Final Thoughts ~ Emma Part III

OK, I confess, I watched it again [remember our PBS here in Vermont showed the last episode LAST week right after Part II; this week our PBS re-ran Miss Austen Regrets] – but I did watch it again, just to be sure I hadn’t missed anything – they do take us on a rather quick ride from Box Hill to three marriages and Mr. Woodhouse’s fear of turkie robberies…

My major and final thought is “Thank you Jonny Lee Miller” – he redeemed this show in almost every way. And also with thanks to Sandy Welch who whacked the dialogue throughout to fit her own take on a 21st century Emma – but at least she left the proposal scene relatively intact, and despite THE KISS, it finished off quite nicely.

As mentioned above, this third part starts with Emma sitting with her father at Donwell Abbey – so nice to see the fine Donwell interior, and Emma’s unfaltering consideration of her father’s comfort. Mr. Knightley proud to bring Emma to his home, “the first time in eighteen months,” he tellingly points out. And there is a moment when he suggests to Emma that she looks almost the mistress of Donwell in her tender assistance to an “exhausted” Jane Fairfax. […more of those now obvious hints, but what is a screenwriter to do?].  Mr. Elton is seen dragging his darling wife to the Donwell strawberry picking on a donkey – seems a bit much for the local pastor but conveys all of their high-browed-ness in a few short minutes, Mrs. E. as per usual, “overly trimmed.”

We witness yet another spoiled-brat fit of Frank Churchill’s – the heat, the company, “sick of England,” all setting him off – but charmingly brought out of his bad humor by Emma, seen draping yet again all over the sofa. And then on to their scene at Box Hill – well done indeed! – [but really, would even the childish Emma and the anti-propriety Frank be so very bold in their display of affection at the picnic?! – I was embarrassed sitting in my own living room for this breach of 19th-century etiquette! – his head in her lap?! Yikes!- lavender water please…]

From here on, everything moves very quickly: Miss Bates of course is soundly insulted by Emma, and though a bit more morose than in other productions, the effects of this is well presented as all scatter to their separate corners of the hill, preferring solitude over such a gathering of mis-matched spirits. And here again, Mr. Knightley, all-seeing, performs his “badly done” absolutely perfectly – Emma seeing herself as others might see her for the first time, “anger against herself, mortification and deep concern,” the pivotal scene in the book, and here shown with Emma having what might be her first-ever sleepless night [lovely music here]… A visit the following day to Miss Bates, the farewell of Mr. Knightley with the attempted kiss to her hand [nicely done – an important scene…and glad this was not left out]; Mr. Woodhouse’s lament of “wanderlust” [I loved this!]; and then the news of Frank and Jane Fairfax, acquiring another “badly done indeed” from Emma, this scene also well done with Mr. Weston looking on, concern for Emma; a sort of bizarre set-piece with Frank and Jane kissing and dancing in the street; a few scenes with the perfectly cast John Knightleys worried about George’s bad humor; then the Harriet chat where Emma discovers to her horror that it is not Frank Churchill but MR. KNIGHTLEY that Harriet has been obsessing over, after which Emma really kicks her out of the house; and finally Emma’s wrenching monologue that it is “too late, too late” as she discovers her own heart after all….

All the above with the same wonderful decorations, gardens, fashions and food we have come to expect – and we are not disappointed – I am all forgiveness of nearly everything you see, because of all this loveliness – and also because they got the ending right, a very nice surprise, and with only a few caveats….

You all know [and I am almost sick of saying this myself] that Richard Armitage was born for this role of Mr. Knightley – so it took awhile for me to get over it [as well as Romola Garai’s eye-popping emotionals, but enough of that – she grows on you…] But Jonny Lee Miller pulled it off after all – nearly perfectly really – and this scene was given the time it needed [though why Emma had to be hiding behind a tree just added to her childishness – I thought she had perhaps grown up at this point?…] – my only real quibble with this whole proposal being so: in the book, Mr. Knightley, thinking that Emma is suffering the pangs of lost love over Frank Churchill, takes her arm [no contact in the movie and why not, I ask?]

 …till she found her arm drawn within his, and pressed against his heart and heard him thus saying, in a tone of great sensibility, speaking low, ‘Time my dearest Emma, time will heal the wound…’

And they continue to talk, until Knightley begins to say what in the movie is “his secret is out at least” in the book is “you will not ask me what is the point of envy” – Emma silences him and he says “I will obey you” and walks away [not so in the book – He is silenced “in deep mortification” – they walk to the house together and then take another turn when she wishes him to continue] – but here thankfully they keep most of the language. Either direct or in spirit:

          “As a friend!” repeated Mr. Knightley. “Emma, that I fear is a word — No, I have no wish — Stay, yes, why should I hesitate? I have gone too far already for concealment. Emma, I accept your offer, extraordinary as it may seem, I accept it, and refer myself to you as a friend. Tell me, then, have I no chance of ever succeeding?”
           He stopped in his earnestness to look the question, and the expression of his eyes overpowered her.
          “My dearest Emma,” said he, “for dearest you will always be, whatever the event of this hour’s conversation, my dearest, most beloved Emma — tell me at once. Say ‘No,’ if it is to be said.” She could really say nothing. “You are silent,” he cried, with great animation; “absolutely silent! at present I ask no more.”
           Emma was almost ready to sink under the agitation of this moment. The dread of being awakened from the happiest dream, was perhaps the most prominent feeling.
          “I cannot make speeches, Emma,” he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing. “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. You hear nothing but truth from me. I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it. Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover. But you understand me. Yes, you see, you understand my feelings — and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to hear, once to hear your voice.”
[Emma, vol. III, ch.XIII]

Austen of course, gives her usual narrated proposal scene –

-What did she say? – Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does.-

We do get a little more here – a gentle, tender avowal of love and sealed with a kiss. Very nicely done, of course…and from here on in they only hold hands… And all ends with the news being broken to Mr. Woodhouse [Emma’s crying-jag scene, so much shown in the trailer, was blessedly short-lived and Mr. Knightley’s generosity of moving to Hartfield lovingly accepted]; Harriet and Robert Martin are united under the eye of Mr. Elton’s withering gaze; the turkies are thankfully “pilfered” and Emma and her Mr. Knightley ride off in a lovely carriage [holding hands] to their “ fortnight’s absence in a tour to the seaside”, ending thus gazing out to the sea, rather than with a wedding and the uninvited Mrs. Elton’s pronouncement on the “shabbiness” of the proceedings…

So the real test is will I buy the movie? – aah yes, I will, but then an Austen fan always does…

All the episodes of Emma will be available online through March 9, 2010 at the Masterpiece Classic website [lots of other great things there also!]

[Posted by Deb]