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The Timeless Nature of the Latest Adaptation of “Emma.”

I never understood Jane Austen’s timeless nature until I saw “Emma.”—with a period. The film follows the “comfortable” and “happy” existence of Emma Woodhouse. From the opening title screen, we understand who Emma is. She’s “handsome, clever and rich,” and we’re going to love to hate her. Emma’s main relationships revolve around her blossoming friendship with her protegee Harriette (Mia Goth) and her love/hatred for long-time friend and neighbor Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn). Two types of true love.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Handsome, clever, and rich. @anyataylorjoy is #EMMA.

A post shared by EMMA. (@emmafilm) on

 

Last Tuesday night, before its Friday release, a select audience got to experience the magic of “Emma.” at the renowned Coolidge Corner Theatre. The screening was followed by a question-and-answer session with director Autumn de Wilde and actress Anya Taylor-Joy. The beauty of “Emma.” not only lies in the protagonist’s complicated disposition but also in the visuals. Her world is filled with a whimsical amount of pastels, perfectly curled blonde ringlets, and ruffled collars. Every still looks like a photograph worthy to be hung in a museum, which is thanks to Wilde, who got her start as a rock photographer.

The score done by composer Isobel Waller-Bridge is also a key component in immersing the audience into Emma’s world. Each character’s music was distinct to them. They treated their voices “like an instrument,” scoring according to the pitch of the actors’ voices. Miss Bates’ (Miranda Hart) music was pitched higher to highlight her character’s nosiness. Harriette was defined by folk music to “connect [her] to the earth.” As Wilde’s directorial debut and the second film adaptation of Austen’s acclaimed novel, she breathed new life into the story. It isn’t a remake, but rather a new interpretation that speaks to the modern generation.

“It could be personalized a lot of different ways because it’s written so well,” de Wilde said. “There will never be too many Jane Austen adaptations.”


 

However, no Jane Austen adaptation would be complete without a traditional ballroom dance scene oozing with sexual tension.

“Dancing was the only time you could really touch like that, which was thrilling for young people,” de Wilde explained. Every slight touch of the hand or interlocking arm felt provocative and intimate. Every look of desire. Every “fuck you” look—de Wilde’s words, not mine. It all added to the complications that arouse when women tried to be honest with their feelings. However, Emma’s biggest complication when professing her love wasn’t heartbreak, but rather a nosebleed—a real one. Written into the script, Emma’s nosebleed in the midst of her and Mr. Knightley’s declaration of love was intended to provide comedic relief and ground the story even further. Love isn’t always perfectly romantic like the movies. However, Taylor-Joy went method. As they were filming the scene, she had a real-life nosebleed, on which she said, “The spirit of Emma possessed me.” Emma Woodhouse is a perfectly imperfect person, but aren’t we all?

“Emma.” is now playing at the Coolidge Corner Theatre.

 

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