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Kristin Scott Thomas,
Oliver Twist is an orphan, who is soon kicked out of the orphanage and thrown into a terrible home. The bad treatment Oliver receives, forces him to run off to London. Here, he is soon picked up by the Artful Dodger and taken to Fagin. Fagin treats Oliver well, but is it the life Oliver really wants? Written by
Though Polanski's Oliver Twist is a superficially conventional retelling of the story, this is Polanski, and the truth about pain is here if you are paying attention.
There was little that Charles Dickens didn't know about human nature. Who better to interpret his work for the screen than the similarly gifted Roman Polanski.
Polanski's film allows everyone their humanity. Even the extras who people the immaculately designed sets, seem to have a life outside of this film. Ben Kingsley's performance as Fagin is not held in aspic in old age, but is full of hints about his earlier life. Oliver's sufferings seem to mirror that of children in many places and in all times. When it is alleviated it is not by those worldly motivations of charity or civil duty. While a carriage full of prosperous people studiously ignore his plight, a poor old woman who has little herself cares for him. While the wealthy city is content for him to die on the street, a criminal feeds him. When Oliver finally takes his place in the middle class, a priggish religiosity reminds us of Victorian society's cure for criminality. In the end Polanski knows and Dickens asserts that individual decency and humanity alone provide hope.
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