Thursday, December 15, 2016

Regency Films at Christmas: Emma

Emma was the first Jane Austen book I ever read. Although it's not my favorite Jane Austen novel, it maintains a special place in my heart because it introduced me to the Regency world and Mr. Knightley.

(By Chris Hammond (illustrator) - Houghton Library at Harvard University, Public Domain,

For those who don't know the story (and if you don't know it, then don't walk but run to the nearest bookstore, or computer with Internet, to procure a copy), Emma Woodhouse is a spoiled, proud, and beautiful young woman who has lived all of her life quite comfortably with her father in Highbury. She is overly confident in all of her abilities, most notably those which have to do with matchmaking and meddling in the lives of others. Although Emma has no desire to marry, she takes great pleasure in finding potential mates for all of her friends and acquaintances.

Mr. Knightley, a lifelong friend of the family whose brother is married to Emma's sister, is seventeen years older than Emma. He is a kind, compassionate, and highly principled man, and he enjoys correcting Emma in some of her erroneous assumptions and deeds. Emma sees him in the light of an older brother or cousin, and from the outset it looks as though he sees her as a younger sister, but when she is pursued by a couple of young men, Mr. Knightley is jealous. It takes longer for Emma to see Mr. Knightley in a romantic light, but the charm of the story stems from seeing her character's development and maturity. An eventual comeuppance turns Emma's heart toward Mr. Knightley's quiet benevolence and turns her eyes inward toward her own entitled and selfish motivations. The result is Emma's growth, change, and understanding.

There are several movie versions of this novel, but my favorite is the 2009 BBC mini-series starring Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller. I especially love to watch it around this time of year (even though Emma spans through all seasons), for the wonderful scene at the Weston's Christmas party when Mr. Elton makes his feelings known to Emma, and all of the guests are aflutter at the prospect of being "snowed in" by the lightly falling flakes.

You can watch the whole episode below (from YouTube), but the scene I've mentioned begins around minute seventeen. I could watch this mini-series over and over again and never tire of it.

What movies or shows compel you to watch them over and over again?


  1. I have never read anything from Jane Austen, but this does sound intriguing as a story line. Maybe I'll have to correct that in 2017. I know its a bit of a weird movie, but I like to watch "Bandits" with Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton a lot; always makes me laugh.


    1. Betty, I highly recommend Jane Austen novels. They storylines are all wonderful. I haven't seen Bandits, although I've heard of it. I'll have to check it out.

  2. Emma is my favorite Jane Austen novel. I can never get enough of The Pride and Prejudice mini-series with Colin Firth. He was so gorgeous.


  3. That's so cool that Emma is your favorite! I love the story. Yes, you are so right about P&P. I'm featuring that one next week!

    1. Emma was my first Jane Austen novel, too. When my daughter was in high school, she adopted an adorable but very troublesome dog. She couldn't decide what to name her new friend. She headed to the bookshelves and decided on Emma.

    2. Great name choice! I love the name Emma. I have many students with that name.