So, my Emma 2009/2010 DVD arrived today via Amazon, and I’ve perused the special features. As far as I know, this BBC DVD version from Amazon is the same as the DVD that ShopPBS.org will ship next month.
Disc 1 includes featurettes on the Emma filming locations and costumes, bringing you short interviews with crew and cast about the visual side of the production.
The “Locations” piece primarily covers Squerryes Court as Hartfield and Loseley Park as Donwell Abbey, describing the crew’s intent to use space as a metaphor for the various characters’ existences and as an indicator of each character’s social station. Emma, for example, inhabits an elegant home with an easy, unobstructed floorplan which represents her personality and life experience:
“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”
Donwell Abbey, by contrast, is more venerable in size, style, and age, which very much suits the character and social status of Mr. Knightley:
“The house was larger than Hartfield, and totally unlike it, covering a good deal of ground, rambling and irregular, with many comfortable, and one or two handsome rooms. It was just what it ought to be, and it looked what it was; and Emma felt an increasing respect for it, as the residence of a family of such true gentility, untainted in blood and understanding.”
The featurette also briefly covers decor choices and the tricks involved in shooting winter scenes in June(!). While the snowscape longshots at Squerryes Court were indeed filmed during winter, the Knightleys’ rear garden snowball fight was shot on a 27-degree C day! This recalls the snow scenes from the 1995/96 Pride and Prejudice adaptation, which were filmed in July of 1994, if I’m remembering correctly.
The costume featurette was of particular interest to me. There were several conversations with costume designer Rosalind Ebbutt, who shares various elements of the design process. Ebbutt brainstormed ideas via collages of period images, fabric swatches, and color samples for each character. Frank Churchill’s even included a photo or two of Mick Jagger, whom Ebbutt felt captured the dashing worldliness of the character. In addition to remarks from the designer, we also hear from the actors. Romola Garai, Louise Dylan, Blake Ritson, Tamsin Greig, Rupert Evans, Laura Pyper, and Jonny Lee Miller all comment on the collaborative design process, how fashion reveals character status, personality and transformation, and the nuts and bolts of wearing period fashion.
Tamsin Greig, for example, describes Regency underpinnings (chemises, custom corsets made specifically for each actress, and in some cases, a “bustle” pad). Romola Garai shows her little chatelaine watch as an example of a costume accessory that denotes Emma’s status as “lady of the house.” Louise Dylan describes how Harriet Smith’s wardrobe begins to mimic Emma’s as the older girl’s influence grows. And Jonny Lee Miller discusses Mr. Knightley’s practical yet elegant wardrobe as an outward manifestation of the character’s personality. “I can see myself gambling in this,” he jokes, indicating his beautiful brocade waistcoat and velvet tailcoat.
Disc 2 contains the music featurette and an interview with Sir Michael Gambon (Mr. Woodhouse), filmed on location at Squerryes Court.
The Music piece includes interviews with composer Samuel Sim, Director Jim O’Hanlon, and Producer George Ormond, and generally overviews the process of scoring a television series. Director O’Hanlon describes Sim’s Emma soundtrack as having “one foot in the period and one foot in today,” allowing the film to sound historically-appropriate while maintaining a freshness accessible to modern ears. Sim and O’Hanlon also discuss how Emma’s main theme, or motive, is reiterated over the course of the miniseries to accentuate onscreen moods and actions.
In addition, we learn a little about the planning or “sketching” period, during which the composer creates the main theme and ideas for the various musical cues that will be required in the finished miniseries. We also get to glimpse a “spotting” session with the composer, director, and producer, which involves watching the film, matching up extant music cues with the footage, and coming up with plans for additional cues not yet written. The featurette concludes with a recording session at the legendary Abbey Road Studio of Beatles fame. This is totally off-topic, but it’s worth noting that the score for the upcoming “World of Color” show at Disney’s California Adventure was recorded just a few weeks ago at Abbey Road.
I haven’t yet watched the DVD version of the miniseries itself, but I understand that it DOES include various short scenes that aired on the BBC but not on PBS.
In all, I think the bonus features were worth the DVD purchase price (I paid around $23, via Amazon). The packaging is a beautiful, book-style box – gatefold, I guess you could say? – with photos of Garai on the cover and on the discs themselves. There’s a panorama of the Box Hill picnic on the inside.