Austen for Beginners

Film/TV adaptations - Emma


Emma on TV
Emma (2009) - BBC

Romola Garai   Jonny Lee Miller

Starring Romola Garai as Emma and Jonny Lee Miller as Mr Knightley (both pictured above). Also featuring Michael Gambon as Mr Woodhouse, Louise Dylan as Harriet Smith and Tamsin Greig as Miss Bates.

Broadcast in the UK in October 2009 on BBC One. 

Austen for Beginners verdict: Very pretty to look at, but there doesn't seem to be much of Austen's original dialogue left. I would say that it would give beginners a reasonable idea of the story, but it's an interpretation rather than being true to the original novel. Lots of extra scenes that aren't in the novel, and lots of the novel has been left out. 

mma - a tale of two movies....

Yes, there are two movies of Emma, both released around the same time and causing a lot of confusion! Austen fans are generally divided between those that favour the Kate Beckinsale version and those that prefer the Gwyneth Paltrow movie. But they are both good and it doesn't matter which one you start with....

Emma (1996)

Pictured above (left to right) are Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma, Jeremy Northam as Mr Knightley, Toni Collette as Harriet Smith, Phyllida Law as Mrs Bates and Sophie Thompson as Miss Bates.

Starred Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma and Jeremy Northam as Mr Knightley. Directed by Douglas McGrath who also wrote the screenplay. Very successful film which included some excellent supporting performances including Sophie Thompson as Miss Bates. Also watch out for Ewan Macgregor as Frank Churchill - a most odd piece of casting which most observers are agreed didn't work too well.

Austen for Beginners opinion: Loved the film although it does waver a bit from the book - not much of Jane Austen's dialogue survives. Perhaps a bit too light and amusing - the novel is neither of these things. But it makes the novel very accessible to those who haven't read it before. My favourite bit is Sophie Thompson's performance as Miss Bates - it is just wonderful.

Available in both Region 1 (North America) and Region 2 (Europe) formats.

For other regions check out the Austen for Beginners Store
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Emma (TV movie, 1996 [UK], 1997 [US])

Pictured above (left to right): Kate Beckinsale as Emma, Mark Strong as Mr Knightley, Samantha Morton as Harriet Smith (with Beckinsale) and Samantha Bond as Miss Taylor/Mrs Weston (with Beckinsale).

The rival production was produced for ITV (and the A&E network in the US) in the same year as the mainstream big-name movie, and suffered as a consequence. But it had a great cast in its own right and the screenplay was written by Andrew Davies (who wrote the script for the famous 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice).  Kate Beckinsale starred as Emma, with Samantha Morton as Harriet Smith and Samantha Bond as Mrs Weston.  Prunella Scales was rather oddly cast as Miss Bates but gave a great performance. Mark Strong played  Mr Knightley.

Austen for Beginners opinion: Another great adaptation and truer to the novel than the Paltrow movie. It was a great shame that they were released so close together as I think this version deserved to be much more popular than it was. Not to be overlooked.

Available in both Region 1 (North America) and Region 2 (Europe) formats.

For other regions, check out the Austen for Beginners store
(click on the flag at the top of the green column on the left of this page)

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