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Edna May Oliver
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Unique, Heavy, and Original Version of the Dickens Classic
Veteran director Delbert Mann gives us this unusual perspective on the life of David Copperfield - Dickens' legendary orphan. For a TV film Mann's Copperfield packs an unexpected punch. Unlike the standard Copperfield interpretation, Mann's Copperfield is a depressed, brooding, haunted man,who feels responsible for all of the problems he sees around him. The story is ably rendered through a series of flashbacks, as Copperfield (nicely portrayed by a Robin Philips) broods in his later life, prior to the resolution of this part of his story (which I will not discuss here). David's flashbacks tell most of the novel's story and touch upon the major highlights in our hero's life, suggesting that he is about to either experience an epiphany of sorts or to collapse in upon himself - perhaps both. Ultimately, Dickens' wonderful story-telling ability shows through very nicely as the story winds up with most of the major arcs resolved in a few lucidly depicted paragraphs of narrative.
The movie is very well made, and quite complete despite the Herculean scope of the novel and the scalar difference between Dickens and a TV movie. It moves along at a pithy, but unhurried gait. It is also very nicely acted by a stellar British cast. Agnes (perfectly handled by Susan Hampshire) and Michael Redgrave's excellent Mr. Peggotty are easily the most sympathetic characters in the story.
The cinematography is also very good, and despite the mediocre quality of the reproduction I viewed, does not have the boxy, boring feel of the typical TV movie. The soundtrack is also a touch-above the average TV production, but still, I found it a little too repetitive at times.
Be forewarned - this is not the standard interpretation of Copperfield's character and Dickens' story. It is more emotional, cerebral and depressing than the norm. Don't go into it expecting to come out wholly unscathed - you will be disappointed. The film is definitely an accomplishment worthy of respect. My rating of 7 may seem low, but note that I have downgraded it by one point because it simply isn't as plainly entertaining as some of the more lighthearted versions of this story are. Take the warning at the top of this paragraph seriously and you won't be disappointed. Ignore it at your own peril.
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