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Few directors have ever matched David Lean's ability to bring great literary
works to life on film, and this is one of his best productions. The Dickens
novel itself is so good that even routine film adaptations of it are usually
quite watchable, but this version is exceptional, with atmosphere, settings,
photography, and characters that do full justice to the original. From the
very beginning, with a wonderful realization of the graveyard scene, you are
drawn into the world of Pip and the other characters, and feel that you can
understand their concerns and dilemmas.
One of the things that makes "Great Expectations" such a classic story is that it adds some real depth to Dickens's usual slightly exaggerated characters, so that they are both memorable and thought-provoking. Characters such as Miss Havisham and Magwitch are interesting in their own right, besides serving as vital influences on Pip's life. Here the fine cast and directing help to realize the potential of the characters, making for an interesting story that also has some things to say. John Mills brings out Pip's innocence and earnestness very believably, and the supporting cast works quite well too. Some of them seem to be almost exactly what Dickens would have envisioned, such as Jean Simmons as the young Estella and Francis Sullivan as Jaggers (a role he also played in an earlier version).
This is exactly what a film version of a classic book should be, keeping the most important themes and events from the story and using the visuals to bring its world to life. It's an excellent movie that is enjoyable and nicely done in every respect.
I came to watch this film with no knowledge of the book, having never
read it and only the vaguest knowledge of a couple of the characters -
Magwitch the escaped convict and the jilted Miss Haversham. I had
absolutely no idea how events would turn out or what would happen to
the characters involved. Good for me - no baggage!!
Taken, then, in its own right I can say that I was quite staggered at the overall quality of this film in every respect and from the very opening shots: The acting, cinematography, costumes, sets, lighting, effects etc. etc. were all perfect and gave no hint of the film's vintage. Surprise surprise (or maybe no surprise), the storyline was quite superb - the ripe 'Dickensian' dialogue was a pleasure to hear and the plot was intelligent and interesting while maintaining a steady pace throughout.
All in all, a very pleasant experience for me and I'm glad it eventually found its way onto my radar!
So - a timeless masterpiece in my opinion and well worth watching by anyone looking for a break from modern CGI-laden disaster/action movies or who do not want to see yet another instance of the Americans saving the world from extra-terrestrial menace.
Nine out of ten without a moment's hesitation....
When David Lean directed Great Expectations, he used black and white, even
though color was available. From the very first scene, you see that the
black and white brings out a quality in the film, that wouldn't have been
achieved with color. The black and white makes the film seem simpler than
really is. Great Expectations is a film, which ends very nicely for the
characters, but their journeys throughout the film are
Pip sees himself for the rude snob he became, and Estella prides herself for being a heartless, ruthless bitch (for lack of a better word), and Miss Havisham is cold, and simply out to destroy men. The only person in this film who is not arrogant, or evil is the simple Joe.
I am far from a film expert. Infact, I only watched this movie because I am studying Great Expectations at school. However, after hours of in-depth discussion, there is so much more to this film than meets the eye. My favorite scenes are those in the first quarter of an hour. Lean's use of Silhouettes gives the search for the two escaped convicts a feel of war, and creates an atmosphere of tension very well. It also introduces the key characters in the story excellently.
As far as the story goes, I found it much easier on the head to watch than the book was to read. While it wasn't close in length to books i've read before (I think it's shorter than my little brother's "Harry Potter" books), it took me close to 30 hours to read. The movie compacts the majority of the book into 2 hours of film. The exclusion of characters like Orlick I have no problem with, as they are nearly completely irrelevant to the story. Lean explains the death of Pip's sister in less than 10 seconds, while the book takes somewhere in the region of 10 pages.
The acting is excellent. Alec Guinness was the only actor I had heard of, and that was only thanks to George Lucas. John Mills was interesting to watch, and after seeing the movie, I didn't know weather to like Pip for how he ended up, or to see him for the nasty person he had changed into (and come back from).
Only when watching it for the second time, did i realise the thought behind the direction. When Magwitch reappears, the atmosphere from their first meeting is created exactly; even the wind sounds the same. The sets were also incredible, and remade 19th century England perfectly. Ms. Havisham's `Statis House' was particularly memorable for me, as it is exactly how I pictured it from reading.
David Lean's Great Expectations set a benchmark in 1946 for great movies. It was nominated and won several Oscars, and is still enjoyed today. Every aspect of this film was enjoyable, it tells a great story, and if you look closer, you will appreciate the art of film making a little more, as I have.
This is very close to being one of the most perfect films ever made.
Every actor performs at his best - making every word and inflection count - and the script is perfect, the direction is perfect and the photography is excellent.
I am astounded by what Antony Wager, the young actor portraying Pip as a youngster, is able to deliver.
I only have one "but" - while Jean Simmons is perfect as the young Estella, I find Valerie Hobson - as the only member of the entire cast - miscast as the older Estella. I have researched this a little and have since found that she was married to the film's producer.
I wonder whom David Lean had been planning to use? I have been thinking about which actress, amongst those of the period who would have been available, would have been good for the role. The obvious choice is Vivien Leigh and another is Margaret Leighton.
Two years later David Lean made Oliver Twist, which, while good, is a very different kind of film. I don't really feel it lives up to the quality of Great Expectations.
I have a daughter in her early 20's. She and I saw Great Expectations on TV years ago and she still has very fond memories of it today and rushed to borrow the DVD I just purchased. She otherwise abhors "old films" and in particular those in B+W.
The Dickens novel is given classic treatment in David Lean's "Great
Expectations". The opening scene is so atmospheric it sets the tone for the
convoluted story to follow. The earlier scenes with young Pip are the most
enjoyable for me--especially those involving Estella (Jean Simmons) and Miss
Havisham (Martita Hunt).
Brilliant performances from all concerned. John Mills is wholly satisfying as the adult Pip and Valerie Hobson as the adult Estella--but it is Martita Hunt's Miss Havisham, sitting among the ruined finery of a wedding that never took place, everything exactly the way it was on that fateful day--and waging war on men ever since--that lingers in the memory.
Some of the best black and white photography seen until that time and an absorbing story with twists and surprises that have logical explanations. Compares favorably with the other great British film, "Oliver Twist" and, by all means, recommended viewing.
Not only worthy of its Best Picture nomination, it should have won over "Gentleman's Agreement" which now seems preachy and artificial.
The term 'classic' is often banded about with regard to films but I feel this one does warrant the term. A masterpiece of film-making by one of the best director's to take the chair. From the opening on the flat marshland framed by the hangman's gantry, this is wonderfully atmospheric storytelling of the highest quality which manages to capture the feel of the novel. The inspired touches with the cows muttering to Pip when he takes the stolen food to the convict and the howling wind over London as Pip's past is about to knock on his door, stay in the mind. This film is rich in character and detail. A sumptuous film that is a real treat. I can still, even today, taste the pork pie that Pip steals from the larder and feel his fear as Joe's wife goes to look for it and the sadness as the older Pip is embarrassed by Joe in his upmarket London surroundings and watches his old friend leave London from his living room window. An absolute masterpiece of cinema.
This adaptation of Charles Dickens's classic novel, directed by David
Lean from a script he co-adapted, and photographed by Guy Green, is a
miracle of invention, economy and detail. Every piece on every set;
every line of dialogue; every gesture and line reading of every actor;
every black-and-white frame of this beautiful film seems perfect.
Dickens's characters, situations and themes are all vividly dramatized.
Pip, Pocket, Joe, Mr. Jaggers, Magwitch andunforgettablyMiss
Havisham, are all here and all ready to move, amuse, frighten and
entertain anyone willing to spend time with them.
I haven't read the book since I was thirteen. I vividly remember Miss Havisham, but I don't remember noting the contrast between her and Magwitch, the ex-convict. She becomes bitter and vengeful after a great heartbreak; he becomes great of heart through one small act of kindness. That's what made the movie for me this time; but clearly there's richness to spare for future viewings.
There is so much here not only for Dickens fans, but for anyone who loves movies. I especially liked that shot from Pip's point of view as he becomes sick. It's the kind of crazy effect beloved of filmmakers, too; but I love it not so much for itself, but for being the right shot at the right moment. Some directors hide, others show off, but directors like David Lean know how to do both and know when to do which.
As I watched the beginning of this film, I couldn't help but compare
the story to the only other Charles Dickens story I was familiar with:
Oliver Twist. It looked like it was going to be another story of a
nice, respectful boy being abused by nasty adults. However, as soon as
the young boy turned into a man, the similarities ended. Poor Oliver
had a lot of ups and downs but life was basically pretty good for the
boy, "Pip" in "Great Expectations."
Because of that, I didn't think this Dickens tale had the emotional impact of Oliver Twist, but still was great storytelling. The last 20-30 minutes of this film tied so many things together it really made it a satisfying film. From what I just researched, it sounds like the book was a lot harsher story.
My only major complaint with this film is the casting of the lead character, "Pip," as an adult, which involves most of this movie. John Mills looked way too old to be playing a 20-year-old "Pip Pirrip." In truth, he was too old. Mills was 38 when doing this role. They couldn't have found a younger actor? This guy looked and sounded like Ronald Colman, which is fine except Colman never looked 20, either! This is gross miscasting.
At any rate, I enjoyed a number of actors in here, mainly three older ones: Martita Hunt, Findlay Currie and Francis L. Sullivan. Hunt was just great as "Miss Haversham." I found her fascinating in every sentence she delivered, all of which she did while just sitting in a chair. Currie was genuinely frightening in the beginning as the escaped convict "Magwitch." However, what a transformation that man made in this story! Francis L. Sullivan emotes convincingly enough to play the
lawyer "Mr. Jaggers" and be fun to view, too. The rest of the actors were fine, but nothing memorable.
To me, the acting took a back seat to Dickens' story and to the film's cinematography. Knowing David Lean directed this film, that Criterion usually produces nice-looking DVD transfers and that "Oliver Twist" looked fantastic on disc, I was paying as close attention to the cinematography, and I enjoyed it. The story wasn't that intense until the finale, which was very well done. The romance was a bit questionable and is a sad-but-true comment how many people, at least us men, can be "in love" with a shallow woman who offers nothing but good looks. (Speaking of looks, Valerie Hobson pretending to be a little older Jean Simmons in the role of "Estella' is like Margaret Hamilton passing for slightly-older Jennifer Jones. Give me a break!)
Even though the screenplay is softer than the novel, most people say it still captures Dickens' flavor, and few critics had anything but praise for this classic film. Do I prefer this movie over the aforementioned Oliver Twist? No, but only because the latter is the most stunning photographed black-and-white movie I've ever watched. ("Citizen Kane" ranking second.) This is still very good in that category. Lean and cinematographer Guy Green won Oscars for their work here, so you know it's not too shabby.
The combination of Dickens, Lean, Green and a fine cast all make this a classic movie that is certainly recommended. Don't make the mistake of choosing the insipid 1998 version with Ethan Hawke and Gywneth Paltrow. This is the only version you want to see.
As a fan of many so-called classic films, I am nonetheless aware that
there is some validity to the criticism that early movies (say,
anything before Brando in Streetcar) as a rule have less vitality than
their modern counterparts, are formulaic to a fault, and strain the
limits of modern attention spans more than can be fully blamed on the
viewer. Great Expectations treads miles clear of any of these
criticisms, and so I recommend it in particular to anyone who has a
general disdain for films that a) were released in the first half of
the 20th century and/or b) were shot in black and white. Here is one
that can change your mind.
Naturally, given the talents of the author, the plot itself leaves little to be desired. Further, David Lean, his cast, and his crew, have done a splendid job translating Dickens to the screen. This is indeed, as the Criterion Collection folks have classified it, one of the "Great Adaptations." I doubt that there is a better cinematic adaptation of any Dickens novel and am almost certain there is none in which the Dickensian English dialogue flows more pleasantly and naturally. The actors herein deliver Dickens as Olivier himself delivered Shakespeare. Nor is this an unimportant accomplishment; having to spend a couple of hours listening to actors who sound more like they are delivering a series of quotes (though admittedly they are) than that they are actually conversing can be positively unbearable. Indeed I think that's the main thing that people are hitting upon when, with broad brush-strokes, they paint older films as tedious. Great Expectations is the antidote to just this attitude.
If you are a lover of classic films, you have likely already seen this one or will do so regardless of my review, but if, on the other hand, you entertain the possibility of watching Great Expectations with a deep-seated skepticism I implore you to give it a chance. I have every confidence you'll be pleasantly surprised and find yourself drawn into what is, after all, a fascinating story.
The movie deals with an orphan child called Pip (Anthony Wager and
grown-up John Mills) meets on the dark moor an escaped convict (Finlay
Currie) and helps him . Later on , at a musty mansion he meets an old
woman , Miss Havershan (Martita Hunt), and a beautiful girl called
Stella (Jean Simmons and grown-up,Valerie Hobson) . Pit suddenly
becomes a gentleman with the support of an unknown benefactor and his
advocate (Francis L. Sullivan) . He befriends Herbert Pocket , Alec
Guinness , in his debut picture as Pip's likable flatmate .
The film is an adaptation based on Charles Dickens's novel , being very fine directed by the classic director David Lean . In the movie there are drama , a love story , humor , tragedies and is pretty enjoyable . Impressive black and white cinematography by Guy Green , David Lean's usual ; in fact Lean has only utilized four cameramen throughout his career , the others have been Freddie Young , Jack Hyldyard and Ronald Neame who besides is producer and screenwriter of the film ; everybody famed and specialist photographers . The motion picture is considered to be the greatest version of the Charles Dickens novel , the recent rendition featured by Ethan Hawke as Pit , Gwyneth Paltrow as Stella and Anne Bancroft as Miss Havershan is deemed average . John Mills acting as the starring is first rate , he's romantic , sympathetic , attractive but also vulnerable and memorable . Alec Guinness as the agreeable friend is top notch , and secondary cast as Bernard Miles , Freda Jackson and Finlay Currie are excellent . Rating : Above Average . Well worth seeing for the classic cinema lovers .
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