Dickens Around

I was knocked out the last couple of days by a weird sort of summer cold.  In that time I read the last Scott Pilgrim book.  It was fine.  I don’t feel like talking about that.  The rest of the internet and better blogs than this blog are blogging about that.  No, I’m here to talk about Charles Dickens for a second.  Or David Lean. Both.  TCM was showing all Charles Dickens movies on Thursday and as I was congealing on my couch I sat and watched David Lean’s excellent adaptations of Great Expectations and Oliver Twist.

Great Expectations

David Lean, 1946

There was something to how the relationship between Miss Havisham and Estella was portrayed.  It was always creepy what was going on, on the screen but it was most effective in making you wonder what was going on off-screen.  What their day to day life together is like, how this shut in who never moves provides for a teenage girl at all.  How do you raise a child without ever leaving your room.  Both these movies are essentially cliff notes versions of the books and while these truncated versions make plot developments seem kind of jerky (more of a problem in Lean’s Twist than in this, this is a pretty good and cheerier condensation), it also creates matter like this.

Oliver Twist

David Lean, 1948

First of all this movie reminds me of how un-well read I am.  People think I’m well read quite often.  I had a guy at the Wendy’s drive one time look at me and say/ask “Man, are you must be very smart!”.  The Single Bacon with mustard and onions, the cheeseburger of scholars.  I didn’t realize that after a certain point, Oliver Twist doesn’t really involve him that much.  I realized I’ve of course never read Oliver Twist but I also hadn’t actually seen anything Oliver Twist except for maybe 10 minutes of Oliver & Company and I don’t think that counts.

But really the thing about this movie is the scene where Sikes murders Nancy (is this a spoiler? it’s a 170 year old novel and a 65-year-old movie?)  It’s fucking BRUTAL.  Like 70s crime movie brutal.  We see him grab the bludgeon throw his arm up and down we hear the bashing noise and we cut to Nancy’s whimpering dog scratching at the door trying to get away.  But it doesn’t stop there because we get to see him when he calms down and he realizes what he’s just done and the dog is there trembling and he puts a sheet over her so he doesn’t have to look.  Some real shit right there.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2010

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