Before our break, we heard from several Alert Janeites about a couple of articles in last Sunday’s Telegraph about the upcoming BBC adaptation of Emma, which we believe will begin broadcasting in the UK on October 4 (and which we cynically assume will be on YouTube shortly thereafter).
Firstly we hear from the BBC, which seems to be attempting either to draw in people tired of those stuffy old Jane Austen bonnet movies, or to disarm the reproof of Janeites hoping for a truly definitive adaptation.
The drama will air on BBC One next month. Kate Harwood, controller of BBC serials, said: “Sometimes you put modern in a period drama and it feels wrong, but not in this case. It’s a beautiful adaptation that is very faithful to the book, but feels very fresh and immediate.
“The casting of Romola and Jonny is an absolute joy and the tremendous chemistry between them is one of the delights. We didn’t want stuffy period characters. This is not a high Austen comedy, it’s modern. Maybe we are in a period where we are a little bit more relaxed with Austen. We are taking her off the literary shelf and making her seem part of our lives again.”
The Telegraph, obviously salivating over the Janeite Wars Part Ad Nauseam, lined up an academic who doesn’t seem to have actually watched the bally thing to give a comment.
It is also not the case that Austen’s characters are stuffy or dated. Minor characters like the hypochondriac Mr Woodhouse, the social-climber Mrs Elton and the talkative Miss Bates are as vivid and fresh today as they were when Austen envisaged them. Her heroines perhaps present greater challenges because they are less histrionic and spontaneous.
In Sense and Sensibility, modern audiences had difficulty retaining Austen’s respect for emotional restraint in the Elinor character, played by Emma Thompson, and sympathy was therefore largely with Kate Winslet, the Marianne character.
Young women nowadays are unlikely to share the aspirations of a Regency heroine and, although Jane Austen’s stories are timeless, some of the values are very different from modern ones and it is a good idea to reflect on those differences.
Or maybe they’ve taken a page from the Andrew Davies (congrats on the Emmy, by the bye) playbook and get the Janeites all hot and bothered so we will all be SURE to watch! Oh, we’re so predictable, aren’t we?