08 July 2007

Emma (starring Kate Beckinsale)

Of all the Jane Austen novels, my least favourite is 'Emma'. However, I have realised that some classic novels come to life in film or TV form, and so have started collecting some of them on DVD.

There seem to have been several versions of 'Emma' made, but the most highly rated one was the ITV production made in 1996, starring Kate Beckinsale.

The story is about Emma's inveterate match-making, which leads to misunderstandings and embarrassment amongst her friends. She is quite cold-hearted, or so it seems, caring more about her own success as a match-maker than the feelings of her supposed friends. She's a very clever creation by Austen; it's not easy reading a novel where one really doesn't like the main character, and it's a tribute to her writing and imagination that the book is so popular. I don't much like it because so little seems to happen, and because Emma is, basically, quite annoying.

However, I did very much enjoy this made-for-TV adaptation. I found that I could get more into Emma's skin by watching the settings and situations that arose than I could in the book, which is often decidedly long-winded. Kate Beckinsale does an excellent job, showing Emma to be rather more human than the book implies, and the story flowed well.

Enjoyable, and recommended. My husband, who has not read the book, thought it well-made and liked the film too.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

01 July 2007

Film review: A Room with a View (starring Helena Bonham Carter and Julian Sands)

'A Room with a View' is one of the relatively few films that we saw at the cinema, back in the mid-1980s. I remembered it with fondness, so was delighted when I learned that it is now available, inexpensively, on DVD.

This classic film is based on the book 'A Room with a View'by EM Forster. It opens in Florence (Italy), where a group of people are staying at a hotel at the start of the 20th century. The young and vivacious Lucy (Helena Bonham Carter) and her chaperone Charlotte (Maggie Smith) have been allocated rooms without views. Charlotte is complaining about this to her fellow-guests, and is then embarrassed that Mr Emerson (Denholm Elliot) and his son George (Julian Sands) insist on giving up their rooms to them. A view, they insist, is nothing to men, but vital for women.

The film follows a growing friendship and sudden intimacy between the two young people, quickly quenched by their elders. They then meet again, some time later, back in the UK where Lucy has become engaged to the incredibly dull Cecil (Daniel Day Lewis).

There's not a great deal of plot, but the settings of this film are beautiful, the photography superb, and the whole feeling of decaying grandeur in the early 1900s. I have to admit that, watching the film on DVD, the conversation did seem a bit over-stilted in places, even given the period. But the enjoyment is in the irony and satire, and one very amusing scene which has resulted in the over-careful US censors giving this film an 'R' rating (and corresponding extortionate cost), despite the classic nature and gentle content of the film in general. The UK rating is a more appropriate PG.

All in all, an enjoyable film, although I was slightly disappointed to find that it did not quite live up to my memory. I would still recommend it, however, if you can find it at a good price.

(Note that there have been some complaints about the technical quality of some versions of this DVD; please read reviews at Amazon before purchasing any particular edition)

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews