The Delights of Jane Austin’s World
She’s back and better than ever. Emma. Feisty, vain, elegant and well meaning she is one of literatures favorite busy bodies. If you are not familiar with the story, the young woman of Jane Austin’s collection of characters is known for her matchmaking skills that go woefully wrong. Not once. But several times. A defined social structure is important to the story, with each segment of society well displayed and the characters interacting between them creating both a flow and tension to the plot. All ends well; but on the way to a foregone conclusion, the characters are sharply drawn from Austin’s wellspring of experiences that continue to delight us. You cannot help but feel that she knew each of them very well. She was the quiet woman at the back of the sitting room watching carefully as her stylish relatives and betters interacted. Her wicked pen would finally gain some reputation while she was alive but sadly, she died before her great fame was achieved. Many consider her stories the greatest in the English language in novel format.
A backdrop for elegant clothes and furnishings: The English countryside
The views. The chairs. The warm fires. The windows looking out onto the garden; each express the experiences of the life led by the men and women of this period known as the Regency. The dinner parties alone give one pause, for the sheer amount of food consumed by candlelight. The Treats and Teas displayed should be of note to the London Hoteliers, who should use them as a theme; the set decorating crew and food stylists of the film, simply amazing.
The clothes; ah yes, the clothes. Scrumptious and delicious in their particular fussiness. Fabrics were all imported during this period. Cottons from India, silks from China, Italy or France and the wool manufactured in England. Each beautifully tailored into long coats, high waisted dresses and all with the deftness of a fairy like touch. The men are “beau brummel” rogues and the women feigned an almost biblical sense of purity in their carefully tailored coats and bonnets. The design team is to be commended for not only exquisite details but the particular (slight) exaggeration of some characters such as the parson, whose winged chasuble gave him a particular comic relief in the local parish. The hats, the ribbons the lace and other parts of the garments were made in England and represented the industry at home during the prosperous 19th century Industrial Revolution.
A word about the men’s styles:
Remember the suit? The famous English tailoring we have come to know was all invented during this period. The coats, vests and breeches (oh my) are all displayed in part of this film that gives Austin fans what they crave: romance, intrigue, luxe interiors and views as a backdrop for their beloved characters. Our heroic pair, Emma and Knightly are well matched for their wit and almost dangerously sensuous edginess. We can see the actors hold back their enjoyment of each other in their tightly wound scenes that take an acre of English gardens to finally resolve.
This version of the story has a certain comic and broader feel to it, with music playing a great part in the cadences of each scene. The lighting and interiors are a marvel giving us day and nights in the drawing rooms, hallways, dining and garden rooms of these stately English homes. Seeing how manners, feelings and intentions were so important for the period will be a marvel for the first time viewer. The truth of human experience is always well shown in an Austin story and this one has both fun and some seriousness of intention. Bravo. This one is on its way to some big awards at the Oscars and Golden Globes next year.
You can rent this movie and binge it or share on Amazon Prime with the whole family.