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Emma 2020, an ode to good adaptation

por | Sep 18, 2022 | 0 Comentarios

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Recently, the adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, “Persuasion”, premiered on Netflix. It has been highly criticized for trying to portray Anne as a Lizzie McGuire in the Regency period, though I kind of find it original. Its modernization has cost dearly to the platform that is increasingly in decline, both due to the laziness of its movie’s scripts and a deep “wokenism”, but since I have not read the book yet and I prefer not to comment on what I ignore, especially if I enjoyed it so much, so I thought what better occasion to reminisce a very good version of another classic! I’m talking about Emma, 2020, a book that I actually have read. The movie faced the dreadful pandemic crisis. It was worrisome that they would not recover from the empty cinemas. Despite this scenario, everyone loved it, and here we discuss some aspects of why we do.

First, we know that Jane Austen often ridicules her society in her novels, playing with literary conventions that said that you had to be perfect in every inch of your garments and moral in every aspect no matter what. And a perfect way to show this can be with humor.

2020 Emma is ludicrously, almost comically, angelically funny.

The movie excels in little jokes here and there, with excessive colors in pastel, along with high-tuned music, transmitting the feeling that there is something off and these people are doing things artificially because pastel colors are not found in nature, they must be created, just as conventions in English’s society. Yet, they are almost an ode to this classic, enriching all corners everywhere. The protagonist and Mr. Churchill sometimes show themselves straight with their chins too high to outline pride. Emma’s tone of voice is so smooth, perfect for a girl that pretends to be flawless. A ridicule ribbon is placed on the Vicars’ wife’s head to let the viewer know that this is going to be an obnoxious person. The fear of Mr. Woodhouse getting sick is shown by the displacement of many room dividers and the excellent mannerisms of actor Bill Nighy. The flattery of Mr. Elton is shown with a hypocrite smile.

The movie is a delicious fruitcake.

Illustration by Bree Amerlinck.

Second, the director’s choices. She does an excellent job of putting ourselves in the head of Emma, misdirecting us into thinking that Mr. Elton is interested in Harriet just as Emma has planned and, therefore, we end up thinking that Emma is right regardless of Mr. Knightly’s warnings.

When Mr. Knightly comes in the opening scene to visit their friends, Emma runs quickly to the pianoforte, pretending to be practicing, kind of showing that she does care what he thinks, even when he knows that practice activities exceed Emma’s patience, for she lacks constancy. Their contention is brilliantly viewed when we see them arguing, waking across the rooms of the house, as a never-ending circle. We as the public think that this is not their first disagreement. It is almost a tradition between the two.

In the book, Emma does not realize she loves Mr. Knightly until the very end. The news is overwhelming to her, realizing that she had been wrong all this time. But this construction sometimes feels out of nowhere, while in the movie we see that during the dance, a spark of love and sexual tension arises to the surface of their hands entwined and their penetrating looks, so when Emma’s sentiments come into being, they are not strange to us because they have been carefully constructed, unlike in the book.

Mr. Knightley sometimes appears to be this rigid person in the novels, always right about his predictions, while in the movie we see him being exposed, with hair undone and humble sights. This is reinforced in the beginning scenes when we see him naked, about to take a bath. The reason why some directors chose nudity in a particular scene is to cling to the unconscious public the idea of vulnerability, and therefore, we end up feeling for his character.

Thirdly and ultimately, the message is still there. While in the book Emma has repented for playing with Harriet´s wishes, causing great confusion and pain. But in a book, you can’t express that, you have to show it. In the movie, Emma herself goes to look for those whom she has hurt and offers a basket with a sincere apology. Learning to be humble and accepting that you were wrong about a perception of the world requires maturity, and makes you grow. And, somehow, we have all been there before. We have conjunctions and beliefs about something that after a series of events, we come to realize that we have made a mistake, and that is essential to life. We come to understand that it is not Emma’s fault to be like this, but that she is the product of her society.

Sometimes humility is not learned through monetary or material hardships but through mistakes.

I really hope that we see more from Autumn de Wilde. And yes, you will soon see me writing about Persuasion.

Bree Amerlinck

Bree Amerlinck

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