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17 November 2017 @ 02:45 pm
(1) It's amazing how much worse you can make Harriet's revelation to Emma in Chapter 47 by changing a single word...

Emma, the crackfic version

"I should not have thought it possible," she began, "that you could have misunderstood me! I know we agreed never to name him -- but considering how infinitely superior he is to every body else, I should not have thought it possible that I could be supposed to mean any other person. Mr. Frank Churchill, indeed! I do not know who would ever look at him in the company of the other. I hope I have a better taste than to think of Mr. Frank Churchill, who is like nobody by his side. And that you should have been so mistaken, is amazing! I am sure, but for believing that you entirely approved and meant to encourage me in my attachment, I should have considered it at first too great a presumption almost, to dare to think of him. At first, if you had not told me that more wonderful things had happened; that there had been matches of greater disparity (those were your very words); -- I should not have dared to give way to -- I should not have thought it possible -- But if you, who had been always acquainted with him -- "

"Harriet!" cried Emma, collecting herself resolutely -- "Let us understand each other now, without the possibility of farther mistake. Are you speaking of -- Mr.Woodhouse?"

(2) There is so much good about the 2009 BBC version of Emma* that I wish I could like it more than I do. Much is done well, but the things that are not successful really don't work for me at all, and unfortunately are so at the centre of the production that they can't be ignored.

The good:

- a Harriet Smith who looks the part completely, and who is for once shown not simply mistaken, but vain in her conviction of Mr Knightley's regard for him.

- Miss Bates portrayed as unbelievably annoying, but also with a good degree of tragedy.

- the houses are all just right (though Hartfield surely had rather more servants opening doors and less popping in and out of windows).

- a good ball at the Crown, which does Emma and Mr Knightley particularly well.

- showing how much Emma, for all her advantages, is trapped in Highbury by her father.

- the rounding out of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill's stories (and Mr Weston by extension) far more than other adaptations so that we can see the commonality of their situations that would bring them together.

- John and Isabella! For once we get a picture of them as a real part of Emma's family, not just a plot function. If only the actor playing John had been cast as George Knightley.

The bad:

- the script. About 30% of it is theoretically good, in that is Austen. Unfortunately the presence of actual Austen lines shows up even more the appallingly clunkiness of the other 70%. This is one bullet point, but it should count as about 50, because it overrides all the good parts. It is hard to enjoy even the best scenes when you are expecting the imminent arrival of a clanger.**

- Jonny Lee Miller, who plays Mr Knightley as half the time too formal and half the time too casual and largely without charisma. It's a pity, because the production does do a good deal to show his POV, and in other circumstances I would like that. Mr Knightley should project a quiet authority, not fade into the wallpaper. The above two points come together painfully in Mr Knightley's proposal to Emma, which goes really well, being mostly Austen, right until the end when the script inserts a few lines of its own and the agony returns.

I shall have to watch the 1972 BBC version on YouTube and see what I make of that. In the meantime, the Paltrow/Northam film is thoroughly enjoyable if rather light, and I retain very fond memories of a mid-nineties stage version I saw with school, which did have a Mr Knightley who felt completely right.

*I may have commented along these lines in the past.

**Whereas the imminent arrival of the Clangers would definitely enliven the Highbury social scene.

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