Friday, 30 December 2011

Less than Great Expectations

While it is understandable that screen versions, big or small, require books to be filleted, one would have thought it well nigh impossible to rob Dickens' greatest book (certainly in terms of craft) of almost all its humanity.  But this, astoundingly, is what the recent BBC adaptation has managed.  Here we had a Pip entirely without character, a Joe Gargery without warmth (not a lark to be seen or heard), an Estella with feelings, and a Miss Haversham with the curtains open.  Jaggers was reduced to hard-bitten efficiency and Wemmick was robbed of his Aged P.  Herbert retained some hint of innocence and Bentley Drummond was perhaps the only character close in his malevolence to that portrayed by his original creator.  Ray Winstone as Magwitch was excellent. This was Great Expectations as social realism, missing humour and warmth and, most of all, love.  Dickens would have loathed this dull, inanimate thing.

2 comments:

  1. Can't really disagree with anything you say - there were indeed some odd detours from the text - but I have to be honest and say I enjoyed it.
    It became a sort of parable about kindness. I found Joe much changed, but also very affecting. I liked the prominence Drummle was given (he rhymes with pummel). And found the restoration of Orlick to important supporting role illuminating - I'd forgotten about him and the way he loves Joe, and thus acts as a distorted mirror to the main plot, given great expectations by Magwitch's alter ego Compeyson.

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  2. Well, as you know, i don't much like criticizing (it is always too easy), but i really loathed this. I didn't much like the adaptor's Oliver Twist, either. Implicit in the approach is the idea that humour is misplaced when dealing with Social Ishoos, whereas of course it is the humour that gives life (and veracity) to the stories. And of course I don't mean humour in the ha ha sense, but rather in the sense of finding a place for all emotions. Plus I really couldn't stand Pip. About as animated as an offshore hulk...

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