This BBC production, set in the small town of Highbury depicts the often hilarious attempts of Miss Emma Woodhouse to make proper marital matches for all of her friends. Though often ... See full summary »
This BBC production, set in the small town of Highbury depicts the often hilarious attempts of Miss Emma Woodhouse to make proper marital matches for all of her friends. Though often mistaken in her judgement, she is counseled and criticised by her neighbor and brother-in-law, the wise Mr. Knightley whose attentions to her are motivated by more than brotherly love. Written by
Teresa B. O'Donnell <email@example.com>
The characters are seen playing cards with a modern deck of cards that show both the suit symbol (hearts, clubs, spades, clubs) and a number on each corner. During the time period the movie was set in, playing cards did not show the number of the card in the corners. See more »
I have seen each of the three main video versions of Emma (this 1972 BBC version, the Kate Beckinsale version, and the Paltrow version) several times (as well as having read the book) and I love each of them. It is so rare to get gentle, subtle, nuanced psychological drama, that I find I turn to Emma again and again. I think which one you enjoy most on a particular afternoon or evening will depend on your mood. The Paltrow version is lightest and funniest, entertainment to cheer you up; the Beckinsale version engages you as a serious drama of a beautiful young woman, is the most realistic, it is what you want if you want to feel transported back to the time the story happened. This 1972 version's strength is that it presents the psychological complexity of the characters with more fidelity and completeness to the portrayals in the novel. Due to the early 1970s production values, this version appears a bit stagy, and that can be off-putting if you've never seen that kind of TV before (I am a little over 50, so I remember seeing these kinds of productions when they originally aired, which may make it easier for me to get past the artificiality). One problematic element for me is that the actress who plays Emma is about 6 years too old, and she is not as attractive as Beckinsale or Paltrow, and these factors were a problem for me on my first viewing of this version. However, on second and subsequent viewings this was not so much of an issue, and I was able to appreciate her very nuanced portrayal of Emma's feelings and reactions and the process of learning more about human nature, and about the limitations of her own ability to imagine what the hidden feelings are of other people. Also, it took a second and third viewing to realize that the character of Emma's father, as presented here, is a comic character, because here, in a novel which is so much about weddings, he always finds weddings a distressing and melancholy business. His toast to the engaged couples in the very last scene (a toast not in the book) is a humorous reversal of the praise and delight for matrimony we expect. Another element that comes out in this version is the similarity between Emma's father, an invalid who always wants his daughter Emma by his side and who opposes the idea of her marrying, and Frank Churchill's step-mother, Mrs. Churchill, who is also an invalid who always wants her stepson Frank by her side and opposes the idea of his marrying. It always used to bother me that invalid Mrs. Churchill, who is so important to the story, never makes an appearance in the story, until I realized that, in effect, she had: she is the female version of Emma's father, and everything you want to know about her, you may find in him. The negative attitude of the characters towards her is likely the same negative attitude they would have towards him, if he lived far away and all they knew about him was that he used his claims of illness to keep his daughter close. The very last scene of this version also develops a similarity in the personalities of Emma and Frank that is missing from the other versions and that is necessary, I think, to understand just how psychologically complex Austen's novel really is.
A very refreshing thing about all versions of Emma is that every character is genuinely good-hearted and wants good for the other characters, but their own quirks, self-centeredness, and inability to understand other people means they cause pain to each other despite their good intentions. The only exception to this is Elton, who justly feels that Emma misled him about her affections in her attempt to unite him to Harriet, and in unjust retaliation he snubs Harriet on one occasion. The characters' ability to find happiness depends not on whether they defeat some unrealistic 'bad guy,' but on their ability to learn more about the true understanding of what others feel, and what they feel themselves. That's what the art of story-making should focus on, in whatever form (book, movie, TV, or stage) the story is told.
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