Sunday, January 07, 2007

Emma (1996)

This adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma for ITV squeezes Austen’s longest book into a two-hour drama and manages to do it rather well. If it does not sparkle in the manner of Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion that is mainly to do with the plot and manner of the book as on the surface nothing dramatic happens. It is essentially a story of village life centred around a spoilt, snobbish and headstrong young woman and none of the characters, bar Mr Knightley and the Westons, are particularly likeable.

The rustic nature of the novel is clear from the opening shot of the theft of chickens, the comedy of which is followed by some delightful comedic small talk about boiled eggs and apple tart. There is also more comedy in Emma’s imagined marriage sequences. Class and snobbery are made much of in this adaptation and Emma’s snobbery is reflected in a more vulgar fashion in Mrs Elton, which appals her. The tension about class and a good match in Emma and Harriet’s friendship for example both underline the rustic setting but also undermine the sense of its’ unchanging nature since class boundaries are shifting.

Davies manages to get the essence of the characters across in his dialogue, though at times the more emotionally intense scenes towards the end seem rushed. Prunella Scales is superb as the garrulous Miss Bates while Raymond Coulthard is deviously charming as Frank Churchill. My favourite character was always Jane Fairfax, who is played with discretion by Olivia Williams. Kate Beckinsdale is good as the scheming Emma who eventually sees the error of her meddling ways and Mark Strong is a brotherly and stern Mr Knightley. However, I always found the novel rather passionless and I think this adaptation reflects that.

Directed – Diarmuid Lawrence
Writing credits – Jane Austen (novel) Andrew Davies
Producer – Sue Birtwistle

Kate Beckinsale – Emma Woodhouse
Mark Strong – Mr. Knightley
Samantha Morton – Harriet Smith
Prunella Scales – Miss Bates
Raymond Coulthard – Frank Churchill

Buy in UK


Blogger Traxy said...

Yeah, I agree. Even though I think Jeremy Northam is lush, I prefer Mark Strong's portrayal of him, and Kate Beckinsale's Emma feels a lot more... well... genuine?

3:20 PM  

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