansfield Park is viewable online?
A: Hmmm, I struggle with it. I want people to see my work but also wouldn't mind being able to send my kids to whatever school is best for them. Difficult.
Austen werd geboren in Hampshire. Haar vader was een geestelijke. Het grootste deel van haar leven bleef zij in haar geboortestreek. Austen had zes broers en een oudere zuster, Cassandra, met wie zij zeer hecht was. Het enige onbetwiste portret van Jane Austen is een gekleurde schets die door Cassandra werd gemaakt en nu in de National Portrait Gallery in Londen hangt. In 1801 verhuisde de familie naar Bath. In 1802 werd Austen ten huwelijk gevraagd door de rijke Harris Bigg-Wither en zij stemde toe; de volgende dag deelde ze echter mee dat zij haar woord niet kon houden en trok haar instemming in. De reden hiervoor is niet bekend, maar Austen is nooit getrouwd. Na de dood van haar vader in 1805 woonden Jane, haar zuster en haar moeder daar nog verscheidene jaren tot zij in 1809 naar Chawton verhuisden. Hier had haar rijke broer Edward een landgoed met een plattelandshuisje, dat hij aan zijn moeder en zusters schonk (dit huis is tegenwoordig open voor het publiek). Zelfs nadat zij naam gemaakt had als romanschrijfster bleef zij in relatieve stilte leven, maar haar gezondheid ging sterk achteruit. Er wordt nu aangenomen dat zij de ziekte van Addison had, waarvan toen de oorzaak nog onbekend was. Ze reisde naar Winchester om behandeling te zoeken, maar stierf daar en werd begraven in de kathedraal.
Tot Austens beroemdste werk behoort de roman Emma. Het boek wordt vaak aangehaald vanwege de perfectie van vorm. Moderne critici blijven ook nieuwe perspectieven ontdekken op het scherpe commentaar van Austen betreffende de klasse van jonge, ongehuwde, aristocratische Engelse vrouwen in de vroege 19e eeuw.