Sunday, January 15, 2012

Emma Sings: movie comparison

Of all the Jane Austen movies, it seems to me that Emma is the one with the most number of major movies; there are three which are well-made and tolerably faithful to the book. I rather like to compare them all.

Looking at the movies as a whole, my favorite is the 2009 BBC mini-series with Romola Garai; but it is fun to take specific scenes and compare them, because each movie has some good points that the others do not.

There are really a lot of different things to compare in the scene where Emma sings (Frank joining right in) at the Cole's dinner party, including the featured song. I'm going to present all 3 here, and have multiple polls at the end in which to vote.

1: "Silent Worship" from the 1996 Miramax film

Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma and Ewan McGregor as Frank Churchill
Thank you, Miss Laurie, for the sound file!
Did you not hear My Lady / Go down the garden singing / Blackbird and thrush were silent / To hear the alleys ringing
Oh saw you not My Lady / Out in the garden there / Shaming the rose and lily / For she is twice as fair.
Though I am nothing to her / Though she must rarely look at me / And though I could never woo her / I love her till I die
Surely you heard My Lady / Go down the garden singing / Silencing all the songbirds / And setting the alleys ringing.
But surely you see My Lady / Out in the garden there / Rivaling the glittering sunshine / With the glory of golden hair.

Song information:
The Italian version of this song was originally from an opera by Handel, but the version in this movie was adapted by Arthur Somervell in 1928. Had Emma been a real person she never could have sung that in her time. Wikipedia informs me that the original aria was recorded in one of Jane Austen's songbooks which leads me to imagine that's why they used it; but I've done no further research on the subject.

Some thoughts on the clip:
   Right before this scene, Mr. Cole asks Emma to perform; she says she fears she lacks the talent, to which Mr. Cole responds "Perhaps I should ask Miss Fairfax." The next second shows Emma playing. I always find this amusing.
   I love watching Mr. Knightley's reaction in each version when Frank starts singing!
   When I watched Frank Churchill in this scene the word 'imp' kept coming to my mind. By the way, that Frank really does need a haircut.
   This song and performance seems more sentimental than the others.

2: "Father, Father Build me a Boat" from the 1996 A&E adaptation
STARTS 0:38, ends 1:28
{Note 1/16: Video not currently on YouTube.}
Kate Beckinsale as Emma and Raymond Coulthard as Frank

It was early in the month of May, / Down by the green hills I chanced to stray. / I heard a young maiden sigh and say that the man she loved / Had strayed away.
Oh, father, father build me a boat, / For it's over to Ireland I'm yearning to float / To search for my true love through tempest and storm / For I know in his arms / I'm safe from all harm.

Song information:
Most things I read say it's 'traditional', but some things list Herbert Hughes as the composer. He was also a collector folk songs as well as a song writer however, so he might not have actually written it; if he did it wouldn't have been around when Emma was set, as he wasn't even born until 1882.

Some thoughts on the clip:
   There seems to be much less of a focus on this scene than in the version with Gwyneth Paltrow. 
   The Mr. Knightley in this version is so scowlish! 
   I still can't decide whether I like Rupert Evans as Frank better than Raymond Coulthard or not...

3: "Bluebells of Scotland" from the 2009 BBC mini-series
Romola Garai as Emma and Rupert Evans as Frank
Oh where, tell me, where is your Highland laddie gone? / Oh where, tell me, where is your Highland laddie gone? / He's gone with streams of banners where noble deeds are done / And my sad heart will tremble till he comes safely home. 
Oh where, tell me, where did your Highland laddie stay? / Oh where, tell me, where did your Highland laddie stay? / He dwelt beneath the holly bush beside the rushing Spey / Where your blessing followed him the night he went away.
He dwelt beneath the holly bush beside the rushing Spey / And many a blessing followed him the night he went away.

Song information:
It's a Scottish folk song. From what I can find out, it was composed after the time period of Emma as well. *Sigh* So much for authenticity. 
I was having an immensely difficult time finding lyrics online to match the words in the movie, so what's up there is directly from the subtitles. I suppose these words are different than the ones generally used.

Some thoughts on the clip:
   I like the lightheartedness of this one. It seems so Emma-ish. And Frank-ish, for that matter.
   Did you notice this is the only one where Emma doesn't stop singing when Frank starts?
   Poor Mr. Knightley...

Conclusion and polls
Even after writing all that, I still don't have a favorite. I'm going to make a number of polls and whichever version gets the most votes total will get the ending vote! :-) I hope you have fun voting, too. And don't forget to tell me what you voted! I will probably do so in a comment.

Favorite Emma singer free polls 

Favorite Frank singer free polls 

Best Emma and Frank duet free polls 
(I don't like using people's last names only, but I didn't want to bother writing out their full names and felt funny using only first names...)

Favorite song choice free polls 

Best Emma and Frank acting free polls 
As you're probably getting tired of all the polls, I will refrain from making one or two about Emma's hairstyles and dresses.

Favorite 'Emma Sings' scene overall free polls 

Now. Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to see more comparisons of particular scenes from the Emmas? Which of the versions have you seen so far?
Oh, one more thing. I would appreciate your vote on the sidebar poll if you haven't already voted. 


Stephanie said...

Good post idea :)
Personally, the only thing I think is better in another version(other then BBC's) is Gwyneth's voice. Other then that it was perfect really. As you said, light-hearted. Kightley (never seen him before in my life and I call him Knightley!) is happy, until Frank sings. Not Grumpy like Mark Strong!...La! I'm rambling...sorry

Lauren said...

Yes I agree with Stephanie. I really like the Miramax version best, (On this scene anyway). I think Gwyneth's Voice, dress, and overall performance is the best. But I have never liked her hair, I like Romola's hair much better.

About Frank, his hair in the Miramax is AWEFUL! I couldn't imagine any worse! I did like his performance in the BBC mini-series best.

Oh, and I liked the 'Silent Worship' song best.


Melody said...

I agree with you! As we know, too, Emma's voice is not supposed to be superior, but I still enjoyed hearing Gwyneth's more...actually probably Kate's, too.
And feel free to ramble! I do it simply all the time. Just ask Miss Dashwood or Miss Laurie...
Mark Strong's grumpiness is a very easy thing to ramble about, I might add.

Now, anyone who cares to read, my own choices on the polls.
Favorite Emma singer: Gwyneth Paltrow
Favorite Frank singer: Raymond Coulthard
Best Emma and Frank duet: Paltrow and McGregor (she harmonized)
Favorite song choice: This one was really hard for me. I liked the lightheartedness of Bluebells of Scotland, and I think it was probably the best choice Emma-wise, and if it would have been authentic, I probably would have chosen it. But as it wasn't, I chose Silent Worship just because I like the song itself the best out of the three.
Best Emma and Frank acting: BBC 2009. I love it!!
Favorite 'Emma Sings' scene overall:
I actually got the most votes up there for the Miramax version, but when I figured that out I felt disappointed, which must mean my favorite is actually the 2009 BBC one. Acting means a lot, and I liked it seemed the best to go with the story. The most Emma-ish. =)

Miss Dashwood said...

Mwahahahaha, Mr. Knightley's face at 1:01 on "Silent Worship" really made me giggle. :)
I need to see this adaptation.
And whoa, is that Jane Fairfax at 1:17 on the same vid? What a face!
I like how Emma harmonizes on this one, but I really dislike her hairstyle. Just had to throw that out there. :)
(I'm commenting as I read and watch, just so you know.)
Hmm, Norman Warne (errr, I mean Frank Churchill) has a really good voice. That doesn't excuse his impudence of course.

"Perhaps I should ask Miss Fairfax!" Heehee!

Now for the brown-haired Emma.
Raymond Coulthard, I think, would have made a better Mr. K than scowly Mark Strong. But he's much better than Mr. Warne. Er, Mr. MacGregor. Also, Mr. Coulthard sings better than Kate Beckinsale. (Kate B is purtier than Gwyneth Paltrow though.)
I didn't stop watching at 1:28 and I'm quite thrilled to see that Janie Fairfax is singing a lullaby that I used to listen to on tape when I was a baby. It's called "Sleep, Baby, Sleep" in English. :)
I wish Emma and Frank had sung longer. It was too short.
Jane Fairfax has a good voice in this one though.

(Wow. This is a long comment. Your eyes must be hurting, Fairy.)

BLuebells of Scotland!! *faints* I love this song. And I love the part with the Invitation From The Coles. Heehee. But I don't have time to watch it all, so I'm skipping ahead...
Jane Fairfax is so beautiful in this adaptation. And Rupert Evans IS Frank Churchill. Forget everything I said about whatsisname Coulthard.
I love how Miss Bates is so attentive when Emmer sings. She's so sweet in this movie.
Thank you so much for posting the lyrics! I love this song, even if it's not quite authentic.
Mr. Knightley's sweet little nod at 6:43...
aww, but I feel so bad for him here. Poor Mr. Knightley.
Rupert and Romola sound really good together. I think I'll vote for them.

Hmm, the polls were hard. I voted for Emmer (Romola) as the best Emma singer (she had a great voice, although Gwyneth was good too) and for Raymond Coulthard as the best Frank singer. I still like Rupert Evans best all around, but he doesn't sing quite as well. All the Frank singers were good though.

Best duet? Haha, Garai and Evans, obviously. Favorite song was "Bluebells of Scotland" and best Emma and Frank... well, for THAT SCENE I might just give it to A&E. Yep, I did. They were really good.

And the best scene overall? BBC. Duh.
I would have like a "best movie overall" poll but of course you already know my biased opinion on THAT score. :)

This is now probably the longest comment I've ever written. Ah well, you're used to it by now. :=) (that's a Charlie Chaplin emoticon, just because I'm in a silly mood.)

Melody said...

I just love you and your long comments, Miss Dashwood! ;-)

Yep, that was Jane Fairfax making the glare. ;-)
Ha! That hairstyle isn't as bad as a few of the others in that movie...the one in the proposal scene wasn't bad, however. =)
I still can't believe that's the same actor as Norman Warne...when I saw the actor's name somewhere associated with Frank, I recognized it from hearing it in the Miss Potter preview and I was like...wait...that's the same actor?? I'm confused...
He sings in Miss Potter too! ha! Just thought of that. "Let me teach you how to dance..."

I know, sigh, scowly Mark Strong. But really, it's a good adaptation. It is. I like it because it's very old-fashioned feeling and authentic, and besides being short, very faithful to the book. I like the Emma and Frank too; just in different ways than in the 2009 version. I think they both got a little something Emmer and Rupert Evans didn't (I'm sorry to say so, but although I loved their performances-and they are my favorite-, they weren't perfect, when one compares them to the book...which I do...)
I know, I think they should have sang longer too...that scene just really wasn't focused on as much as in the others. Mainly because it's too short.
Yeah, Jane Fairfax sang so well because it's not really the actress singing. :P

Ha, when I'm trying to watch a certain scene, I always find myself wanting to watch the whole segment too...good thing that one ended right after the song or I'd watch until the episode's ending! "A gentleman would never risk a lady's reputation...unless, of course, he is most love." I just LOVE the confused look on Emma's face...haha!
I know! I find myself feeling sorry for Mr. Knightley in a very large portion of the movie in recent viewings! But at least he gets a happy ending. Which is more than I can say for some of Charles Dickens's nice guys.

Oh my polls were so hard...I found myself voting on different things than if it would have said "favorite" rather than "best" and vice versa. For instance, I said that the 'best' Emma and Frank duet was the Miramax version, but my 'favorite' is the BBC one...maybe I should change my vote. :P
I did vote for them on favorite overall, however.

P.S. I had to look up Charlie Chaplin...

Well, there IS a 'best movie overall' poll in my Emma Movies post. :P
I was very happy to read your long comment. So what had I to do but give you one in return?

Risa said...

I haven't watched any of the Emma movies/series. But I loved the 2009 version of Emma and Frank singing. Like you, I found it a nice light-hearted scene fitting Emma herself. I don't know that I like the gloominess of the other two. As far as the songs go, I didn't vote. I really like the Miramax one AND The Blue Bells of Scotland -- perhaps I have a soft spot for the second as it's one of the few complete pieces I know to play on the violin!

I enjoyed listend to Garai and Evan's duet. :)

Miss Laurie of Old-Fashioned Charm said...

What a delightful post Melody! The song information is especially interesting, I love finding out the history behind the music used in these films so much!

My favorite is the "Father, Father Build Me A Boat", I really enjoy the looks between Jane and Frank during that scene! I also just love the song because it's so much a ballad that would have been sung at the time (even if it was recorded / written down later).

Funny but the scene from 2009 is actually my least favorite. I think Ramola is just too smiley and giggly during that scene and the song is just blah to me (mostly because I've heard it so many times before). I wish they had chosen a song with a bit more meaning to the story. Oh well. :)

Although by favorite adaptation is the 2009 version, my favorite version of this scene is the 1997 with Kate and Raymond, I also like their voices together the best even they aren't perfect. I know Ewan McGregor and Gwyneth Paltrow are more the professional singers out of this group of actors (in fact I think Ewan was in a band and Gwyneth just recently was in a film where she sang country music). I do like the "Silent Worship" song because it does have a good deal of meaning and elegance to it. But it's so hard to decide because all three scenes are beautifully done! :)

It would be lovely if you did similar comparing posts. Maybe the Box Hill scenes, or the Emma/Mr. Knightley dance scenes or Mr. Knightley asks Harriet to dance scenes.

SylvieFeatherfoot said...

Having just written up a very long comparison of the three adaptations, including a section treating the song choices, I find it notable that the songs chosen for Emma to sing are extremely indicative of the productions' respective attitudes toward their heroines.

"Silent Worship" is a lovely song, and sung very well by Paltrow and McGregor; however, given that we are told that Emma is not personally vain (although this seems to be eblied bu Paltrow's costuming and hairstyles), we cannot believe that Emma would, in company, choose to deliver herself of a hymn of self-praise.

"Father, Father, Build Me a Boat" is illustrative of Mr. Woodhouse's failure to cooperate in his daughter's maturing into her own adult life - the singer desires to search for her departed love, but must seek her father's assistance in the endeavor. The reference to Ireland, too, allows a meaning glance between Frank and Jane, which is a nice touch.

"Blue Bells of Scotland" is delightful, and emphasizes Emma's devotion to home - she longs for her love's return, but will remain at home, and wait for him.

All three are so telling, and the latter two are wonderful dramatic choices, but McGrath's fawning over Paltrow is too much, throughout the film, and has a contrary effect on me. I dislike Paltrow's supercilious, condescending Emma, and the film as a whole.

Love the other two, though the Beckinsale/Davies/Lawrence version is the most strictly faithful to the novel.

Would you rather hear the story...

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