In February of 2020 (a long-forgotten time pre-lockdown) Autumn De Wilde’s feature length directorial debut, Emma, was released. The film itself was received with much adoration despite its screenings being cut short by the pandemic.
Emma exudes a romantic and vibrant aesthetic without overwhelming the characterisation or the story. Wilde’s personal style and photographic pieces together demonstrate an understanding of how colour, light and texture amplify a character and help to tell their story. Wilde’s outlandish personality, paired with an adoration of Austen’s Emma, is ardently reflected in the lavish colour palette that is ever changing in the film. She exhibits an Oscar Wilde-like decadence in her own aesthetic, usually donning a fedora hat with matching waistcoat, loafers and walking stick. For Wilde, the visual representation of the external self is fundamental.
An undeniable understanding of colour and texture means that Wilde’s attention to detail is second to none. Cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt, also working on Emma, describes Wilde’s directorial technique as a visual approach, and applauds her ability to paint pictures. The film is utterly beguiling, and Wilde’s synthesis of a scrumptious palette and decadent characterisation builds a picture book world that enthrals any who witness it.
This satisfying and mesmerising tone created by Wilde’s aesthetic is present in all of her work. Her artistic catalogue is extremely eclectic, and if you were to find it on a Pinterest board you may be confused with the connection to her film Emma. Wilde was the cover photographer for Donald Glover’s 2013 album Because the Internet for his musical manifestation, Childish Gambino. The cover is a shot of Glover leaning forwards in a pink Hawaiian style shirt and this playful image, smothered in purple and yellow lighting, creates a warmth that is absent from Glover’s facial expression and exposes Wilde’s subtle invitation to the viewer, drawing us in. Wilde’s 2018 series of photographs for the Los Angeles label Rodarte features Grimes, and depicts Wilde’s formulation of the aesthetic she would later apply to her feature film. Although Grimes’ futuristic and sci-fi wardrobe has been substituted for an ethereal dress, Wilde ensures her personality still shines through the photograph and, no matter the setting or purpose, Wilde teases a charismatic energy from her subjects.
Wilde’s artistic background only serves to enhance her creative eye. She has a refreshing talent for matching colour and light to settings and people. In an interview for magazine HeyUGuys, Wilde admitted she focused on humanising the period piece not modernising it. However, when the first trailers of Emma were released there were criticisms over the film relying too heavily on style and perhaps sacrificing the witty and beloved story for an eye pleasing piece of art. Alternatively, this appreciation of artistic style highlights that Austen’s story is not withered and ageing, but it is in fact vibrant and appealing. Many period adaptations tend to focus on the story being a thing of the past. But Wilde’s colourful retelling is delicious and, this being her feature film directorial debut, I among others simply cannot wait to see what she does next.
Image: mrxstitch via Flickr