Monday, April 16, 2012

Mini-Series Review: Charles Dickens' Great Expectations

Gillian Anderson, as Miss Havisham, the best crazy eyes ever.
This is Charles Dickens' at his creepy best; Great Expectations is even more disturbing than "A Christmas Carol," because this isn't a supernatural story, just people being enormously terrifying and bizarre in the real world. The BBC really outdid itself in setting the tone and mood of this serving of Dickens.

This link should be good for awhile so you can see this magnificent story online.

Ray Winstone, as Abel Magwitch
For those who were not involved in reading Dickens in school, let me say that although these stories translate well to film, Dickens really is worth reading for his personable style; his characters are alive. The setting is so compelling, you practically choke on the smoke, fog, and yuck in the London air. You can just about smell Abel Magwitch's B.O.

Dickens can really scare you, and make you worry for his innocent-victim-of-circumstance  characters. I still worry about David Copperfield (David Copperfield). Somehow that story didn't seem finished. And it was so sad about Nancy (Oliver Twist.). Dickens' own personal story is very Dickensian, so he wrote with a heart of experience as to the abandonment, terror, and anticipation of youth.

Oscar Kennedy as Pip the younger.
Douglas Booth as Pip the Elder.
Dickens, as always, is concerned about the economic class struggle of Victorian England and compares and contrasts the souls of the characters to evaluate who is noble and who is despicable. In this story, a little boy named Philip Pirrup (Pip) is lead through a series of manipulations that test the value of all his relationships and motives. He must grow into a gentleman.
Pip turned out to be a pip.

Pip's acquaintance with Miss Havisham is astonishingly awful, almost a horror flick. Gillian Anderson perfects the role. I never once expected her to say, "Mulder, is that you?" which is not a simple task when you are well known for another role. (X Files.) But she was also excellent in Bleak House by our author Dickens.

Please don't be satisfied with only the film or mini-series versions of Dickens. The books are great to teach a class, or read aloud. Dickens himself would travel giving lectures, reading his stories and doing all the voices of his characters. He came to America, too. And there are many documentaries on Dickens, at least five on Netflix.

You can also download some stories from this site, to read or listen to.

Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham
A movie version of this story is in production due the end of the year, as this is the two hundredth anniversary of Dickens' birth.  When it comes out, we can compare and contrast Gillian Anderson and Helena Bonham Carter, the two Miss Havishams. (Though the pic at the right looks a bit like Tim Burton should have produced it.)

This youtube link from PBS Masterpiece almost gives away everything, but maybe it will tempt you enough to read or watch this classic. It is just a really good story.

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