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Tuesday, March 11

1996 - Emma Times Two: Dueling Austen Adaptations?

After a three week hiatus, Emma (1996), staring Kate Beckinsale will be the next installment of The Complete Jane Austen on Masterpiece Classic on Sunday, March 23rd, at 9:00 pm on PBS. As we patiently await the next adaptation to arrive, I was reminded of my thoughts on the film before it first aired in 1996.

When the early press announcements hit the papers, - yea, ten years ago, back in the ice age when we got our entertainment news from newspapers and magazines, - and I learned that there was to be two new adaptations of Jane Austen’s novel Emma, my reaction was surprise and puzzlement. This was a nice, but was this Austen overload? Wouldn’t the public be confused? Would it turn into the dueling Emma’s?

Who knows how and why these production decisions are made, but the success of the BBC/A&E production of Pride and Prejudice in the UK in 1995 definitely had fueled the Austen fires with producers, and opened doors to new possibilities of filming of her novels. One Emma would be filmed for the big screen and the other for television, so that should distinguish them, right?

My biggest fear was that this was an opportunity to get Emma wrong, - twice! In retrospect, the two films are so different in interpretation of Jane Austen’s irrepressible Emma Woodhouse and her Highbury world, that in my opinion, they did not conflict with each other at all. Two Emma’s, and two entirely different films. Both entertainingly flawed, but still fun.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Emma was the fair-haired aspiring matchmaker, all long-necked and refined; not really that naughty and out of line. And then there’s Kate Beckinsale’s Emma, the total opposite; dark haired, earthily bound, who is the scheming imaginist, the naughty woman-child that Jane Austen warned her family of when she said that “I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like.

Find out for yourself which of the Emma’s you prefer, on Sunday, March 23rd at 9:00 pm on PBS.

Visit Emma Adapatations, and discover Austen authority Kali Pappas’ lovely newly re-designed web site featuring everything under-the-sun about all of the adaptations of Jane Austen’s classic novel Emma.

Posted by Laurel Ann, Austenprose

1 comment:

Dina said...

I really liked Gwyenth's portrayal, but also like Kate, so I'll have to see which one I like the best. I am not sure that it will play here.