Thursday, 15 August 2013

Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

Author: Charles Dickens

A lot of Dickens' stories are now to some extent like folk or fairy tales; they have become embedded in our collective consciousness and even if one has never read the source material one could outline the plots and name the principle characters.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is a wonderful story with many characters rich in diversity and complexity. From our lowly poor Pip who comes into money, to the quintessential tease, Estella, to the jilted bride Miss Havisham, and many others. Romance, love, betrayal, murder, and suspense are just a few of the aspects of this story, but are not even needed to draw you in. Dickens has created here a tapestry of a multitude of storylines, all touching upon one another, and making it impossible for you to not want to turn the page. This was an extraordinary book, that I will treasure for years to come. Many are probably like me and only knew the Gywenth Paltrow/Ethan Hawke version of this story, but there is so much more in the book!

Many twists and turns that particular movie version never addressed! I know it's heard a lot, but this is definitely a book that needs to be read before watching any film. It is worth all that it entails, and it's length only becomes a disappointment as you near the end and find yourself wanting to keep reading. I won't go into the plot, a quick google search will give you what you need in that arena, but I will say that I've heard of another version of this coming out this year with Helena Boham Carter playing Miss Havisham and I, for one, can't wait! The only other thing I'll say about this is that many don't know there were two endings to this. Dickens wrote the first one and was told by a friend that his fans wouldn't like it, so he changed it. Whether it's happier, is up for you to decide. I really think he left it a little more open, so we can surmise the possibilities of Pip's future for years to come, or apply the ending we wish for him. In either case, it's a brilliant piece of work, and definitely a classic.

The first movie adaptation I saw was the one starring Ethan Hawke. While a nice version, that's a little more modern, now that I've read the book, it really is lacking in detail and depth. I still enjoyed it, and loved some of the small liberties the director and actors took in their interpretations of the story, such as how Miss Havisham looked and dressed, the fact that Pip was an artist, the additional Pip putting Miss Havisham's hand over his heart later in the movie saying it was broken, and of course, the water fountain kiss. I really miss the sleek elegance that we used to get from Gwenyth Paltrow as in this movie, whereas nowadays, you see her more as white trash. She does very well in this movie and plays the part of Estella perfectly. And of course, Anne Bancroft as Ms. Dinsmoor/Miss Havisham does an excellent job as well. Enjoyable and worth the viewing.

The next version I saw was the 1999 black and white movie starring John Mills. While more accurate plot-wise, not as enjoyable an adaptation. I was bored in spots. And Estella looked years older than Pip, as did Bitty, and I always thought they were all a little closer in age. At least that's the impression I got. It was weird when Estella had to bend over for Pip to kiss her. Overall a decent representation but I don't know if I'd recommend it, or ever see it again.

Next the adaptation that would probably have been my favorite, had I gotten to see the whole of it. The one starring Ioan Gruffudd, I got from the library and halfway through, it just ends. I looked at the disk, the case, etc. and all it said was, "The second half coming tomorrow night on PBS". So apparently the library is loaning out half of movies now. In any case, I plan on going back there to see if they have it. It was a very good adaptation, and I really like Ioan Gruffudd. I've seen him in several things, most recently he played Mr. Darcy in one of my favorite versions of Pride & Prejudice. Great actors, and (so far) pretty close to the storyline.

Then I picked up another one labeled Great Expectations for Discovery Education and realized it was just a 90 minute video on the book. A lot of it was about the history of Charles Dickens but there were a few neat tidbits about the story that were interesting. They even showed some of the actual locations of the places that were inspirations for the book. Enjoyable and I recommend it.

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