WAITING FOR THE NEW EMMA or ...the ambiguous pleasure of liberty

Eagerly waiting to see the new BBC EMMA 2009 with Romola Garay and Jonny Lee Miller (sob! Why not Richard Armitage?!?), I’ve been re-reading parts of the novel and comparing the different film versions of it: I saw for the first time

1. BBC Emma (1972)

2. ITV Emma (1996)
then I re-watched the film starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam (1996).
This “Emma marathon” was my second task for the EVERYTHING AUSTEN CHALLENGE.
First of all, let's have a look at the atmosphere of the new EMMA. Here's the official BBC trailer.

When , in January 1815, Jane Austen began to write her fifth novel, EMMA, she stated that she was working at creating a heroine that nobody but herself would be able to like ("I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like.")
Emma Woodhouse is beautiful, clever and wealthy (the only Austenean heroine to own all these “virtues”) but also spoilt and a bit snob. Readers, especially Austen’s contemporary readers, shouldn’t like her much since Emma definitely lacks the common sense, balance and measure of other heroines. Yet, even with her faults and her mistakes, the character of Emma is drawn to get sympathy and understanding; the reader tends to forgive her and to side with her in a totally irrational way. Emma’s defects, constantly underlined in the text, make her the perfect anti-heroine: she is not particularly accomplished, she has been educated by too an indulgent father
and too a friendly governess, she has great self-esteem and tends to misinterpret reality according to her wishes. In a few words, she is not “by the book”, if we think of the 18th century “conduct - books” about the education of girls belonging to high society. But , of course, Jane Austen, is mocking those clichés, so her Emma is not only beautiful and intelligent but , above all, free. It is Mr Knightley himself to acknowledge that Emma is perfect with all her imperfections. And it is for her being so humanly imperfect that we still like her so much nowadays.

Now let’s go back to my overdose of Emma. Let’s see…The oldest version, Bbc 1972, is the nearest to the original text but the ITV adaptation is the one I liked best, though I didn’t mind the film with Gwyneth Paltrow at all. For a more deatailed and technical review of all the adaptations there’s a very good blog HERE.
What I want to propose to you now is a comparison between the 3 different final proposals. Watch the three clips and decide which is your favourite one. I’m in a crisis ‘cause I can’t choose between Mark Strong’s and Jeremy Northam’s versions of the scene. Which Mr Knightley do you prefer?


Doran Godwin & John Carson


Kate Beckinsale & Mark Strong

Gwyneth Paltrow & Jeremy Northam


Stephanie said...

Oh, Richard Armitage...I LOVE Richard Armitage!

By the way, if you haven't already done so, please link to all of your review posts for this challenge in Mr. Linky (which you can find at my blog by clicking on the Everything Austen green tab at the top). That way everyone can follow along with your progress!

London Belle said...

I can't bring myself to watch the Gwyneth Paltrow one - some how it just feels wrong!!!

Laurel Ann (Austenprose) said...

Thanks for this wonderful roundup and comparison. I am really looking forward to the new Emma also!

Fiona said...

Ooooh - I love the look of the new BBC 'Emma'.

I wonder if it will be shown on the ABC in Australia?

Fiona :)

Luciana said...

Emma is really a very nice book, one of my favourites written by Jane Austen. The proposal I like the most is the one with Kate Beckinsale & Mark Strong, whom is my favourite Mr. Knightley, although I really like the portrait of Jeremy Northam. I cannot like any one of the Emmas, none of them looks like THE Emma to me, but from what I've seen so far Romola Garai looks to me as a really good Emma, very much like the character as I'd imagined when I read the book. But the thing that really makes me sad is that the lovely Richard Armitage is not going to be the new Mr. Knightley. Come on! All the chicks out there in the world wanted him in the part! He would have been perfect for it, and, you know, I love Mr. Thornton, but we ladies deserve to see him as an Austen hero!

Michelle Magill said...

completely torn between mark strong and jeremy northan - nice place to be though.hehehhe - Think mark strong pips at the post though - I love his emotion in that adaptation. I think my favourite adaptation is the ITV version with kate beckinsale but think gwyneth paltrow displays emma with all her foibles beautifully too.
Nice review Maria
Michelle Magill

Elvira said...

I can't make up my mind between the last 2 either! The 1972 version is the worst one I think. And I also look forward to the new BBC Emma.

Anonymous said...


OH MY GOODNESS. I'm so glad I read this post. I wonder when this year Emma will air?? I am now dying to watch it.

Hmmm right now I can't really see Romola as Emma. I've always imagine Emma to be rather straight-laced. But this actress, to me, is more--adorable and childish. I guess the other movies I saw her in influenced my perspective.

Richard Armitage. He probably looks too cynical to play Knightly. But still. I wish he could be in every period drama just for the pleasure of my eyes...

can't can't can't wait to watch it

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the oldest version of Emma. I love films from the 1950s and 1960s, but for some reason, I tend to skip over things from the 1970s and 1980s. Ha! I still like the Kate Beckinsale version of Emma the best.

I see you're going to read Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict. I hope you enjoy it!

Maria Grazia said...

Thanks for visiting and commenting! I do hope I'll like "Rude Awakenings". It's my first not-by-Austen austenish novel. Let's see...Ciao!

Mari said...

I didn't know they were making another version of Emma. Yay. And thanks for sharing all the proposal scenes. That was fun to watch. :)

Heather G. said...

I am so looking forward to this new version! I loved the Gwyneth version!

Anonymous said...

I'm late in catching up with this posting, but am very interested to read it since I'm just watching the newest version of 'Emma' and thinking I should revisit the older ones to compare. I think Mark Strong is my favourite as Knightley, but Jeremy Northam was very good too. Judy

phylly3 said...

Hi Maria,
This is a great idea for a discussion. I had never seen the 1972 version of Emma and have not yet had the pleasure of seeing the latest version.
I think as far as looks and production value, the movie version with Jeremy Northam seems best, however I really like Mark Strong's passionate take on Mr. Knightley and Kate Beckinsale is very good too. But now that I have seen the new version, (from your clip)I can really appreciate this new actress. She really does a fantastic job in that scene, which the other actresses could not come close to! Kate seemed puzzled but hardly upset, Gwyeth seemed too overwrought and chatty. The way the new Emma (sorry can't remember her name) acted, so heart broken, but hiding her reaction from Mr. Knightley, and then her facial expressions when gradually realizing what he is saying to her -- she gave the most believable and touching performance of all.

RosieP said...

I never understood the preference for the Kate Beckinsale version. One, her Emma seemed more like a thorough bitch and possessed very little humor or comic timing. Mark Strong made an angry and self-righteous Mr. Knightley. Andrew Davies' script overemphasized on class distinctions and practically raced through any plot arcs featuring Harriet Smith. And the actress who portrayed Mrs. Elton was very unmemorable. More importantly, I have always preferred Douglas McGrath's take on the Box Hill scene . . . even over Austen's.