Something I have recently spent a lot of time with is: Jane Austen. This is not really untypical for me. Nevertheless I haven’t felt so complete indulged in her works ever before. This might be the case since I am talking English all day long. Since I live in Germany this is indeed very rare. But I live together with a Chinese, a Serbian and a Ukranian girl right now and we use English as lingua franca. I even talk to my rabbits in English! I have done so before. One may say they grew up bilingual. ^^
Anyway, back to Austen. I have recently watched all four parts of the BBC miniseries “Emma” from 2009. I have written about it before but now that I watched it all I have a wish to say more about it. I believe to have notived a change from the first two part to the last two. The first two keep very close to the book and even one or two new scenes were invented. I rather liked these ideas although some of these new scenes were not really realistic. I mean, John Knightley and Isabella Woodhouse running and chasing each other in the garden? Common… John would never do so because he does not like any exercise and prefers to stay indoors. Just think of all his complaining about the Christmas party at the Westons! And Isabella, poor Isabella who is so anxious about her health would surely not run and scream about. For me this would seem out-of-character.
The second two parts then rushed through the rest of the book. Or did it just seem that way because of the abrupt cutting of the scenes? Imagine: 1. Hartfield, Emma and Mr Knightley plan on going to Box Hill with their friends. Cut. 2. Mrs Elton wants to take the planning of the Box Hill trip into her own hands. Cut. 3. Outside of Hartfield, Emma complains that Mr Weston invited Mrs Elton. Cut. 4. Randalls, Emma explaines that one of the Eltons’ horses is ill and they won’t be able to go to Box Hill and Mr Knightley invites them to pick strawberries in Donwell. Cut. etc etc. These scenes take up whole chapters in the book. I understand that they have to be reduced but the abruptness, the junping from Hartfield to Randalls to wherever may be a little bit to much.
Then, the Ball in the Crown Inn. This is usually my absolutely favourite scene! Mr Knightley offering Emma to dance with him.
Mr Knightley: “Whom are you going to dance with?”
Emma: “With you, if you are going to ask me.”
This time however I was a little bit disappointed. Romola Garai as Emma kept on jumping around and laughing with her mouth so wide open that a whole pidgeon could have flown into it! Why, where is there any sense of propriety or elegance? I’ve never seen such “wild” dancing in any “Emma” adaption before. It reminded me of the town ball scene at the very beginning of “Pride and Prejudice” with Keira Knightley, but this, it has to be said, was acceptable, since the Bennets were all in all not so very genteel and the contrast to the Bingleys’, Hurst’ and Mr Darcy was wanted.
And my heart ached while I saw Jonny Lee Miller dancing! Not because it was so bad, but because he kept smiling in this odd way, pressing his lips together and making his neck as stiff, as if he really were an old man. Indeed, the nearer I got to the end of the film, the more I felt reminded of Mr Knightleys age and the age difference between him and Emma. This left a sad aftertaste. I do not remember having such thoughts after seeing Jeremy Northam and Mark Strong perform this role.
Emma and Frank Churchill’s behaviour at the Box Hill picknick! I was horrified. I know that it has to be incorrect but this was over the top. Having Frank laying his head in Emmas lap and she cooing over him! And that Jane Fairfax was actually avoiding Mrs Elton’s offer of friendship and preferring Emma’s instead? Ahem… well films are interpretations.
All in all I do like the film. Do not get me wrong when I vented my small irritations. This film would still get a 8,5 out of 10. The film is long, keeps mostly close to the book, the costumes are in correspondence to the time (not as in the “Pride and Prejudice” adaption from 1940! I actually noticed Mr Darcy wearing a necktie with big smileys on them! And the costumes are in general nowhere near Regency…) and the cast is well chosen. I was especially delighted to see Tamsin Greig as Miss Bates who I know from her very funny performances in Green Wing and Black Books.