Emma (2020 Film)
‘This adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel is so well researched… they have made it look like real country life at that time.’
Following the antics of a young woman, Emma Woodhouse, who lives in Georgian- and Regency-era England and occupies herself with matchmaking – in a sometimes misguided, often meddlesome fashion- in the lives of her friends and family.
‘I write about country life,’ Jane Austen said once in a letter. Much of women’s lives were taken up with finding a match at that time. Something Jane Austen was never successful at, but I know she considered. She certainly appreciated a man’s ‘fine eyes,’ at least once in a letter to her sister, which she funnily enough then used as Darcy’s description for Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice. I don’t know who the real Emma was, but knowing so many of her characters were inspired by the people she met I imagine she had a friend, or a combined set of friends, who wanted to help and brought the concept of Emma to her mind.
I particularly love this adaption of Jane Austen’s novel because it is so well researched it absolutely expresses that country way of life that Jane loved to capture. I remember reading an interview with a writer once who said, ‘Jane Austen did not put a date to her books, and I want to follow that.’ Well for Jane Austen these novels were contemporary, inspired by the life she lived and the lives she observed, of course she did not record a date it was today’s date for her – and so we know that the setting was in her lifetime in Georgian- and Regency-era England . A fantastically brilliant time for a life of fashion and flourish. But Jane does not describe the fashions in her books (apart from the price of muslins) in great detail because people knew the fashions. She was a follower of fashion, though, she often wrote to her sister about fashions, for instance commenting on the use of fruit to decorate hats rather than flowers and the change from short sleeves to long sleeves.
A few years ago when I was researching that era I learned not only about the men’s fashions, like those pointed, stand-up shirt collars (which are commonly known about), but the sudden flares of fashion at the time, and one of those was the scarlet red cloaks. They were a fashion for young women. Everyone, everywhere, with money enough to buy them, wore white dresses (a well known fashion) but with vivid red cloaks.
Years ago when I was researching my own books set in that era I came across these paintings made by a young woman, Diana Sperling, who drew country life as impressively as Jane Austen wrote about it. It was brilliant to see through the eyes of someone living in the time, and it has helped me capture a more real sense of the time in my books. This is why I can see the team researching the sets and costumes for Emma have been carefully considering the details. Most people would not know the details, so they did not have to do more complex research to enhance the film, but I am very impressed that they have made it look so like real country life at that time. It’s wonderful, and I think Jane Austen would have loved it.
What a brilliant adaptation, it is definitely one to watch.
You can also see in Diana’s pictures, the introduction of Wellington Boots 🙂 . A fashion for boots started by the Duke of Wellington, of course. These were boots that could more easily be pulled on and off, and they were worn by men and women. Of course they are a fashion that has lasted.
Read the novel that is a story about Jane Austen’s life as she discovers the final inspirations that made Pride and Prejudice the book we know and love.