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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Emma (1996)

Emma (1996)

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Released 13-Nov-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer-1:52
Production Notes-13pp
Biographies-Cast & Crew-44pp
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 116:00
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Douglas McGrath

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Gwyneth Paltrow
Toni Collette
Jeremy Northam
Greta Scacchi
Alan Cumming
Ewan McGregor
Sophie Thompson
James Cosmo
Juliet Stevenson
Polly Walker
Case Click
RPI $34.95 Music Rachel Portman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Emma is a nicely judged romantic comedy, played out in the formal language of its time. It is a time when there was a rigid class system in England, when the rich need not work for their money, when servants were plentiful, when correspondence was exclusively by post. It was a good time, if you were rich. Perhaps the clearest illustration of the rigid stratification comes when Harriet asks Emma if she knows Mr Martin; Emma's response is that if Mr Martin were a degree or two lower, then Emma might be helpful to his family (she believes strongly in charity for the impoverished), but as a farmer doesn't need her help, he is as much above her notice as he is below it. Hmmm.

    We arrive in a small town (Highbury) just as Miss Taylor (Greta Scacchi) is marrying Mr Weston (James Cosmo). Miss Taylor was governess to Emma Woodhouse (Gwyneth Paltrow), but Emma is now 22, and so scarcely in need of a governess. Emma lives with her father, her mother having died some considerable time ago. 

    A new face arrives in the village, a Miss Harriet Smith (Toni Collette - doing a delightful job of playing a slightly awkward young woman). Emma decides that she must take Miss Smith in hand, and introduce her to society. She advises her about people like Miss Bates (Sophie Thompson - brilliantly twittering), but Emma decides that she must find Harriet a husband. This is very convenient, because Emma has already announced her intention of getting the local rector, Mr Elton (Alan Cumming), married off. She decides that Mr Elton and Miss Smith would make an excellent couple, and sets about arranging things.

    Much of the action in Emma takes place at the parties these people throw for one another. More still takes place in quiet meetings between Emma and her two confidants, Mrs Weston and Mr Knightley (Jeremy Northam). Mr Knightley is a close friend of the family, and his brother is married to Emma's sister. Knightley is one of the few people in Emma's small world who can criticise her, and have her hear the criticism. She starts by regarding him as a brother, but their relationship changes and grows.

    The biggest changes in Emma's milieu occur with the arrival of two other strangers: Miss Jane Fairfax (Polly Walker - who gets almost nothing to say, and must content herself with looking beautiful) and Mr Frank Churchill (Ewan McGregor). Mr Churchill is the son of Mr Weston, by his first marriage to a lady who died when Frank was only a few years old. Frank was raised by his mother's sister, who treated him as her own, and hence his different surname. His is a boisterous entrance, and he causes something of a stir.

    There are quite a few participants in the social whirl, and at times you may feel a need for a scorecard to keep track of everyone, but rest easy - all will work out, at its own pace. This is not a story to be gulped and forgotten, but rather one to savour, to be appreciated for all its subtle nuances.

    Not to diminish her acting abilities, but I wondered if Gwyneth Paltrow were chosen exclusively on the basis of her long and swanlike neck. She looks exquisite in the period costumes. Jeremy Northam, on the other hand, looks rather awkward - what is it that keeps happening to his collar? And who styled Ewan McGregor's hair? He most desperately needs a haircut, and instructions not to attempt to look like Mozart.

    In all, Emma is rather a delightful study of what can happen when a bright young woman with a lot of time on her hands takes to meddling in other people's love lives. This is classic romantic comedy. The formal language is no impediment, indeed it is a necessary component. The teen film Clueless is based on the same book, but I think it lacks something of the charm of Emma - perhaps it is that very language?

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Transfer Quality


    This movie is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio is 1.85:1, and this appears to be a pan-and-scan transfer, when compared with the widescreen Canadian R1 DVD. This is more than usually criminal, because so much of Emma has been composed for widescreen, with shots of the wide green scenery in rural England.

    The image is excellent, sharp enough to allow us to pick out fine details, but soft enough to conceal most attempts by the image to alias. Shadow detail is very good. There is no low-level noise.

    The colour is beautiful. There are some bright colours, but it is some of the darker colours which show real depth. 

    There are few film artefacts, but only one of real note, at 15:21 on Toni Collette's face - remember this one, for I will refer to it again later. There is some aliasing, but it is only occasional. There are no MPEG artefacts, and no moire. In all, this is quite a clean transfer.

    There are no subtitles.

    The disc is single-sided and single layered, so there is no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is only one soundtrack: English Dolby Digital 2.0, not surround encoded. 

    The dialogue is clear and readily understood. There are no visible traces of audio sync problems. 

    Rachel Portman's score is delicately instrumental, and truly appropriate to the times and places.

    Neither the subwoofer, nor the surrounds, are called upon by this soundtrack. That is no problem, for this movie is very much dialogue-driven, eschewing all explosions.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The extras are minor, but pleasant.


    The menu is static, with the theme music running in the background - it is a long clip. 

Trailer (1:52)

    The trailer is quite delightful. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with a similar soundtrack.

Production Notes

    These are 13 pages of text, discussing some of the development of this film. 

Cast and Crew

    This a different presentation - we get a screenful of photographs, and can click on each independently. For some of the lesser characters, we get only a note about their position in the film. For six of the main characters we get a short biography of the actor - a total of 44 pages, plus 4 more pages on the director.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Canadian Region 1 version of this disc is widescreen, but non-anamorphic. It has a a menu nicely themed to the movie. It lacks the production notes, and cast and crew biographies, but it has the same trailer. It seems a touch darker, but it is otherwise quite comparable. Fascinatingly, it has the exact same film artefact on Toni Collette's face at 16:01 (time difference due to NTSC vs PAL formatting). This suggests that they come from the same source at some stage - perhaps they have a common hi-def transfer in their ancestry.

    Interestingly, the cover of the R1 shows Emma with a bow and arrow (pointing up the tag-line: "Cupid is armed and dangerous"). This is a trifle odd, because the only scene in the movie where we see Emma with a bow and arrow has her wearing gloves, and they are conspicuously absent in the cover shot.

    This is a difficult comparison: a non-16x9 enhanced widescreen NTSC version versus a fullscreen pan-and-scan PAL version - I must lean to the widescreen version, given that it presents more of the film, albeit in considerably less resolution. My real hope is that they may, at some point, produce a 16x9 enhanced widescreen version.


    Emma is a gentle romantic comedy presented adequately on DVD.

    The video quality is good, for a pan-and-scan effort.

    The audio quality is good.

    The extras are nice, but not plentiful.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, January 28, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDArcam DV88, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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