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A thriller set in London, in which a politician's life becomes increasingly complex as his research assistant is found dead on the London Underground and, in a seemingly unrelated incident, a teenage pickpocket is shot dead.
"Bleak House" (1985) is a wonderful BBC adaptation of the novel by Charles Dickens. The movie was made for TV, so it does well on the small screen. It's long (8 episodes in 6 1/2 hours), but even that much screen time isn't enough for this novel, which is filled with plots and sub-plots, and many, many characters.
As would be expected from the BBC, the acting is outstanding, right down to the smallest cameo roles. Denholm Elliott is excellent as John Jahndyce, and Suzanne Burden is superb as Esther Summerson.
Even though Esther is the real protagonist of the novel, for me the most interesting character is Lady Honoria Dedlock. Lady Dedlock is played by Diana Rigg. Of course, Rigg was renowned for her beauty, but at age 47, I thought she was somewhat old for the part. (Lady Honoria was married to an older man, but she probably was 34 or 35 in the context of the novel.) Gillian Anderson, at age 35, played the role in the 2005 Bleak House. Anderson was impossibly beautiful and elegant as Lady Honoria. So, in my mind, that's what Lady Honoria looks like, and Riggs just can't reach that level. However, she's a fine actor, and does an excellent job.
All directors love to show us 19th Century urban England's mud, filth, smoke, and gloom. However, I've never seen these things portrayed so effectively as in this movie. You don't get the feel that you're watching a film set. You feel as if you're watching real life, which was certainly abysmal for the poor in that era. I never had the sense that the extras were waiting for their turn to play their part at just the right moment. Those scenes all looked organic and unrehearsed. (Of course, we know that the extras were, indeed, waiting for their turn. However, my point is that you don't feel this when you're watching the film.)
David Copperfield has a basically simple plot, and is readily adapted to the screen. Bleak House has an extraordinarily complex plot, and adapting it must be an extraordinarily difficult challenge. However, we have the good fortune to have two great versions to view. If I had to choose one over the other, I think I'd go with this 1985 version. The beauty is that you don't have to choose. See them both!
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