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Silas Marner (1985)

Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe (original title)
When a respectable weaver is wrongfully accused of theft, he becomes a virtual hermit until his own fortune is stolen and an orphaned child is found on his doorstep.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Elizabeth Hoyle ...
Melinda Whiting ...
Rosemary Martin ...
Robert Putt ...
Tony Caunter ...
Mr. Snell
Michael Bilton ...
Mr. Macey
Bob Dowlas


In 19th-century England, a misanthropic weaver named Silas Marner hoards his gold. But his life changes when his gold is stolen, and then a baby girl wanders into his life. He raises little Eppie, but her real father is not far away. Written by Kathy Li

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Release Date:

30 December 1985 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Silas Marner  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Faithful adaptation of one of George Eliot's best loved novels
7 December 2003 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Nine years before Steve Martin's 1994 `A Simple Twist of Fate' in a garishly modern Virginia/Georgia setting (no slight intended on the beauty of those fine States, but the tale is a frog in a barn in this locale) came Giles Foster's distinctly English and faithful adaptation for the BBC of one of George Eliot's own favourites. With ultimately its optimism and fair balance of life's trials and joys it is possibly more rewarding and life affirming than her bleak tragedy of `Mill on the Floss' or the hopelessness of intelligent women in the all encompassing English novel `Middlemarch'.

The narrative centres on the misfortunes of a lowly weaver at the beginning of the nineteenth century living as an outcast, whose life eventually collides with a wealthy landowner and his seemingly altruistic benefactor. Silas Marner comes to Raveloe after being banished from a close-knit chapel community as a result of being falsely accused by a friend who steals his girlfriend to boot. Marner huddles himself up, keeping apart from the locals other than selling his woven goods to them, and thus he acquires a reputation as something of a witch with his trance like gaze resulting from cataleptic fits. Mind you, he is fortunate in managing to fashion a living out of weaving at a time when industrialisation left the majority of weavers and knitters short of work. After the gold he has frugally amassed suddenly disappears he is mysteriously blessed in the form of a golden bundle of treasure who wanders into his cottage one snowy night. Marner adopts the young girl in the absence of any other parental claim and brings her up, with the pecuniary assistance of the local squire, so that she regards him closer than any blood father. When the squire's wife Nancy fails to produce a child of her own and the truth about the missing gold is unearthed, the squire is forced to bring his own secret into the light.

George Eliot's use of the mechanical trade of weaver with its lowly position in society was undoubtedly influenced by Shakespeare's creation of Bottom who has gentler indignities lumped upon him in `A Midsummer Night's Dream'. The indolent but not wholly bad young squire, with an unfortunate marriage attempting to hinder him from making a new life with another to provide him with an heir for the Red House, brings to mind the not dissimilar troubles of Edward Rochester from Charlotte Bronte's `Jane Eyre' published fourteen years earlier in 1847. It is also pertinent to note that having been rejected by one suitor, Herbert Spencer, as too morbidly intellectual the author made the difficult decision for the time to form a close and by all accounts loving relationship with George Lewes who was estranged from his wife following a sensational scandal concerning their domestic affairs.

Jenny Agutter, the disgraced sassy spymaster in the BBC's BAFTA award winning hit `Spooks', splendidly inhabits the unworldly "rustic beauty" though sublimely goodly second wife Nancy Lammeter to Patrick Ryecart's feckless squire Godfrey Cass. Ben Kingsley, who had earlier won an Oscar for his portrayal of Gandhi and was outstanding as the canny accountant in Steven Spielberg's harrowing `Schindler's List', gives a perfect rendition as the strange and slightly spooky weaver, seeming to even possess his character's protruding eyes. Jim Broadbent makes an appearance as one of the villagers in a familiar trademark characterisation prior to his Oscar winning performance as the devoted husband John Bailey in `Iris'. The role of the older Eppy is taken by a pre rock star groupie Patsy Kensit, who as an actor is still memorable as the sensual and ultra cool, though soon to be iced, personal assistant in Lethal Weapon 2. She is currently starring alongside Nigel Havers in `See You Next Tuesday' in the West End's Albery Theatre. Presumably a fan of both author and actress, Giles Foster later transferred to screen another of George Eliot's novels `Adam Bede' (1991) in which he also cast Kensit.

Eliot's strict religious upbringing that she eventually overthrew gives her an authoritative perspective on theology and philosophy for this tale of pious church elders unfairly expelling Marner from their circle. She also enters into a discourse on the merits or otherwise of adoption, playing devil's advocate that to challenge providence by wanting something that cannot be is to be against nature. For all her championing of social causes, history has not reverted to her real name as an author, Mary Ann (or Marian, as she preferred to be known) Evans, other than for her translation of Strauss' `Life of Jesus'.

Although considered too morbidly intellectual by one of her suitors, Eliot has compassionate understanding and an extraordinary insight into human nature, enabling her expositions on social injustices to be left as a legacy for future generations. The surefooted transcription of this novel paved the way for the masterful `Middlemarch' in the mid 1990's and last year's `Daniel Deronda' (both adaptations from the historical romances' favourite dramatist, Andrew Davies) that brought more accessibility to her erudite tomes for those who may not have appreciated her work before. In a supportive scheduling role that also addressed the oversight in its Great Britons list, the BBC belatedly recognised her powerful influence on the creative world with a drama documentary. Although, rather confusingly with this portrayal, too much was made of her perceived plainness, especially with the choice of the excellent Harriet Walter, who, whilst empathetically delineating her character, rather belies the description. Walter was recently to be seen on screen in Stephen Fry's directing debut `Bright Young Things', and on tour of a few select English provincial theatres in Terrence Ratigan's `The Deep Blue Sea'.

Silas Marner is a tale of the mysterious workings of life and how kindness and love can still be found in someone who has been betrayed and suffered at the hands of an unjust society. It is a worthy demonstration of how life can still bring rewards and riches greater than material wealth.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Lovely adaptation of a classic story susan8one
Soundtrack suzannetf
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