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Ioan Gruffudd, Justine Waddell and Charlotte Rampling star in this adaptation of Charles Dickens' enduring classic Great Expectations, the story of a young orphan named Pip who lives with his sister and her blacksmith husband, Joe.
One day Pip is sent to play at the residence of Miss Havisham, a frightening, elderly woman who seems locked in the past. She wears ancient bridal attire and never moves from the dusty upper rooms of her home. Miss Havisham's beautiful but contemptuous ward, Estella, makes Pip feel appallingly inferior, creating in him a desire to better himselfchanging his life forever. But despite his efforts to improve himself, the frustrated Pip seems destined to remain Joe's apprentice. Until one day a lawyer calls to inform Pip that he has "great expectations:" Pip is to be released form his apprenticeship and educated in London as a gentleman! The benefactor who has made this life transformation possible, however, wishes to remain anonymous.
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In this 2004-version; actress, Justine Waddell, who was great as the sweet and wonderful Molly in "Wives and Daughters", co-stars. Here she plays an attractive woman, who has been raised by her jilted, grandmother to intentionally misuse and abuse men, who are infatuated with her beauty. She plays this part effectively as you feel the young man's emptiness in the end. However, I could not get into this version
The 1981-version has a better first episode; but then drags.
The book's author, Charles Dickens, married his wife Catherine in 1836. They were together 21-years, and had ten children. During his marriage Dickens wrote his brilliant novels: "Oliver Twist" 1839, "A Christmas Carol" 1843, and "David Copperfield" 1850. Mr. Dickens divorced his wife in 1858. Mr. Dickens wrote the story "Great Expectations" after his divorce in 1861. Divorce affects everyone no matter the circumstances. The 1947-version of "Great Expectations" is a good movie, but I did not like the part about the jilted, bitter, wealthy, old, grandmother; living in the dark, big house; with the dining-room and food left untouched for 50-years. Yet, if you persist through these strange scenes; the 1947-version is interesting later on in the film. I realize this woman is a necessary part of the story, but the film should have been much briefer with her.
Charles Dickens's book "Oliver Twist" is wordy, long, and daunting, unless you are a strong and imaginative reader. The "Oliver Twist" DVD is great for the rest of us, because the story has been so polished and streamlined by so many people. Before TV and movies; before radio, every town had a theatre that performed plays. Every town in England and America performed the play "Oliver Twist"; for 90-years, until sound movies. For 90-years; these towns kept polishing the story and improving upon each other. Today; on DVD, the polished story skips along without a bump. The story "Great Expectations" did not get this polishing in the theatre and has a few bumps. Yet, even with the bumps; the 1947-version is a good story.
A poor orphan, Pip, is raised by a poor blacksmith. A life of rough and tough luck. Take it or leave it, but there is no way out, except the radical one. And he dreams of being a gentleman one day. An aberration of course, morally wrong and bad taste.
He is selected and invited by Miss Havisham, a deranged rich woman who is mourning in total decay and sorrow after the failure of her wedding when the bridegroom did not come, twenty years before. Her objective is to provide a male companion and eventually husband to her adopted daughter, Estella.
But one night on the moor Pip is "accosted" by an prison escapee of some kind who asks for food and the boy of six or seven, maybe eight provides in the night, including a file for him to get rid of his manacles. He will turn up as his benefactor.
Luck, luck and luck. But then systematically Dickens shatters every single opportunity and hope on the side of the boy, Pip, who ends up in prison for unpaid debts, on the side of his benefactor, Abel, who will die in prison holding Pip's hand after his final arrest, on the side of Miss Havisham who will achieve none of her plans, on the side of Estella who will marry the rich and noble young man, will be brutalized and will end up alone in Miss Havisham's house, on the side of Biddy who will marry Joe the Blacksmith when Pip finally realizes she had been his closest ever friend, and even on the side of Estella who will refuse to requite Pip's love, though she will accept to make him her platonic companion in Miss Havisham's.redecorated house.
That cruelty is so extreme that we just wonder if Dickens then is not going through a phase of complete social rejection, rejection of the upper classes, rejection of the lower classes, rejection of justice, rejection of any discourse about the possible improvement of individuals and society. Absolute resignation and pessimistic submission to a totally inhumane world that only has some small pockets of satisfaction, but never for yourself, always for some rare others. He did not even salvage the exiled criminal who became Pip's benefactor, as Victor Hugo did in Les Misérables, and makes him die a solitary, nearly solitary death in prison with the sole company of the young man he tried and failed to help, and unaware of his daughter's fate, which does not seem to be particularly brilliant anyway, since she is Estella, daughter of a female assassin and a male exiled criminal condemned to absolute reclusion for life.
I just wonder if here Dickens does not reach Zola's pessimism who considered that anyone born in a criminal circle could only be that and drag everyone around him down into that criminal circle. No salvation for those who are badly born. The belief in an elected people turned into a savage and wild social Darwinism: some have been elected to be crushed and powdered by life as slowly as possible for them to regret ever being born but absolutely unable to shorten the ordeal.
Sad and sad and sad.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU