Monday, 15 October 2012

BBC Emma (2009)

picture from this site

This BBC adaptation of Jane Austen's "Emma" is a joy to watch from beginning to end. It is a fresh, delightful and more modern interpretation of the classic, but still maintaining a great deal of fidelity to the novel.

I find  this mini-series excelling in every department: cast, costumes, cinematography, screenplay, music... I strongly recommend buying it on Blu-ray as it is such a pleasure to admire the beautiful scenery, costumes and magnificent houses in stunning high definition (not to mention Emma's pretty face).

Moving on to the characters, I think Romola Garai plays an excellent Emma: beautiful, lively, charming, clever, witty, but also immature, inexperienced, meddling and rather snobbish. It is a delight to watch all her facial expressions showing her thoughts and emotions throughout the series as she progresses towards maturity and a better knowledge of herself.

Some reviewers have criticised this character as being more typical of the 21st century than of her own time. We should remember, however, that Emma is the daughter of a wealthy gentleman and mistress of her house and as such she might be forgiven for being a little more "liberal" and less guarded in her manner and behaviour if she wished to. She does not need to impress others or make sure that she is always on her best behaviour to attract a prospective husband; and neither does she have to think about entering high society since she has lived happily in Highbury all her life among the same sort of people.

Jonny Lee Miller makes a perfect Mr Knightley. He behaves like a true gentleman throughout the four episodes, not only showing his concern for the well-being of others but also criticising Emma's behaviour when he must, while also making it clear that despite her faults he has a great regard for her which goes beyond an apparent brotherly affection.

The rest of the cast also performs at a very high standard. I was pleasantly surprised to see so much chemistry between Frank Churchill (Rupert Evans) and Emma, even though I wanted her to pay attention to Mr Knightley, not Frank!

It is also a good thing that this version is considerably longer than the film adaptation with Gwyneth Paltrow as we get to see a lot more of the Knightley family and Robert Martin's relationship with Mr Knightley and Harriet Smith.

Though by no means perfect, I must conclude by saying that this is an excellent mini-series which will enchant and delight most viewers and I highly recommend it.

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