Posted by Peggy Haley on August 30, 1997 at 04:24:46:
In reply to I watched Emma2 again (long post alert) posted by Kathy F. on August 29, 1997 at 19:02:52
Oops! I'm new to the board, and I inadvertantly clicked on "submit" before posting. Sorry!
I found Kathy F.'s posting very interesting , and something of a relief as well. The feature film version of Emma was a *big* disappointment to me.(I just recently caught up with it on video.) What I'd like to know is if there are any other lovers of the novel out there, who agree with me that it really doesn't lend itself to film adaptation? I've only seen Emmas 2 and 3, but neither was even close to being satisfactory IMO.
Has anyone here seen the films first, then gone back and read the book? I'd be interested in your impressions. My feeling is that you'd be in for a rude shock, especially the Emma 2 lovers. IMO, Emma is one of Austen's most stringent books, and even though she shows affection for her heroine, she is unsparing in exposing Emma's wrong-headedness and pretensions. Someone posted that this is one of the most dialogue-dense of Austen's novels, but my feeling is that most of the book really takes place *in Emma's thoughts*. This is very hard to show onscreen. McGrath's version barely attempted it, and Emma 3 used a rather bizarre dream motif to get around it. So neither one was really able to get to the heart of the character. As a result, they sell the novel short. This is so much more than a comedy of marriages. The "book" Emma is misguided by her arrogance in ways that cause real pain, real harm, well beyond her loss of favor in Knightley's eyes. She is shamed - and she should be. Paltrow's Emma gets off with a mere slap on the wrist, and suffers very little; the focus is all on *her* feelings toward Knightley, and not nearly enough on her humbling with respect to Jane Fairfax and Miss Bates. This typifies the whole of Emma 2, which to me, has all the moral and dramatic heft of a paperback Regency romance. Emma 3 is *slightly* more thoughtful, but still misses out. I also found it rather drab and boring.
I suspect that McGrath's movie was made with an eye to an American audience - why else cast an American actress, why try to jazz things up with snappy and anachronistic one-liners, and "dumb down" the dialogue? "Dear Diary," indeed! Emma 3 is simply a TV film, with all the limitations that that implies.
One reason Emma 2 lacked dramatic tension was that the whole Churchill/Fairfax subplot got such short shrift. If I hadn't read the book, I doubt I would have understood completely just what had gone on. Yet that part of the story displays everything that's wrong with Emma, and without it, her moral awakening becomes rather meaningless. Paltrow's Emma is just a silly misguided girl; the real Emma is a genuine mischief-maker. Did McGrath hesitate to make his heroine look too bad? (Plus, Ewan McGregor was horribly miscast, and what was with that hair?)
Of all the Austen adaptations I've seen, the best by far IMO was Sense and Sensibility. And that was primarily due to the overwhelming talent of Emma Thompson. She streamlined the dialogue without making it clash with the period setting; she took a book which is much stodgier than Emma, and made it live. Her Elinor was so real and sympathetic that I had no trouble with the fact that the character was *supposed* to be much younger. Ang Lee, too, in resisting the urge to make things too pretty, was in the true Austen spirit. This isn't Georgette Heyer.
A final Emma 2 query: Did anyone *not* see the eventual union between Emma and Knightley coming, almost from their first scenes together? The way it dawned upon me while reading was one of the most delightful surprises the book had to offer. Moviegoers, you were robbed!
All just my opinions, of course. Any other novel lovers out there?
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