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.
This animation sequence was released as the “Blue Bayou” segment in Walt Disney’s Make Mine Music (1946), one of several Walt Disney “composite” releases of the mid-late 1940s. Originally, however, it was created to accompany Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune as an additional segment for Fantasia. Initially, Mr. Disney had intended Fantasia to be a fluid, changing concept, to which new pieces would be added with each re-release. For a number of reasons (the 1941 animators’ strike, WW2,…), that concept didn’t pan out (at least, not until Fantasia 2000…kind of). In 1998, the original version of Clair de Lune was restored and screened at the London Film Festival.
I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the Emma Adaptations Pages recently, which means I’ve rediscovered quite a bit of content. After over twelve years, there’s a ton of stuff about which I’ve entirely forgotten. Worse, much of it is sorely in need of revision. My perspective has changed a TON since 1997; seriously, a lot of the crap I wrote back then screams “21 and dumb” – you know, kinda like Emma herself. Or maybe just clueless, which is also apropos.
Anyway, here’s my little review of the Emma 2 soundtrack, circa 1997 with additions circa 2007. You can read the full article, which includes soundclips, here.
The Emma2 score (runs Runs 42’53”) – composed, orchestrated, and produced by Rachel Portman – is a breathtaking example of musical storytelling.
The main theme is a romantic, bittersweet, and haunting motive, airy and distant, which takes us back to a time and place when life was quiet and cheerful, if not completely happy. It at once encompasses the universality of Austen’s work and themes in its broad, sweeping strings, while at the same time capturing the intimate essence of snug, country community in its gentle woodwinds, harp, and quartet components. “Three or four families in a country village is the very thing to work on,” Austen once wrote.
Other themes, most notably the forbodingly driving horns and strings of the “Elton’s Rejection” and “Emma Insults Miss Bates” themes, bring home the very pressing and real horror of Emma’s blind mistakes in contrast to the gentle propriety of the main theme. Paired with the melancholy variation of the Main motive which follows it in “Miss Bates” and “Mr. Knightley Returns,” this “Blunder” Theme comes to signify both her anxious revelations and their wretched aftermath.
“The Dance” also perfectly parallels the emotions played out on-screen. As Mr. Knightley rescues the partnerless Harriet, the small sound of the dancehall ensemble is magnified into a glorious, fully-symphonic triumph.
You can buy this soundtrack through Amazon.com. If you order through this link, we will get a portion of the proceeds. You can get the piano sheet music for the End Titles and Frank Churchill Arrives in a collection of Austen film music (Emma2,S&S, P&P2, and Persuasion). It’s available from Faber Music for about five bucks a set. ISBN 0 571 51793 5.
A fun note – The End Titles track is included in the queue area music loop for the Soarin’ attraction at Walt Disney World’s Epcot park. The piece is not, however, included in the Condor Flats or Soarin’ Over California queue area loops at Disney’s California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort.