‘An authentic human being’ is how the host of Masterpiece Classic Laura Linney describes Emma. Jane Austen’s characters have no supernatural powers, she notes. But herein lies the magic of her writing. She takes the ordinary and draws out the unnoticed features. From these everyday characters like you and me, she skillfully displays the intricacies woven in their interactions, and reveals the undercurrents of hidden intentions and desires. It is in the revealing of the subtext that makes her story so captivating even for us modern day readers.
Episode 2 continues with this interesting story as we see Emma confused by her own feeling towards Frank Churchill, Harriet’s shifting admiration for the same, Frank Churchill’s seemingly open admiration for Emma, Mr. Knightly’s growing sentiments for the same, and, Jane Fairfax’s hidden anguish, ignored by the subject of her desire. It seems that everybody’s feeling is mixed up with everybody else’s. The comedy of errors gathers momentum.
Cinematography continues to be a major contributor to the storytelling. I particularly appreciate the several Vermeer moments, like the one with Emma gazing out the window deep in thought, or the camera silently captures her playing the pianoforte, immersed in diffused light. I’ve also enjoyed how the visual reveals inner thoughts. Mr. Knightly’s longing is projected by the flashback of his dancing with Emma, shifting to the single swan in the pond, warm music enfolding… a beautiful cinematic moment where the visual and music communicate effectively without words.
Mrs. Elton is animatedly played by Christina Cole. In terms of comedic and obnoxious effects, she is of her husband’s equal, a good match indeed. While Rupert Evans is proficient in portraying a sly Frank Churchill, he does not look like the one I have in mind. But that is not important. My main concern is with the role of Jane Fairfax. This second episode confirms my misgiving from the beginning. I feel there is a miscast here. I miss her elegance, poise and subtleties as described by the author. She is supposed to be Emma’s worthy rival after all.
The dance at The Crown Inn is a delight to watch. That is also the occasion showing everybody’s true colour. And Mr. Knightly has proven himself to be one considerate gentleman as he invites Harriet to dance after she is slighted by Mr. Elton. Also, we’re beginning to see Mr. Knightly more and more in love, while the object of his desire remains relatively clueless, albeit a sense of appreciation has arisen in her confused heart. The dances are fun to watch too, much more lively and convivial than the courtly dances we see in other Austen adaptations.
After two episodes, the story and the characters are well developed, the overall effects pleasing and enjoyable. I look forward to the next instalment.
Arti’s reviews of Emma (2009), Episodes 1 to 3, have been compiled into one article and published in the Jane Austen Centre Online Magazine. CLICK HERE to read the many other interesting articles on Jane Austen and her time.