Set in Victorian London, Gwendolen Harleth is drawn to Daniel Deronda, a selfless and intelligent gentleman of unknown parentage, but her own desperate need for financial security may destroy her chance at happiness.
Young Pip is expected to become a blacksmith, but, hating the soot and smoke, he secretly dreams of becoming a gentleman. When he meets the mysterious Miss Havisham and her haughty niece Estella, Pip is confident that his dream is to come true. Written by
It seems that these past few years I have been harbouring an illusion. More than one, in fact... And you humoured them. You led me on...
Yes, I let you go on.
Was that kind?
Who am I, for God's sake, that I should be kind?
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`Great Expectations' is the best of Charles Dickens's novels. Maybe it's the best novel that there is. It's certainly a novel where every incident is important - so there is no excuse for a TV version being a miserable three hours long. If they HAD to truncate it, though, then there's no help for it: some valuable scenes must be removed.
What they've done instead is to sort of leave everything in, but skate over it all at high speed. It's as if they've simply left out every other sentence. The opening encounter with Magwitch in the churchyard is conveyed without being shown at all. We get a few seconds of terror, then a cut to later that evening, and then we're shown a bit more of the crucial scene in flashback - only just enough to understand what is going on, if that. (Don't even get me STARTED on the ludicrous editing, or the self-consciously arty camera angles.) Some scenes have been re-written. The result is usually awful.
Is this just the complaint of someone who has read the book, and finds the filmed version to be different? No: rather the reverse. If you haven't read the book you'll have a much harder time than I did even making sense of things; and you won't, as I did, have any particular reason to care about the characters.
For instance: the central character is Pip. Anyone who has read the book knows how close Dickens brings us to him. Not once in this version are we, so to speak, introduced to Pip. No scene lasts long enough - he does not confide in any other character long enough - for us to get a sense of his motivations or a reason to continue to sympathise with him after he does something shameful. What's more, the mature Pip is an utter disaster. The re-writing of key encounters with Miss Havisham, Orlick, and Estella (that's right - all three) makes Pip out to be more thoughtless, more cowardly, more vindictive and less intelligent than Dickens makes him out to be. (Note that Dickens doesn't make him out to be vindictive at all.) If we care what happens to him at all it's only because we have even less reason to care what happens to anyone else.
I've only scratched the surface - it's bad all the way through. I will, though, allow that many of the actors give excellent performances under trying circumstances. (I can't warm at all to Ioan Gruffudd as the mature Pip, but that was probably the script.) That's about it. I can't even recommend this as the best TV version going, since the Disney series of 1989 (a decent five hours long) is all that one could wish for. With that version in existence this one was just a waste of everyone's time. Don't make it a waste of yours.
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