Review: Portrait of A Lady On Fire

portrait of a lady on fire, Film Ireland review

DIR/WRI: Céline Sciamma • DOP: Claire Mathon • ED: Julien Lacheray • DES: Rick Carter, Kevin Jenkins • PRO: Bénédicte Couvreur • MUS: Jean-Baptiste de Laubier, Arthur Simonini • DES: Thomas Grézaud• CAST: Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami

Céline Sciamma wrote and directed this strikingly exquisite film. The story is one of forbidden love between a young portrait painter, Marianne (Noémie Merlant), and Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), the soon-to-be-married daughter of a wealthy Countess (Valeria Golina). Héloïse is less than pleased with the prospect of impending nuptials and the Countess has to employ subterfuge in order to obtain an image of her daughter to send to her future husband. Marianne is hired as a would-be companion – dispatched to accompany Héloïse on her daily walks but clandestinely attempting to observe Héloïse in order to paint a portrait. Over time, their relationship evolves to passionate affection, which is breathlessly consummated while the Countess travels for a few brief days and leaves the young lovers alone. 

Sciamma understands the depth of shared intimacy between two women. The relationship between Marianne and Héloïse is rendered through searing glances, unspoken desire, and a love that eclipses the boundaries of time. A similarly themed film, Blue Is The Warmest Colour, directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, also explores the deep bond that women can share but Kechiche somehow misses the profound connection, solely because he is unable to fully comprehend female sexuality. Kechiche is approaching the theme through the lens of a male gaze. Sciamma, on the other hand, knows what it is to be a woman and employs far greater subtlety in her depiction of the young lovers – putting it simply, Sciamma ‘gets it’.  

This is not Céline Sciamma’s first foray into exploring complex emotions. Tomboy, made in 2011, is a tender coming-of-age story and tells the story of a young, prepubescent girl, who upon moving to a new neighbourhood decides to pretend she is a boy in order to gain social acceptance. After a while, Laure, calling herself Mikäel (played by Zoé Héran), begins to take ever greater risks until her lie is exposed, carrying with it catastrophic consequences. Sciamma maintained that the film could be viewed from either a transgender or heterosexual perspective – the concept of acting as a mirror for a childhood spent hiding from the truth. She stated that Tomboy played on ambiguity through the narrative and by assuming a heterogeneous stance. 

The theme of uncertainty and confusion is carried forward into Portrait Of A Lady On Fire – Sciamma keeps audiences guessing about the unfolding relationship between Marianne and Héloïse. She goes one step further and allows Marianne to become enthralled to the passions of Héloïse with a subtle one-upwomanship taking place during early stages in the narrative. Marianne considers herself the worldlier of the two – however, it soon becomes clear that despite her cloistered upbringing, in the field of fervent sentiment, Héloïse alone holds sway.  

Not one footfall or fleeting look is out of place in this utterly mesmerising film. It proceeds slowly and effortlessly in tempo with a beating heart, yielding to an immovable force of desire. It is delicately hypnotic and achingly stunning. 

June Butler

121′ 35″
16 (see IFCO for details)

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire is released 28th February 2020

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire – Official Website

 

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‘Why Burt?’ Wayne Byrne, Author of Burt Reynolds on Screen

Author Wayne Byrne introduces his latest book Burt Reynolds on Screen, which he recently launched. 

Friday, 21st February 2020  was the official launch of my second book, Burt Reynolds on Screen. I was joined on the night by my regular inquisitor, Film Ireland’s Paul Farren, who asked me, among other things, ‘why Burt?’ That is a complicated question. The easy answer is to say ‘because Burt Reynolds is my favourite movie star,’ but that wouldn’t really do the question justice. I can’t speak for other writers, but I know that when I decide to take on any subject for a book it must be something I’m absolutely passionate about. It’s certainly not for money or glory; film criticism and actor biographies hardly lend themselves to either. 

Paul Farren & Wayne Byrne ahead of the Q&A

After completing my first book, The Cinema of Tom DiCillo: Include Me Out, I enjoyed the experience so much I decided I wanted to write again. Tom DiCillo and his films mean so much to me on a personal level, having influenced the way I think about cinema and film art, that the experience of writing about him was a very personal one; I ended up confronting themes that were relevant to the films, to DiCillo’s life, and to my own. Writing the book taught me that film criticism and analysis need not be dry, impersonal, and academic, but it could be deeply resonant and emotional. I found the idea of critical objectivity of little interest, and I make no claim to any clinical distancing in my approach to film criticism. So when I set out to write my second book, I had to decide upon a subject that I truly loved, that I knew I would still enjoy even when my eyelids would be battling gravity on those long, lonely nights when I’m sitting up typing on the keyboard at 3am, when the dawn chorus of the birds remind you that you have to be up for work in four hours’ time. I happily did that for two years for Burt Reynolds. 

People with only a surface familiarity with the Burt Reynolds oeuvre may not realise the scope and range of the man’s talent, and the depth of his themes that he carried from film-to-film throughout his six-decade career. As I set down to write about every single film and every major TV show that he starred in – and believe me, that’s a lot – I already knew that his immense screen presence and personality had a powerful impact on me, but it was when I heard of his passing on September 6th, 2018 and experienced a gut-wrenching and deeply melancholy emotional impact, I knew why I was writing about Burt Reynolds. He became an intrinsic part of my life, and he was there all throughout much of it, particularly the moments I savour the most; whether visiting my uncle’s house, or savouring a trip to the video shop, or sitting at home in my pyjamas on Saturday mornings, and again in my pyjamas on Saturday nights. There he was, his chiselled and handsome face smiling out from that old square television set, shooting arrows at aggressive Appalachians in Deliverance, humorously humiliating Sheriff Buford T. Justice in Smokey and the Bandit, or laughing heartily with Dom DeLuise in The Cannonball Run. Burt Reynolds was the movie star, nay icon, as everyman. A rare feat. Despite the riches, adulation, and approbation, he never came across as a Hollywood Other, but one of us. 

 

Burt Reynolds on Screen is available from Amazon & McFarland Books

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2020 Dublin International Film Festival Roundtable Podcast

Ahead of the 2020 Dublin International Film Festival, three filmmakers whose films are screening at the festival joined Gemma Creagh on the latest Film Ireland podcast. Pictured above, Tristan Heanue (Ciúnas), Iseult Howlett (The Grass Ceiling) and Suri Grennell (Wrath) came into the studio to talk about their films and the craft of filmmaking.

 

The 2020 Dublin International Film Festival takes place 26th February – 8th March.

Wrath (Suri Grennell)

Screen Ireland Shorts #1 • 7.30pm, 1st March 2020 • Light House Cinema

Wraith, Surri

At the precipice of womanhood and plagued with foreboding dreams, Maria must confront the mistrust of her family as a strange epidemic sweeps through Ireland.

Suri Grennell is a writer director with a degree in Film & Television Production from the National Film School at IADT. Since graduating in 2015, her short films have screened at Galway Film Fleadh, Kerry Film Festival, Fastnet Festival, Offline Festival and Clare Island Festival. She is on a steadfast mission to tell female stories that engage, challenge and excite.


Ciúnas (Tristan Heanue)

Virgin Media DIFF Shorts #3 • 6pm, 3rd March 2020 Light House Cinema

Ciunar, Tristan He

A couple embark on a journey in the midst of a family crisis.

Tristan Heanue is an award-winning filmmaker from Connemara, Co. Galway. He began his career as an actor before moving into writing and directing in 2013 with his debut short film In This Place.

His second film titled Today premiered at the Galway Film Fleadh in 2015 where it won the award for Best Debut Drama and he followed that up with ‘A Break in the Clouds’ in 2017.

His latest film Ciúnas (Silence) which was the winner of the 2018 Físín Script Award at the Dingle Film Festival premiered at the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh where he became the first short filmmaker to be nominated for the Bingham Ray New Talent Award. He most recently won the Irish Screen America ‘Rising Star Award’ for his work on Ciúnas and the Grand Prix at the 64th Cork Film Festival.


The Grass Ceiling (Iseult Howlett)

Screen Ireland Shorts #1 • 7.30pm, 1st March 2020 • Light House Cinema

The Grass Ceiling, Iseult

“Team sport does something to a girl. You get to think about your body in terms of what it can do, rather than how it looks. You become more engine than ornament.”

This short documentary film vividly captures the raw physicality of team sport, you can feel the grass stains on the players’ knees, the flowchart of bruises on their bodies. Three successful female athletes explore what drives them to play, how the punishment, effort and joyful reward in sport reveal something essential in the human spirit that is often elusive for women; how being physically courageous, unapologetically competitive and deeply passionate can unlock a freedom to really occupy your own skin.

Iseult Howlett has been crafting stories for screen for almost 20 years. She is a multiple IFTA nominated editor and has cut a number of award-winning documentaries and short films. The Grass Ceiling is Iseult’s directorial debut.

 

Preview of Irish Films @ Dublin International Film Festival 2020

 

 

Film Ireland Podcasts

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Making Films Dublin

Making Films

Making Films Dublin is a new event focusing on providing a behind the lens insight into the independent film scene in Dublin.  Ballyfermot College Final Year Film Students have organised this key event bringing a host of industry professionals to share their tips and experience.

Making Films Dublin will take place in the Cinema Room at Generator Hostel in Smithfield on Sunday, 1st March.

Speakers includes Liam McGrath, IFTA Best Director Winner and Executive Producer of the forthcoming programme being broadcast on RTE, Redress: Breaking the Silence;  Assistant Director, Aoife Thunder, whose experience includes Neil Jordan’s Breakfast on Pluto (2005) and Michael Collins (1996), and Joel Schumacher’s Veronica Guerin (2003); The founders of Ireland’s largest film network, with 15,000 members, Film Network Ireland; Robert Fitzhugh, the Founder of Dublin Smartphone Film Festival and independent filmmaker Paul Webster who received €20,000 from the Screen Ireland for his docu-drama, The Vasectomy Doctor, together with a panel of working actors including Nina Donnelly and Eamonn Elliott, and an as yet to be announced speaker on Women in Film.  

Making Films Dublin is aimed at anyone interested in Irish film and what goes on behind the camera.  All proceeds will be used to further support Irish filmmaking by funding a short film called Ballcourt (Dir. H Kivikallio) being shot in May by Ballyfermot College Dublin.

Tickets and further information 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nathan Fagan, Writer / Co-Director of ‘Flicker’

Flicker Film Ireland interview

Ahead of its screening at this year’s Dublin International Film Festival, filmmaker Nathan Fagan Guimond takes us behind the camera of his short drama Flicker.

‘’Man up!’’ It’s a phrase that nearly every young man has heard uttered at some point in his life. Although the exact wording may differ between cultures and geographical location, the sentiment remains the same: ‘act like a man’. And how does a man act, exactly? A man acts with assertiveness, with strength, with stoic determination. Unaffected by emotion. Never weak, never vulnerable, never in need of help.

It’s staggering to reflect on the impact that this short, seemingly innocuous phrase has had on my life. And on the life of so many of the boys and men I’ve grown up with. Like some insidious seed or embryo, it seems to take root deep in our psyches. It burrows itself into our minds and our bodies. And when it does finally emerge, it tends to express itself in loud, self-destructive and often violent ways.

Irish culture and society has changed massively in a relatively short space of time. In just six short years, we’ve seen the passing of the Marriage Equality Act and, the Repeal of the 8th Amendment banning abortions. The past 40 years has seen an undeniable revolution in social attitudes that has turned Ireland from a conservative Catholic community into an open-minded, incredibly liberal nation.

And yet, despite all this positive change, the statistics surrounding mental health and suicide are eye-opening. According to a 2018 OECD report, some 18.5 per cent of the Irish population was recorded as having a mental health disorder, such as anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, or alcohol or drug use. This means Ireland has one of the highest rates of mental health illness in Europe.

The suicide rate in Ireland among young people remains relatively high for the European Union. Not only that, but 80 percent of these suicides among young people are males. 

These problems are compounded by the fact that young Irish men are often reluctant to seek help with their struggles with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

It’s against this backdrop and this on-going conversation about Irish masculinity that Flicker was born. For our first short drama, my co-director Luke Daly and I wanted to find a way to explore – in a subtle, realistic and non-moralising way – the damaging impact of this particular conception of ‘masculinity’ on a young man. In other words, we wanted to explore the damage done by that innocuous little phrase: ‘man up’. 

Based partly on our own personal experiences, Luke and myself decided to dramatise the experiences of Danny, a typical twenty-something college student, who becomes the victim of an unprovoked assault in a nightclub toilet. We wanted to explore how Danny and his circle of friends react to this extremely common but psychologically traumatic event. We wanted to explore the ways in which Danny’s own internalised conception of masculinity prevents him from acknowledging the impact of this trauma. In the end, as Danny’s internal crisis reaches its crescendo, he finds himself acting out in an uncharacteristically violent way. 

Alongside this, we also wanted to create a realistic portrait of twenty-something Dublin: the way young people live, the way they speak, the way they relate to and interact with each other. Realism and naturalism were essential to us. We wanted young Irish twenty-somethings – young Irish men in particular – to watch our film and see themselves reflected back in it. 

To achieve this, we assembled a seriously talented cast of up-and-coming young actors: Peter Newington, Seán Doyle, Tony Doyle, Caoimhe Coburn Gray, Megan Bea-Tiernan and Robbie Dunne. 

Of course, there’s nothing new about trauma narratives in cinema. We’re all familiar with cinematic portrayals of traumatised veterans returning from war, of grizzled war reporters battling PTSD, and other well-trodden tropes.

Unusually, however, it’s the more common, everyday traumas that are rarely explored in cinema. What about the woman who’s catcalled on the way home from work? The boy who gets a ‘few little digs’ on the way home from school? The young man who gets assaulted on a night out with friends? 

The psychological impact of trauma is wide-ranging and can occur in all sorts of situations. In many ways, in fact, the traditional cinematic portrayal of the ‘traumatised war survivor’ might be part of the problem. By focusing all representations of trauma to individuals who have survived these extreme forms of trauma, it downplays the experiences of those living with the consequences of more every-day traumas. 

In many ways, this is the point we wanted to get across with Flicker. That all suffering is legitimate and worthy of acknowledgement. 

Although our film is set in Ireland, we believe this story is universal. We sincerely hope our short film resonates with audiences, from many different backgrounds and walks of life.

 

Flicker screens as part of Shorts #3, at the Light House Cinema on 3rd March at 6:00pm as part of the Dublin International Film Festival (26th February – 8th March 2020)

 

 

 

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Linenhall Arts Centre World Cinema Screenings

Linenhall Arts Centre

Castlebar’s Linenhall Arts Centre  Film Club holds its world cinema screening every second Tuesday.  The film club provides  a great way to access foreign, arthouse film in the West of Ireland in a cinematic setting.

Linenhall Film Club is affiliated to Access Cinema. Access Cinema is a national resource organisation for regional cultural cinema, and is a member of the International Federation of Film Societies.

Schedule

The Souvenir on February 25th @ 8pm

Julie is a shy film student from a privileged background, who wants to use her work to better understand the realities of the world. When she meets the older and mysterious Anthony, Julie finds herself caught up in her first serious love affair. Director Joanna Hogg re-imagines some of her own real-life experiences in a film that explores many subjects including art and memory, as well as romance and love. Featuring a breakout performance from Honor Swinton Byrne, The Souvenir is refreshingly honest and beautifully devastating.

“The Souvenir does many things so exquisitely, it’s hard to know where to begin.” – Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out
“… mysterious, seductive, thrillingly controlled…” – Robbie Collin, The Daily Telegraph

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love on March 3rd @ 8pm

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love is a beautiful yet tragic love story between Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian muse Marianne Ihlen. The film follows their relationship from the early days on Hydra in the 1960s, a humble time of ‘free love’ and open marriage, to how their love evolved when Leonard became a successful musician. It was on Hydra in 1968 that director Nick Broomfield first met Marianne, who introduced him to Cohen’s music and also encouraged Nick to make his first film.
USA 2019 102mins English language Cert: G
“Just lovely.” – Kevin Maher, The Times

Monos on March 10th @ 8pm

Exiled on a remote mountainside in South America, the Monos are a group of teenage soldiers. Their job: to guard a single hostage. They have their orders but also their rituals, and when the group’s leadership is tested, the dynamics shift and the few ties the Monos had to reality and the outside world dissolve. Monos is a powerful, beautifully surreal film from Director Alejandro Landes, that uses a pulsating soundtrack and visual style to provide an immersive and mesmerising experience for the viewer.

Colombia/Argentina/Netherlands/Germany/Sweden/Uruguay 2019 102mins Cert: 15A
English/Spanish (with English subtitles)

“Haunting, challenging, affecting, alarming and utterly mesmerising.’’ – Mark Kermode, Observer
“Easily one of the best films of 2019.’’ – Tara Brady, The Irish Times

Sons of Denmark (Danmarks sønner) on March 24th @8PM

One year after a bomb attack in Copenhagen, ethnic tensions are running high. Angered by the rising anti-Islamic climate, 19-year-old Muslim Zakaria is recruited by neighbourhood elder Hassan, and placed under the watchful eye of Ali. Eager but naive, Zakaria becomes entangled in a violent plot against a dangerous far-right leader. Ulaa Salim’s debut is a provocative, politically charged thriller.

Denmark 2019 123mins Cert: 15 Danish/Arabic with English subtitles

“ … gels politics, family and police procedural into a fiery thriller.” – Kaleem Aftab, Cineuropa
“An ambitious, provocative, politically charged thriller.” – Neil Young, Hollywood Reporter

Transit on April 7th @ 8PM

Like many others, German refugee Georg has fled Paris to escape the impending war. He has assumed the identity of a famous but deceased writer, and plans to use the man’s documentation to obtain a transit visa and immigrate to Mexico. But when Georg encounters the dead man’s wife in Marseille, he finds himself dangerously drawn to her. Although the story is anchored in the past, director Christian Petzold relocates events to a contemporary setting, blurring the lines between past and present. The result is a thrilling and unique piece of work.

Germany/France 2018 102mins Cert: 12A German/French language with English subtitles

“…brilliant existential thriller works like a dream…” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“By turns intimate and expansive, a thrilling, at times harrowing labyrinth of a movie.” – Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

Amazing Grace on April 14th @8PM

In January 1972, Aretha Franklin made her legendary album Amazing Grace with the Southern California Community Choir and Reverend James Cleveland in the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Recorded in two days, this live album was to become the most successful gospel record of all time. Brilliantly capturing a remarkable performer near the peak of her prodigious power, Alan Elliott and Sydney Pollack’s Amazing Grace is a thrilling must-watch documentary for Aretha Franklin fans.

USA 2018 87mins Cert: G

“This is a film that revels in a titanic talent, and the details that an audio recording can never pick up. The close-ups are wonderfully intimate.” – Ed Potton, The Times
“Surely the new gold standard of filmed music concerts?” – Little White Lies

Pain and Glory (Dolor y gloria) on April 21st @8PM

Veteran director Salvador Mallo currently suffers many health issues, which he blames for the creative rut he finds himself in. As he tries to recover both creatively and physically, he remembers his mother and reflects on his work, family and past loves. Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz reunite with award-winning director Pedro Almodóvar in his most personal film to date.

Spain 2019 113mins Cert: 16 Spanish with English subtitles

“Life meets art in Almodóvar’s wistful extravaganza. The director delivers another sensuous and deeply personal gem as Banderas’ ageing film-maker faces up to death.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“Every element of the film is beautifully judged.” – Donald Clarke, The Irish Times

 

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Review: Parasite

parasite Review

 

DIR: Joon-ho Bong • WRI: Joon-ho Bong, Jin Won Han • DOP: Kyung-pyo Hong • ED: Jinmo Yang • DES: Kave Quinn • PRO: Kwak Sin Ae, Moon Yang Kwon, Jang Young Hwan • MUS: Jaeil Jung • DES: Ha-jun Lee • CAST: Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo

Bong Joon Ho’s pitch-black quasi comic-drama, thriller has made cinematic history. The first South Korean film to win the Palme D’Or, the first film to win Best Picture at the Oscars, and Best International Picture; as well as awards for Original Script and Director. The accolades also include Golden Globes, BAFTAs and so on and on.  It is truly the cinematic darling of the moment and possibly the most successful South Korean film of all time. But is this tale of impoverished interlopers any good? 

Not for want of trying the Kim family live in poverty, in a dingy basement that consists of very little but memories of better days and a raised toilet that shares space with everything else in the household. When we meet the Kim family they are piggybacking on the upstairs neighbours Wi-Fi in their efforts to apply for jobs and change their place in the world.  Soon a job opportunity comes along; the son is asked by his more successful middle class friend to give private English tuition to the daughter of a rich family. The friend is going on sabbatical and does not trust his fellow college students to give tuition to the girl whom he is smitten with. Fool him. Of course the wealthy family will not take on any old English tutor, so subterfuge and a little credential forging help ensure he gets the job. Soon more opportunities are contrived to get family members positions of work in the wealthy household and each opportunity requires more ingenuity and less morality than the last.  It seems the Kim family might be capable of anything to continue their success. By this point Ho has created a tense and uncomfortable home invasion scenario that could go anywhere. To say anymore would spoil this screw turning drama. 

Ho has been seen as a breath of fresh air since he began his career; known for genre bending (something he says was never intended) and a quirky mix of dark suspense and humour. What he does best is create characters that defy the usual mainstream interpretations. Allegiances and attitudes toward his protagonists and antagonists are consistently turned upside down. The term villain can rarely find a true place in a Bong Joon Ho film because he finds the humanity in everyone despite his or her flaws. 

Parasite is the essence of this attitude in his storytelling, also present in large dollops is his love of Hitchcock, which has been noted in his work many times. For once comparisons with the master are relevant unlike the superficial comparisons usually thrown at filmmakers. This is not to deny his own identity and skills as a filmmaker. What he brings of the Hitchcockian sensibility is purer than stealing tropes or cinematic tricks. Ho understands emphatically the human element at the heart of all good Hitchcock tales. That complicit mood Hitchcock wanted his audiences to feel; those voyeurs in the dark. Never let the audience off the hook, Hitchcock once said. Ho achieves this in spades and with more than one hook.

Some may not find the ending to their taste but it is to be argued that this sort of story could never have an ending anyone is going to be truly satisfied with. Whatever you might think of its ending there is no doubting that Ho manages to entertain us in getting there and leaves us thinking about our humanity and responsibilities to each other in a world where economic injustices are more out of control than they have ever been. 

Paul Farren

132′ 9″
16 (see IFCO for details)

Parasite is released 7th February 2020

Parasite  – Official Website

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Review: Emma

Emma Review, Shauna Fox, Film Ireland

DIR: Autumn de Wilde • WRI: Eleanor Catton • DOP: Christopher Blauvelt • ED: Nick Emerson • DES: Kave Quinn • PRO: Tim Bevan, Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin, Eric Fellner • MUS: David Schweitzer, Isobel Waller-Bridge • DES: Sharon Seymour • CAST: Tanya Reynolds, Anya Taylor-Joy, Josh O’Connor

My first introduction to Jane Austen was BBC’s TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, you know, the version when Colin Firth comes out of a lake dripping wet? Yep, that one. Ever since I’ve had an interest in screen adaptations of Austen’s works. The Keira Knightley version never holds up to what the BBC created in 1995; however, I know many people who disagree with that opinion. But that’s the joy of Austen, her work is so beloved, and always manages to stand the test of time, that people will always continue to make adaptations of her writing; there are so many versions of her work that most will find one that they always go back to. Much like Pride and Prejudice, Emma too has multiple on-screen adaptations: there’s the one with Gwyneth Paltrow in 1996, Kate Beckinsale plays Emma in another filmic version in the same year, and the 2009 BBC version; then of course you have more modern takings like Clueless. Now, in 2020, another addition is added to the screen canon – Autumn de Wilde’s Emma, which, looking at her IMDB appears to be her first feature-length film as a director, being best known for her directorial work on music videos for the likes of Florence and the Machine. For her first major cinematic release this is a hell of a debut. 

What immediately stands out with this film is its frivolity and flamboyance; this is portrayed through the comedic tone, the cinematography, the score, the colour, the sets, the costumes, the acting… everything comes together perfectly to create probably one of the funniest and memorable versions of Emma I’ve seen. It has an air of the same oddness that Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite contained. Anya Taylor-Joy brings a great arrogance and superiority to the character of Emma that I feel wasn’t quite captured in some previous adaptations; her belief that she is right in all things, particularly in the field of meddling in other people’s love lives, was very well portrayed in Taylor-Joy’s take. Emma’s ‘teaching’ of her friend Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) to marry a man higher than her station in life is unfortunately misguided, and lends toward much heartache for her friend, and herself. Yet the fact that Emma believes women should be able to marry whomever they want, regardless of class, is what makes her a heroine that can be appreciated today. 

The chemistry between Anya Taylor-Joy and Johnny Flynn, who played Mr. Knightley, Emma’s long-time friend, was on point. There was an equality and realism to their conversations, the comfort with which both could express their views (mostly opposing) to each other was refreshing to watch, it didn’t feel contrived or staged; therefore making the fact that they are, in fact, in love more believable. I particularly liked Flynn’s Mr. Knightley because, although Knightley is a gentleman, Flynn gives him a humanness that, at times, is laughable. One scene shows him throwing his coat and flinging himself to the floor in exasperation. The entire cast of this film embody their characters perfectly, allowing for the creation of an endearing comedy. Bill Nighy as Emma’s father is hilarious, bringing his typical calming demeanour to a character that worries too much. Miranda Hart was the best choice for the rambling Ms. Bates, while Josh O’ Connor was great at capturing the cringe-worthy Mr. Elton. Also, it’s hard not to notice a few of the cast from Netflix’s Sex Education popping up in the film. 

The pastel colours of the sets and costumes make the film aesthetically enjoyable to watch, with the score complementing the light air of the entire movie. I generally find that when a film is advertised specifically as a comedy it’s never as funny as I expect, but de Wilde’s Emma is charming in its easy humour, and original approach to the well-known text. The somewhat modern feel given to this film will hopefully encourage a younger generation to gain an interest in Jane Austen. 

De Wilde’s Emma is a great addition to onscreen renditions of Austen’s texts, and can stand proudly among the best of them. 

Shauna Fox

124′ 52″
PG (see IFCO for details)

Emma is released 14th February 2020

Emma  – Official Website

 

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