A blog on the paired women in Davies's 2008 S&S and 1996 Emma:
Samantha Morton as Harriet has smiled in reaction and then submissively looked down (Part 1)
Kate Beckinsale as Emma in one of her regal hats contemplates what she can do with Harriet (Part 1)
I continue my blogs on Andrew Davies's films, especially his melodramatic romance, heroine's texts and Austen films. My object is to make a record of my conclusions in a place I can find it, plus of course by writing come to some conclusions about Andrew Davies's films, romantic and satiric and all sorts (for example, his 1984 Diana out of Delderfield). And as a secondary consideration (though central to my book) how he treats women's friendships throughout his films, especially the Austen ones.
The first blog I wrote was about a year ago (!), just around the time I put down my project to do a paper on Northanger Abbey for the Portland JASNA: Daves's P&P and S&S: two sisters journeying through life. This one gathered all the scenes from Davies S&S and P&P and I saw there were many, they were paralleled and dramatized two pairs of sisters's relationship. About 11 days ago I went for a second: Some thoughts on Charlotte Lucas and the paired women in Davies's P&P and other films.
What I discovered was that while the central relationship which formed a contrapuntal or other story as important as the Oedipal one in Davies's P&P was that of Elizabeth and Jane, the one that was most interesting was that of Charlotte Lucas. Through Jane and Elizabeth's many scenes together, Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth cast doubt on romantic love and/or said she would not marry unless she fell deliriously in love and a perfect man came along. As we all know, one (apparently) did. Against this on the one hand we have the great pain of Jane's loss of Bingley (which resembles in her reactions, Elinor Dashwood's to her apparent loss of Edward in Davies's S&S film, but we also have Charlotte who does not want to get married at all. The usual endless fraught discussions over Charlotte's marriage miss what is really troubling about Charlotte. She does not care who she goes to bed with; it does not matter to her who takes her body as long as he has a decent income, will give her a respectable enough home and safety. She only marries because it's the only way for her to get a roof over her head and food to eat for sure. She's the ghost presence of a lesbian or less sexually the woman who doesn't want to marry. She expreses what Austen continually expresses throughout her letters from the very beginning: a deep distaste for pregnancy, a desire not to marry unless she can marry for intense companionship (love) -- like Elizabeth.
Austen's Emma connects here because Mr Woodhouse is a comic rendition of this idea that marriage is the last thing any sensible person wants to do as is Emma until the sudden reversal at the close of Emma where she gets this idea she loves Mr Knightley and no one must marry Mr Knightley but she. Miss Bates an example of what happens when a poor woman doesn't act to marry or can't.
The sisters' scenes in the 2008 S&S:
I re-watched the movie and have this startling addition to what I wrote last time to record: of the 23 (!) separate scenes, however short or long, that occur between just Elinor (Hattie Morahan) and Marianne (Charity Wakefield), most of them are not about love. They are about having to move, not having enough money, the values of a society that force them from their home.
Mrs Dashwood (Janet McTeer) has interrupted them with her choices for a new (grand) house, and Elinor must explain to Marianne and her mother that they must "think very differently now"
Only male heirs inherit is how this film reads Austen -- actually that's not what Austen shows; Austen shows that this particular man chose to leave all his money to a grandchild who amused him; he could have left it to his nephew or much more to his nieces who cared for him. This is a common misreading of Austen; it seems to make the book easier to read if you forget it begins with a free act of ingratitude. Elinor and Marianne discuss the nature of art and what makes someone a worthwhile partner for life. It's true that the second is prompted by Edward's lacklustre reading of poetry (according to Marianne), but he is not what's discussed. They discuss how one should react to men. I'm not finessing; again and again the ostensible topic is not does he love me or do I love him, but social problems (shall Marianne accept a horse which they would have to struggle or be dependent on Willoughby's charity to afford or not) that arise from having relationships with people, having to depend on others.
They end up quarrelling in front of Mrs Dashwood: about propriety, property, how do we know someone
Do they have Barton cottage on hard terms? How should we look upono too many demands from social life, especially when people behave to us cruelly and painfully. More broadly how should we perceive and react to life. Marianne finds Elinor "very strange" and Elinor concedes she is "no doubt dull" (she isn't). How Elinor takes blows is different from the way Marianne does. In other words, the paired scenes are explorations of values connected to sense and sensibility (large terms themselves).
By contrast Elizabeth and Jane's talk is continually directly about Darcy and Bingley, with Elizabeth's barbs secondary. Only in her relationship with Charlotte Lucas, Charlotte's talk and especially Charlotte's decisions and life is a counter-reading of the novel's conventional romance set up.
As to Davies's Emma, I've counted at least 15 set scenes between Emma and Harriet in the movie (for a short movie that's a lot), and while some are short, they all create a startling contrapuntal narrative of the novel which shows Emma to be a disdainful unreformed aristocratic type from beginning to end; her relationship with Harriet is one of her using Harriet, with the benign ending the result of seeking a place for herself with Mr Knightley whose power she has always admired.
In dialogue after dialogue Morton as Harriet is given the accurate and decent sentiment, while Beckinsale as Emma upholds the repressive unnatural conventions repeatedly. Davies's Emma is no monster of conventionalism; she can be humane and understanding but it's within the limits of her class.
Harriet is aware they are doing wrong to put Harriet done for exactly 15 minutes and no more; it is a form of insult in fact after Harriet has been treated so generously, sensitively by the Martin family
The contrapuntal scenes of Harriet and Emma are underscored by the continual presence of servants in so many of the scenes, and they are there between Harrriet and Emma repeatedly, a third silent person who goes utterly unacknowledged while some value of ancien regime life is enunciated by Emma: as when she says Mr Knightely may not own the sparrows in the air, but he certainly does the woodcocks and peasant. We are to remember who the game laws protected and how they were used.
Sometimes the shot wil even center on the silent servant; Harriet is dubious about this system
Mark Strong as Mr Knightley stands for an ameliorated ancien regime, a kind of private property system where the wealthy and powerful answer to their responsibility (as in the final scene where he assures his tenants he will continue to farm among them, and there will be continuation of their supported way of life); I'd call him a whig for shorthand (the position is like Anne Radcliffe).
Here is a record of the Harriet and Emma scenes (very like the one I did for P&P and S&S last year):
Part 1: Emma Strikes a Match
Scene 8: Emma has invited Harriet to Hartfield and is teaching her to avoid and dismiss her friends.
Part 2: Emma Advises Miss Harriet
Scene 1: Harriet and Emma walking in deep green wood, they emerge, Emma's anti-marriage sentiments astonish Harriet who says you'll end up like Miss Bate; they are interrupted by Mr Martin and Emma must move away for she will have nothing to do with him; she loks resentful, Harriet pathetically eager because she feels Miss Woodhouse does not approve.
Scene 3: Harriet returns to Emma, all aglow, with Mr Martin and she having really exchanged some words; now she received egregiously barbed comments. In this and the scene where Emma attempts to persuade Harriet to drop Mr Martin by disdaining him Emma plays the part of an Iago (Davies did a powerful Othello in 2002). Emma IS quietly poisoning Harriet's values, as well as undermining her with flattery too, all insinuation. She will draw Harriet's likeness; Harriet has not had that done before. Harriet all fascination as they walk away
Scene 7: Harriet comes in in a state of intense excitement over Mr Martin's proposal. What's significant here is that Emma does not persuade Harriet for real. Harriet carries on making signs that she is grief=striken on Mr Martin's behalf and frozen paralyzed on her own for what she did. Emma looks triumphant.
Harriet seeing Mr Martin with her mind's eye
Harriet taken off: like a deer confronted by huge headlights
Part 4: Inquiried of Churchill
Scene 2: Emma tells Harriet that Mr Elton preferred her, not Harriet; Harriet seems in deep distress, weeping copiously, while saying it's not Miss Woodhouse's fault.
Part 4: Inquiried of Churchill
Scene 2: Emma tells Harriet that Mr Elton preferred her, not Harriet; Harriet seems in deep distress, weeping copiously, while saying it's not Miss Woodhouse's fault.
Scene 4: Emma and Harriet climb long narrow dark stairs to Miss Bates and Emma startles Harriet with the cold frankness of her recoil against Jane Fairfax: "Everyone speaks highly of her ... I am sick of the very name ..." Harriet: "Oh! Miss Woodhouse!"
Part 5: Emma Shows Churchill the Town
Scene 1: the scene where Emma shows her gratification at all Mr Knightley owns (see above still: Harriet cannto believe one man can own all this and Emma replies: "Of course ... everyone who lives here is a tenant of Mr Knightley's or his servant." Her insouciance is felt in her closing "Drive on" to the instruments (servants) around her.
Part 5: Emma shows Churchill the Town
Scene 2: Immediate next scene is Emma instructing Harriet to stay a short time as that is not "dangerous." Harriet clearly thinks they are doing wrong (see above still):
Scene 5: Emma has turned her back on the scene of the Martins after having driven by Mr Martin who bows coldly to her arrogant bare nod of her head. This is the drive away and Harriet's good feelings and enthusiasm are not dampened: "We were beginning to be ourselves again ... For Harriet Mr Martin remains a splendid being: "when who do you think came in ... Mr Martin himself." Himself.
Harriet realizes (though not quite consciously) how much she has enjoyed herself, feels bad, Emma ignores her
Part 7: Widening Social Circle
Scene 7: The first of a series of parallel scenes (anticipating the parallelism of S&S Elinor and Marianne in the attic): the two actresses are filmed walking side-by-side similarly, outdoors, in the same kind of subdued outfits, the same palette of beige, same expressions repeated. Here Emma tells Harriet she has discovered Frank Churchill not necessary to her happiness. Harriet surprised. They are in the fields as Harriet was with Betty (just after the Crown Inn ball and before they encountered the gypsies and Harriet's comfortable familiarity with Betty allowed her (it's suggested) to tell Betty who her new beloved is).
Kate Beckinsale looks gay and easy
The original script and screenplay had an immediate scene of Mr Knightley urging Mr Martin "Come Robert, more fish in the sea, you know. Mr Martin: Not for me, Mr Knightley. Mr Knightely: "well, well ... some young women ought not have more to do than meddle where they have no business." (Implication Emma is not given anything adequate to do with her talents and that is true.) Perhaps the juxtaposition here would have too strongly obviously condemned Emma.
Part 11: Emma's Epiphany
Scene 5: Harriet and Emma walking together briskly in the village, Harriet now confides she will never marry, but it quickly is obvious that she does not mean this, but rather that she loves someone out of her reach. This thread much more developed in 1972 and 2009, with much longer and 2 scenes, in one of which Harriet throws away Mr Elton's stuff.
Throughout Harriet is given silken large bows and ribbons on her hat and Emma given more mannish hats; Emma is the ghost lesbian (very ghostly) of this film?
In the 1996 Miramax Emma there are two scenes, but they are kept brief and de-emphasized by the multiple scenes of Emma with Mrs Weston (Gweneth Paltrow and Gretta Scacchi are the central friends of McGrath's film). Here the point feels like Emma is hardly paying attention to Harriet's overwrought words (carefully chosen by Davies).
Scene 8: after news of Mrs Churchill's death Harriet and Emma in front of mirrors where Emma asks what can Frank do now, will he have income enough to choose independently and Harriet imitates the tone of a game.
Scene 11: The climax: Emma and Harriet outside again, begins with Harriet's surprise Emma is concerned she will be hurt by Frank's engagement to Jane. She does not see at all that Harriet never paid the slightest attention to Jane or Frank for real. Harriet now shows she is a person in her own right, she's a little disdainful when she realizes that Emma is surprised and disapproves (it feels like). She has begun to take on Emma's values and tells Emma this: she would never had thought fo Mr Knightley but for Miss Woodhouse.
Harriet holding her own
Scene 3: Now Harriet emerging from the wood; it seems they meet by chance. Short but given all that has gone before, enough: when she was freed of control and the presence of Miss Woodhouse, Robert came to the school and she could not say on. She has loved him always. Harriet now prepared to give Emma up. This and her doing this without aid from Emma (as in the book or intervention of Mr Knightley (as in all the 1972 and 09 films) is an improvement. Emma laughs, but not unkindly (as in the book and in the 1972 film), out of joyful relief. Unfortunately perhaps (but in character) she reassumes her eager abjection:
In order not to leave her like this I include one of her at the Harvest festival, introducing the (rightly still proud and wary Robert Martin): she is strong in assurance that she is wanted, where she belongs, is appreciated for real, feels easy. She wants Robert to know how proud she is to be his wife:
She's just grinning.
In the next scene where Mr Elton and Mrs Elton (not altogether wrongly) say they hope Emma's pride is satisfied now and Mr Elton echoes Mr Morland about General Tilney (that these great men will have their ways) we see Mr Knightley has joined Emma in the invitation to Donwell Abbey. The film does come down firmly on the side of putting Mr Knightley in charge.
In the feature which was done recently to accompany the Jane Austen festival on BBC (they did the 2007 MP, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey together with the 1995 P&P and Davies's Emma, so 3 of 5 films were scripted by Davies), Davies commented on Emma as a character: "this [the lesson from her interference with Harriet and her seduction by Frank and then her marriage to Knightley) is just in time. She doesn't know everything and needs to do some very fast learning and stop trying to run other peoples' lives." I am not in this blog dealing with the curious sexuality of Knightley's longing for Emma (three times in the film, at key moments, including the last word he alludes to how he held Emma in his arms when she was an infant and (presumably) fell in love with her then, has wanted her since. For a short film this is a rich and intelligent one.
One of the best moments of caring for one another, understanding between Mrs Weston (Samantha Bond) and Emma in the film
Rather I want to end on the two other paired women of this film. Emma and Mrs Weston (Samantha Bond) and Emma and Jane (Olivia Williams). I've already mentioned that the one scene of Harriet with Betty in the field (echoing those of Emma and Harriet) shows Harriet giving away immediately her entrancement with Mr Knightley (he's not that old, he's different than you think, oh no you must not assume that) and how the friendship with Emma has not been a natural or comfortable one (for Harriet).
There are very few moments for Mrs Weston and Emma to be together and alone in this film and it's true of the book the many suggested scenes (they are there) are narrated allusively or indirectly or interfered with or interrupted by a male (Frank, Mr Weston, Mr Knightley). In comparison both the 1996 and 2009 Emma bring Emma together with Mrs Weston many times and make them operate as a pair of supportive women (Mrs Weston never behaves as Emma's equal). Of the three (Emma and Mrs Weston exchancing glancds in the opening scene on the way to church is not enough to give us a sense of meaning) we have
Part 6, Dreams of Matchmaking, Scene 6, the conversation at Randalls at the dinner party while Jane plays the piano and sings with Frank, Mrs Weston confides her theory that it's Mr Knightley who gave Jane the piano; see he brought her in his carriage (both women missing the importance of the scene going on in front of them);
Part 7: Widening Social Circle, Scene 5, Mrs Weston and Emma strolling through the Hartfield grounds.They cannot be said to be alone as the scene is interrupted with moments from Mr Woodhouse, Mr Knightley and Mr Weston discussing the new Mrs Elton and Mr Woodhouse casting doubts on all marriages. This talk is about taste, pride and Emma's lack of understanding of Jane rather than love again. Mrs Weston explains taht Jane goes to Mrs Elton because it is better than being always at home, and this is really an occasion for another uncovery of Emma's inadequateness as a person: Mr Kightley " You're right Mrs Elton. Miss fairfax might well prefer to be invitedy others. He is reproaching Emma continually in this film with a real edge to his tone again: soft: "She deserves better" As in other renditions, another element in the scene is Emma's awakened suspicion that Mr Knightley might care for Jane Fairfax. Again his body passes closely to Emma's (this is continual throughout the film) and he says " Anybody may know how highly I think of [Jane Fairfax]" Emma is puzzled. It's more than love pointed to here.
Part 11: Emma's Epiphany, Scene 10, interior at Randalls. The last scene is a real conversation alone between the two women when Mrs Weston tells Emma that Frank has been engaged to Jane since October (Weymouth) and it was Frank who got the present. This is an occasion for the first of two sets of painful flashbacks for Emma.
In short Mrs Weston and Emma's scenes are remain primarily functional. This is not knock-off of Adele and Theodore -- though it's interesting to see that Austen likes Mrs Weston to the Baronne d'Almanne and Emma to La Comtesse d'Ostalis in Genlis's Adele et Theodore. Thus justifying the development in the 1996 Miramax and Sandy Welch's 2009 Emma.
Emma intervening in Jane's flight (Olivia Williams) from Mrs Elton and the social worlds at Highbury
As to Jane and Emma, like the 1972, even more the 1996 Miramax, but unlike the 2009 (which is original and innovative in the way it tries to suggest attempts at developing a friendship with Jane by Emma), this film shows little contact or real understanding, thought this one does show pity by Emma towards Jane stuck with this lascivious superficial man capable of such spiteful behavior as we see during the film (the dancing with Emma is to spite Jane for not carrying on singing, the alphabets to spite her for lack of acquiescence in his flirtation with Jane and irritation at his telling of Mr Perry's carriage. Jane and Emma have Part 4 Inquiries of Churchill, Scene 9, at Harfield, the first invited evening where Jane's playing is so superior and so gratifies Miss Bates, Emma shows a certain real cordiality they walk to sit together, but then Emma begins to pry, and brings up Churchill as someone she, Emma has a special interest in, and Jane clamps down to protect herself.
Part 9 Frank Saves Miss Smith, Scene 8, where Emma seeing how Mrs Elton's offers or demands over a job have harassed Miss Fairfax, walks over. Her kindness to the woman who asks only that she be allowed a little power over her space and walking, her respect for her is one of Emma's finest moments.
so what one can say of this 1996 Emma is that while remaining literally faithful, Davies has altered or provided a strong individual reading of the book. Taken with the many interstitial scenes of servants hard at work at each turn of the movie (the moments are so often and often short and simply visual), poverty striken people on the streets, the gypsies, the precariousness of the Batess, Jane, if Frank didn't inherit the dialogues between Harriet and Emma, turn the book, as criticism has done before (Arnold Kettle, even Maggie Lane at the end of her book) into an implicit condition of England novel.
Also while it feels like a subplot or secondary story,since it is central to Emma's maturation, it keeps the Knightley-Emma story one thread, the dynastic couple to be sure, but no more important than Emma and Harriet's friendship.