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A Film Comparison Between Emma And Clueless

1436 words - 6 pages

Jane Austen's early nineteenth century novel, Emma spawned two well-known films from the mid-nineties. These are of course Emma, directed by Douglas McGrath and Clueless, written and directed by Amy Heckerling. While Emma is a direct adaptation of the novel, Clueless was merely inspired by its themes and messages. Furthermore, Emma aspires to successfully present the novel in celluloid and entertain a female, adult audience whilst introducing Jane Austen to a new generation. Conversely, Clueless aims to transport the themes and morals presented within the novel into a modern context that is relatable to the youth of today. Despite these differing objectives the films are similar in terms of storyline, theme and characterisationSuperficially, Emma and Clueless are tales of love told from the perspective of 'the match-maker,' however beneath this veneer lie stories about young women learning humility in the face of their own willful ignorance. In both stories the heroine misjudges not just Mr/Elton's affections, but also the extent of a second eligible man's affections for them. Cher and Emma even misjudge their own feelings towards a brother figure: Mr Knightly in Emma, and Josh in Clueless. As a result of their mistakes, both undergo a 'spiritual makeover' and rethink their opinions of themselves and the things into which they put their time and energy. A more blatant connection in the plot occurs when Emma paints a picture of Harriet for Mr Elton to hang up in his house. The equivalent to this in Clueless would be when Cher takes a picture of Tai for Elton to pin up in his locker. In both films the portrait is hung up not because of the subject but because of who created the image. Indeed, the films share similar storylines, yet they are set in vastly different environments.Emma is based around the upper class society of nineteenth century England, whereas Clueless is set amongst the cultural elite of Beverly Hills during the mid-1990's. Clueless is a striking model of refurbishment because it does not attempt to imitate the period or setting of the original text. Adaptations that attempt to be true to an original novel ultimately disguise updated perspectives and agendas behind costumes or accents. Clueless does not face this dilemma. By setting Clueless in Beverly Hills of the 1990's, Hecklering brings Austen's novel to a modern context that allows viewers to investigate the film and its themes, without the same degree of second-guessing necessary for direct adaptations such as McGrath's Emma, therefore further fulfilling its purpose.This difference in setting however, initially suggests that Clueless' adaptation of Austen's novel is not as accurate. However, on closer inspection Clueless actually appears to have been constructed by Austen's ghost. Heckerling took a 200-year-old story and not only made it relevant to today but also maintained the authors ironic voice. Famous for her ability to satirize the world she observed, Austen made fun...

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