In the Nineteenth Century, orphan Oliver Twist is sent from the orphanage to a workhouse, where the children are mistreated and barely fed. He moves to the house of an undertaker, but after an unfair severe spank, he starts a seven day runaway to London. He arrives exhausted and starving, and is soon welcomed in a gang of pickpockets lead by the old crook Fagin. When he is mistakenly taken as a thief, the wealthy victim Mr. Brownlow brings Oliver to his home and shelters him. But Fagin and the dangerous Bill Sykes decide to kidnap Oliver to burglarize Mr. Brownlow's fancy house. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
I was somewhat ambivalent about the thought of one of my favourite directors making a version of the much loved classic tale Oliver Twist. On the one had Roman Polanski crafts wonderful and moving films extremely well so I was intrigued to see how he would weave this one together. From his early 'Knife in the water' through to 'The Pianist' each has his trademark directorial stamp on it whilst still being truly incredible and individual films. On the other hand, the Oliver Twist tale has been screened to death both in two highly regarded films as well as multifarious TV versions over the years. In my opinion David Lean's version is fantastic, Alec Guiness superb as Fagin and the whole film experience has kept me going back from childhood through to adulthood.
So it was with great trepidation that I went to see this spanking brand new version and thankfully I was not disappointed. The character of Fagin, so crucial to the story, is performed with outstanding ability by Ben Kingsley. He really portrays this grotesque but somehow lovable character well from his slight mannerisms and movements to his vocal abilities. Also, finely performed were the parts of the artful dodger (Harry Eden), Mr Brownlowe (Edward Hardwicke) and of course Oliver Twist (Barney Clarke). There was such sadness and despair in his eyes throughout that he really captured the part well. Less convincing was Bill Sykes (Jamie Foreman) who was not right for the part nor performed well enough to stand up against the masterful Oliver Reed in a previous version. Foreman is a regular in gangster type films and for me did not really fit into the cast or film well here.
The recreation of mid 19th century London is done well with Polanski drawing on the visual inspiration of Dore prints of the period for authenticity. The cinematography is as accomplished as always in a Polanski film and the lighting helped to create dramatic moods well.
All in all a very competent and entertaining version with great acting, a fine pace and an outstanding final scene of Fagin finished and soon to face death gripping hold of Oliver tightly. I would highly recommend to adults, children and die hard fans of other versions. All great directors have different visions and Polanski has used his vision and experienced craftmanship in successfully remaking this much loved tale.
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