With Netflix’s new film of Persuasion proving to be dividing opinion, Emma Clarendon examines some of her favourite screen adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels.
Pride & Prejudice (2005): Joe Wright’s gorgeous adaptation of this beloved classic feels authentically charming and really captures the world in which Jane Austen created. Yes, perhaps some might argue it has less glamour than the 1995 mini series, it feels as though it has more authenticity as to how people lived. The chemistry between Matthew McFadyen and Keira Knightley is compelling to watch as you see their feelings unfold in their mannerisms and body language that gives the central love story more depth. The score, the costumes and scenery all combine to make for a dreamy experience.
Emma (1996): while I feel that the character of Emma and her personality is somewhat softened in this film, I can’t deny that this excellently cast film highlights the comedy and confusion that is a consistent thread throughout this story. There is a sense of richness and bringing to life the era that Jane Austen lived in with sharp insight through every aspect of the film – it is certainly glamorous and has more than a hint of warmth about it that makes it charmingly endearing to watch.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001): it takes a bold person to adapt a classic story and transform it for a modern audience – as Helen Fielding’s beloved novel based on Pride and Prejudice proves – but when it works it really works as we can see here! I love the way that the parameters of what it means to be single have evolved since the original book was written but actually society’s attitude hasn’t altered that much portrayed so brilliantly here. Bridget Jones is the Elizabeth Bennet for the modern era – even with all her flaws we love her just the way she is!
Sense and Sensibility (1995): I have to say that Emma Thompson’s screenplay for me has to be the most faithful to the original text (although I would have loved to have seen the scene in which Willoughby comes to check on Marianne’s condition when she falls ill included) and so it feels the most romantic and authentic portrayal that you can expect for this story. Of course the stellar cast of Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman and Kate Winslet among others gave a real depth to their performances that was elegant and enjoyable to watch. It is one of my absolute favourite films to watch.
Emma (2020): I was pleasantly surprised by this version of Emma – it has a quirky charm in the way in which it draws upon the humour from the original text, adding a touch of contemporariness to the story but without detracting from the spirit of the original story. While initially the unorthodox way in which everything unfolds can be a little bit jarring, by the end you can’t help but be drawn in by these characters. Anya Taylor-Joy’s portrayal of the central character feels more in keeping with the book itself – without making her unlikeable.
Bride & Prejudice (2004): what I loved about this film is how much joy and laughter there was to be found in it. Yes of course aspects of the story were changed but that is absolutely fine given the sheer spectacle that this film is and how it enhanced the comedy of the story but giving it a fresh twist to offer new perspective – definitely worth a watch if you can!