Dickens on screen: the highs and the lows

There have been more than 400 film and TV adaptations so far, and counting, some brilliant, some memorably awful

The opening credits of BBC1's new three-part adaptation of Great Expectations (27-29 December) show a chrysalis cracking open to reveal a pair of trembling wings. A few seconds later this delicate emergence is replaced on screen by the escaped convict Magwitch (Ray Winstone) erupting from the stagnant waters of the Essex marshes. Covered in blood and slime, he is at once the monster of nightmares and a huge misshapen baby gasping its first breath.

In a single sequence, the director Brian Kirk gets to the heart of Dickens's novel as a fable of rebirth and renewal. Together with Sarah Phelps, the screenwriter, he has created a world in which characters are forever seeking to transform themselves – or each other. A spookily young Miss Havisham (Gillian Anderson), still cocooned in her tatty wedding dress,
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