Sunday, February 7, 2010

Emma - both book and new adaptation

I was listening to NPR one afternoon and a piece on blogging started. I snorted when the commentator said that blogs must "be kept up daily - it is a duty".

Duty my left foot - this is my first entry of 2010!

I am finding facebook a welcome way to keep up with friends and their thoughts/ideas. Still, I want to try to keep up with my blogging habit in some way and decided to re-read Emma (by Jane Austen) and give a critque.

To start, my first encounters with Emma were through film - "Clueless", "Emma" with Gwenth Paltrow, and "Emma" with Kate Beckensale. I liked the films - I found it a funny and well done plot. The character of Emma was so entirely stupid, she was charming.

When I began reading Emma, however, I found it less appealing. Unlike the other Jane Austen novels, there is more dialog. It almost reads like a script - two characters get a chapter and converse. Typical of Jane Austen, there is little description - one must create the setting and her language gives your mind ideas of a characters expression/posture.

The dialog itself would not be unappealing if it were not for characters like Miss Bates. Anytime she begins to speak it is best to skip ahead to where the quotes end. Jane Austen no doubt choose to "let" Miss Bates talk instead of perpetually saying that Miss Bates "went on and on about a topic that no one found particularly intersting and that she did not illumine so that it might be interesting."

I do feel for Miss Bates however - I fear I can be just as verbose and boring. My own mother said of my blog that "she could not read that much."

Then along came the new series on PBS. The first night I found a bit interesting - it gave a lot of unnecessary backstory. The backstory however brought up a lot of interesting character parallels. I never once considered that Emma, Frank Churchill, and Jane Fairfax grew up motherless. What that says of the rest of the novel, I do not know, but it was interesting that the new visual adapation made me ponder this fact.

The second night was slightly better - the story speed up, Emma (played by Rommola Garai) continued to charm. But I still was not totally engrossed.

The last night of the series just plain made me mad! There were additional scenes, conversations that never took place - it was sloppy. Not as bad as the recent version of Persuasion where Anne Elliot was a marathon runner at the end, but pretty darn close. I don't think Jane Fairfax and Emma Woodhouse would ever have a heart to heart about Frank's behavior - but there it was, bold as brass.

It stunk to high heaven.

And I was not sure what to make of Mr. Knightly and Emma looking at the white cliffs of Dover as they headed out on their honeymoon. It was odd.

I will say this about all adaptions of Emma - whoever they get to play Mrs. Elton is always DEAD ON. Perhaps because her character is such a, well, character, it is easy to portray. But even the costuming for her in the adaption was perfect - too much lace, ribbon, and ruffles. They even had her on a donkey. Priceless.

But a well played Mrs. Elton does not a good adapation of Emma make and I would suggest skipping it if you have not already.