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This re-telling of the classic story "A Child's Christmas in Wales" is
almost the cinematic equivalent of hearing Dylan Thomas reading his own
story. In the film, Denholm Eliot is the narrator and tells the story
to his grandson as they celebrate a family Christmas together.
As in the story, the movie is mostly flashback images of Christmases long past - cats, opening the presents, a fire at Mrs. Prothero's house, aunts and uncles celebrating and snow falling on the town making it whiter than Lapland. We think what rich memories for a child to carry into adulthood. Most of us have our own images of Christmas past and these are etched in our memory for life. This film gives us a glimpse of the wonder of Christmas through the eyes of one child and how he responds to the pictures he sees as his grandfather tells the story.
I once heard that when Dylan Thomas recorded this story, it was at a session in New York City and he didn't show up for the first one. He did show up the second time but there was only enough material to fill one side of an old record album. Someone went out and found a recent copy of Harper's Bazaar and Thomas read the story to complete the record. Without this accidental recording, we might have never come to appreciate this great story, which in turn gave rise to this beautiful, little film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There is only one thing to say about this film, it is Christmas. I have owned this film for six years and it has become a Christmas tradition to watch it several times as Christmas gets nearer every day. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day I make certain I watch this film, you don't have to be from Britain for this film to put you in the mood for Christmas. The late and great Denholm Elliot was simply amazing as Old Geraint; his words as he narrates takes the reader back to a Christmas in Wales that wasn't over commercialized. So many Christmas films today are laced with commercialism and this film being an exception makes it a Christmas gem. Any person can watch this and be swept into a truly wonderful Christmas. Denholm Elliots narration of the Dylan Thomas poem brings the story to life and allows the audience to be taken back to a time where Christmas was a magical time of year and where family represented the true meaning of Christmas. A Child's Christmas in Wales is a gift for viewers and the authentic settings in Wales contribute to making this film a Christmas film that is the best by far. Such a shame this film is no longer on television and what a relief it has finally been released on DVD. By far the best performance of the late Denholm Elliot's career, he makes this film and the story come alive. The uncles sleeping around the fire after Christmas dinner, the walking along the snow covered shore, the White Christmas in Wales, and all the way up to the singing carols in front of a darkened house. A Child's Christmas in Wales is Christmas.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In modern times, a boy in Wales is sad that its raining outside, not snowing, for it is the night before Christmas. Fortunately, his grandfather (Denholm Elliott) is there to tell him stories and to help pick out the gift the little boy will be able to open on the Eve. Thus, Grandpa begins reflecting on his own Christmases past, when he was a boy. For one, there was always snow! (Admittedly, his memories are somewhat biased). Also, G-papa recounts the time he and his friends spent throwing snowballs at unsuspecting cats and trailing the postman as he trudged through the snow. One Christmas, there was a smoky fire in a neighbor's house and the boys had to run to the phone booth and summon the firefighters. When they came, much water was sprayed, as dishes and other fine objects hit the ground. Turns out, it was a pipe the gentleman of the house left burning in his easy chair! Then, there were toy soldiers to play with, walks on the chilly beach (the man's village was right on the sea), home-made nose muffs to wear, and pranks played on various relatives. What a beautiful place and time for remembrance among those folks in the present! Admittedly, this viewer would probably never have sought this film out if it had not appeared on a collection disc with other movies. Quite a mistake that would have been! The words of the poet Dylan Thomas are the foundation of the tale, for he wrote it, and the beauty of the prose can not be overstated! Then, too, Elliott makes a terrific narrator and the other actors do nicely as well. The setting is likewise lovely, an ocean village in the country of Wales. What a treat to see the scenery, costumes, and photography! Finally, the story is filled with humor and only the best of memories. If you live in Wales, Wisconsin, Wellington or Warsaw, doesn't matter, get your hands on this one!
"One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the
sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of
the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep..." Heartbreakingly
poignant those words are now I have become an 'elder' and so many of my
family are gone into their places in history.
Since this filmed version simply is the best, truest film adaptation of Thomas' famous work it also must be considered a standard few could match. My tape wore out but now armed with a lovely new DVD I enjoy it every year played on technology Thomas's narrator could have only dreamed of.
Sweet and intelligently produced, we are fortunate indeed to have this exquisite version to enjoy year after year.
On this, the 20th anniversary of this wonderful production, I hope that more people will have the opportunity to experience it for the first time. I tend to think of it as a reassuring antidote to the constant ills of everyday life. In a time when many new Christmas specials seem to have a somewhat cynical slant, the wonderful "A Child's Christmas in Wales" is something which is most welcome. Denholm Elliot is wonderful in his role as Old Geraint who shares his Christmas memories of his Welsh childhood with his grandson Thomas. A beautiful production which is well acted and directed, it has an ending which will bring a sentimental tear to your eye. It's one of the best.
As snsnews, this isn't so much a comment/feedback on this particular
adaptation but a question about an earlier version.
The 26 minute short photo montage of "A Child's Christmas in Wales" made in 1961/62 by Marvin Lichtner is beautiful. snsnews - I can confirm that Marvin Lichtner was indeed the director. I do not know anything about Lichtner, but would really like to know a bit about him if anyone can help me please get in touch.
Pennsylvania State University distributed it originally, and they still own a copy, as well as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York - but I do not know where the film can be found on VHS/DVD for purchase I'm afraid? Does anybody know who owns the copyright to this film?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have enjoyed this film rendition of Dylan Thomas's poem ever since I first saw it on TV back in the 80's. I look forward to viewing as much as I do my other favourite, A Christmas Carol with Alistaire Sim. It gives you an idea of what a traditional Christmas was like back in early 1900's England. Reminds me of the Christmas's I had when I was growing up. Not much different, the big family get-together, the uncles, granddad and dad falling asleep in the rec-room after the big dinner. Mom, grandma and my aunts clearing the table and doing the dishes. Showing everyone your gifts and playing with your cousins. Makes me long for the simpler days. I've been viewing a copy I made off TV up till about 2 years ago when I found a used video tape on eBay. Then last year it was released on DVD which is a vast improvement from the used rental copy. A real great Christmas movie for all ages. If you can find a copy, buy it as soon as you can. They are as scarce and hen's teeth. The video tape is even scarcer.
I would like to add that in 2008 my company Brave New World Productions
animated A Child's Christmas in Wales using traditional hand-drawn
designs. I had always felt animation would be a wonderful medium with
which to accompany Thomas's gloriously rich text. It allowed us to take
the story into the realm of fantasy - dancing postmen, hippos
appearing, mermaids --
The voice over was provided in English and Welsh by Matthew Rhys. The film contains two songs performed by Only Men Aloud.
The film was awarded a BAFTA in 2009 and nominated for a Kids-screen international award in 2010.
Commissioning Broadcaster S4C Distribution - Parthenon entertainment, now a apart of Sky. The film was made in Cardiff and the live action sequence was shot in Swansea.
A Child's Christmas in Wales was also a British animated feature film
produced by BNW and Sandman Animation Studio in 2008. The very glossy
production, that went on to win the BAFTA award for best animated
feature and has instantly become a Christmas replacement for the
Snowman at Christmas times.
The movie very cleverly weaves between live action sequence and animated sequences. It has everything in it for all the family at Christmas time. A turkey sandwich in one hand, glass of wine in the other and Achild's Christmas in wales on the television......what more could you be asking for.
It is a wonderful production and very faithful to the books. A must see !
This is not so much a comment/feedback on this particular adaptation than a footnote/question about an earlier version that seems to have vanished. I'm referring to 26 minute short of "A Child's Christmas in Wales" made in 1962/63 by Marvin Lichtner. Thomas' story was READ by Thomas himself; instead of being acted out or animated, the story was illustrated by beautiful, haunting black & white still photos (presumably by Lichtner himself) depicting the action of the story. The film also features a score of Welsh harp music. Can anyone confirm if Lichtner was indeed the director of the film, who distributed it originally, and where the film can be found on VHS/DVD for purchase?
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