Resources Great Expectations Film – Teaching Notes


Great Expectations will screen on March 7th 2013. For those of you teaching Great Expectations in your classrooms, the film promises to breathe further life into an already well loved novel. ATOM (Australian Teachers of Media) and Metro Magazine in conjunction with Universal Studios have shared with us this fabulous study guide for the film, which you can download FREE – HERE.

Welcome to the very latest screen adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel: Great Expectations. Written in 1860, the novel has, to date, been made into a film version nine times, director Mike Newell’s offering being the tenth. Interestingly, when the first three versions, (1917,1934, 1943) were released, there were people alive who could have read the novel in Dickens’ own lifetime (1812-1870). Audiences for one hundred and forty years have loved all the elements – thriller, social comedy, gothic horror, satire, farce and love story. 

Great Expectations has also been adapted into TV serials and stage musicals and has been plagiarised and updated by novelists and scriptwriters, testifying to the universal appeal of both characters and plot. Dickens’ gift for the creation of larger-than-life characters, complex and intriguing plots and compelling and evocative atmosphere certainly lends itself to the visual world of film. 

Those of you (hopefully a great many) who have read the novel, will notice that one or two elements of the plot have been removed in the film version, but the complex web of fate and irony in the “interweaving” of the characters’ lives, remains intact and clear. British reviewer Philip French has summed up Newell’s film as: reminding us what a fantastic, morally complex, eternally relevant story (it is)…of good and evil, decency and generosity, snobbery and love, of dealing with forces beyond our control, of accepting life and understanding the world. 

This Study Guide aims to explore the way in which Mike Newell treats this iconic classic, its relationship to, and effectiveness in comparison to the original written text, its reception by a range of film critics, and the connections we might make of its themes and issues in our modern world.

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