Bleak House (TV Mini-Series 2005) Poster


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Absolutely Riveting 10/10
ChrisQ30 November 2005
Bleak House is not a book I have read. I was however aware that the central story concerned the never-ending courtroom litigation of Jarndyce versus Jarndyce. As a child, this book, I decided was way too boring to read. How wrong I was. I never dreamt that a Dickens novel could become such an obsession in later life.

This dazzling adaptation is serialised in the same way that Dickens serialised his masterpiece in the popular press. Each half-hour episode ends on a cliff-hanger. We, the viewers, are forced to count the days until the next episode is screened. ( and there is only 6 more to go!!!) It is impossible to find fault with the production. The characterisations and directing are the best I have seen from the Drama Department of the BBC. They have managed to capture the gloom, grime and squalor of the late 19th century convincingly.

Each actor is ideally cast. Charles Dance as the lawyer Tulkinghorn is evil personified. Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock, totally unrecognisable from her X-File days, is fragile and enigmatic. Particularly noteworthy in the host of Dickensian eccentrics are Pauline Collins as Miss Flite, Johnny Vegas as Krook and Philip Davis as "Shake me up Judy" Smallweed and Burn Gorman as Guppy. However it is invidious to single anyone out of such a stellar casting.

I cannot give this drama a higher recommendation
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Shake me up, indeed!
kaaber-222 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Just got up from a viewing of Chadwick and White's BBC version of "Bleak House" - in one sitting. Couldn't turn it off and leave it at any time. I hardly know where to begin my praise, and I most surely do not know where to end. "Bleak House" happens to be my favourite Dickens novel, and I would have thought it impossible to make a truly successful film of this vast work on the power of goodness in a rotten world. Well, part of the key, of course, is that it runs eight hours, but the fact that it never drags, not for one minute, is not entirely Mr. Dickens' feat - the success rests by and large on the most eminent editing that I can remember to have seen. The cutting among the many stories contained in the novel is executed so skillfully that we never feel for one moment that the film takes us where we are not dying to go. The main characters are wonderfully cast, and somehow Carey Mulligan and Patrick Kennedy steer clear of turning Ada and Richard into a goody-goody and the proverbial rake. Anna Maxwell shines above all others as Esther Summerson, but hard on her heels are Charles Dance who avoids making an out-and-out villain of Tulkinghorn, Burn Gorman's wonderfully touching Guppy (extra credit to him for hitting the mark in a role that begs to be grotesquely overacted) and Harry Eden's Jo. But then again, there's not a false note in this entire production. Gillian Anderson, too, deserves mention. Not cul-de-sacked by her X-file past (in which she was brilliant, btw & imo), she delivers a marvelously restrained Lady Dedlock. Top notch acting.

I am not easy to shake up at the movies anymore, although I have occasionally experienced a lump in my throat, what with the recent fashion in tearjerkers, but I am not ashamed to confess that I cried like a flogged nun at the death of Jo the Crossing-sweep, and again at the final reunion of Esther Summerson and Lady Dedlock.

Surely, this is Dickens as he should be. I wish he could have seen it.
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Wonderful acting
pawebster19 November 2005
This is a great achievement by the BBC -- at last their costume dramas are back on track, with a great cast, all acting their socks off. It is invidious to pick some of them out, but Esther is particularly good (it is not easy to portray a young Dickensian heroine, as sickly sweetness always lurks at hand). Many have rightly praised Mr Guppy, too. Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock is maybe a bit too icy (frozen solid?), but that's what the role calls for, I suppose.

Another excellent feature is the period atmosphere. There is a richness here, running right through the production. The costumes and hair are also very convincing, unlike in some recent period dramas. Here the hair actually flops around as it should, and the costumes look like real clothes.

Some people hate the gimmicky camera work and 'whooshing' noises. These will make the production date. (They'll look ridiculous in a few years' time, I fear), but I didn't find them too distracting.

This must be the BBC's best since the 1995 Pride and Prejudice.
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Excellent Dickens adaptation
didi-518 November 2005
Half-way through this version of Charles Dickens' weighty novel seems a good time to comment on it. The BBC have taken the view that, as Bleak House was originally presented to its reading public in short magazine instalments, it is a good idea to present it in half-hour segments twice a week in the soap opera tradition.

Andrew Davies, who has adapted other books before such as Pride and Prejudice and House of Cards, has done an excellent job here - tweaking and inventing as you must to make television drama work, but without losing the context of the piece.

Despite the jarring camera work and bitty scenes, there are some outstanding performances here - Charles Dance as the scheming lawyer Tulkinghorn; Denis Lawson as John Jarndyce, attracted to his ward Esther despite having paid for her upkeep since she was a child; Pauline Collins as Miss Flyte, ever twittering on alongside her caged birds about 'the day of judgement'; Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock, who tries to hide her mysterious secret; Johnny Vegas, who fits the character of drunken landlord Krook like a glove; and many others.

There are also witty and perceptive cameos from the likes of Richard Griffiths, Matthew Kelly, and Ian Richardson.

I would have preferred to see hour-long episodes but that is only a small quibble (the other would be the invention of a character - Clamb - who seems to serve no useful purpose). This is an inventive and excellent adaptation; not replacing the classic 1980s version, perhaps, but a worthy companion to it.
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clivewood2 December 2005
For me to put finger to keyboard so to speak takes something pretty darned unusual! Bleak House is just that. It is probably the best television I've ever seen and I've seen quite a lot.

I cannot praise this adaptation and the actors highly enough. The production sparkles and one is immediately involved with the story and the characters. I'm writing this with the series almost finished and now wish I'd kept all the recordings I'd made of it. Repeats on the whole are very run of the mill and disappointing but they can repeat this one as often as they like! I too would like it on DVD so I can watch the whole thing over again. Well done BBC..fantastic
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Outstanding, so far.
qp10qp27 October 2005
I've just watched the first episode, and I thought it was the best classic adaptation on British television for years. (I have been tiring of costume-drama-by-numbers, and of Andrew Davies's superficial adaptations in particular, but they've got this one right, in my opinion). The directing is excellent, producing uniformly good performances from the actors - even from the likes of Johnny Vegas - and particularly from Charles Dance as Tulkinghorn and from the actress playing Esther Summerson (a tiresomely one-dimensional character in the book).

The camera moves around in response to characters' actions in an interesting way, and scenes open and close with swooshing sounds of the sort used these days in sci-fi feature films, keeping things vibrant. Since the early parts of the book are the least successful, I'm sure this serial can't help but go from strength to strength.

My favourite scene was Guppy's hilarious proposal of marriage to Esther.
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Gillian Anderson is luminous
cameronteague4 November 2005
Gillian Anderson is luminous as Lady Dedlock in this adaptation of Dickens's Bleak House. She is helped by the highly atmospheric, Gothic type lighting in many of the scenes which mirrors the dourness and dirt of the era. Particularly effective, are the parts shot in the squalid Victorian homes on winding staircases with peeling paint. Although not yet complete, this is a joy to watch with just the right balance of suspense and comedy. I have had to restrain myself from dipping into the book to find out the ending. I can't remember the last British costume drama I saw which showcased as much acting talent as this, whether it is the dastardly lawyer played by Charles Dance or the slatternly mother who is Lisa Tarbuck; watch out especially for Pauline Collins (a known talent) and Johnny Vegas (a revelation) who are both really rather good. I believe Sheila Hancok is going to appear soon and I am looking forward to that too.
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Esther's Character
cynthy5 February 2006
Bleak House is one of my favorite books and the BBC televersion strikes me as wonderful. I disagree, though, with those who feel that the wonderful actress who plays Esther Summerson rescues "a tiresomely one-dimensional character in the book" - rather, I think she awesomely expresses what Dickens meant us to understand her to be, in the book. His clues to her non-stereotypical character and feelings are expressed, though, through references that are no longer easy to decode without special historical knowledge - some of it pretty, well, specialized. I suspect that if the person who wrote my quoted bit - which was part of an excellent comment and is itself beautifully put - went back to the book after seeing the BBC production, more of the book would reveal itself. Yet, even to him or her - probably not everything! The production doesn't take it on, for example, to explain why everybody at Bleak House calls Esther "Dame Trot" - but there *is* a reason!
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Magnificent adaptation of Dickens
Balthazar-56 November 2005
Having worked in the cinema for most of my life, I tend to regard television - virtually all television - as shallow and second rate. But here is a totally magnificent adaptation of one of Dickens' more challenging novels.

As in most Dickens, here money - a surfeit and a lack of it - structures the complex comings and goings of a labyrinthine plot. The characters are fabulous and some of them - Skimpole and Mr Guppy, for example - may very well become well-known archetypes due to the popularity and power of this adaptation, in the same way that Micawber and Fagin are. The darkness of the sets makes for some wonderfully expressive design work, and the music is brilliantly chosen.

In fact it might be's just that Anna Maxwell Martin as the central Esther Summerson is just a bit too simpering... But when you think how flaccid Charles Dance usually is, his Tulkinghorn is a truly creepy creation.... Plenty more to come, but to date (after four episodes), this looks to me better Dickens than anything outside Christine Edzard's 'Little Dorritt' and Lean's 'Great Expectations' - and it could even better them...
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robertconnor25 April 2007
Sheer brilliance at work here as Dickens' multi-stranded plot is woven into a magical TV production. Bleak House works on every single level, and certainly left this viewer alternately gripped or moved, as Davies rolls out the parallel stories of the Jarndyce wards and their companion Esther Summerson, and the slow, horrible destruction wrought on Honoria Deadlock.

Casting is absolute perfection, right down to the minor characters, and Chadwick, White and Rhode James have enabled the most delicious characterisations from every player. Maxwell Martin is delightful as Esther, making her totally believable and real - there isn't a trace of 'acting' in sight, so luminous and real is she. As Honoria Deadlock, Anderson is astonishing - post-X-Files, she has once again proved herself as one of the most versatile female actors around (reference also The House of Mirth and The Mighty Celt). Her ability to convey such intense emotions - grief, panic, terror - hidden behind a composed countenance is sublime. However, singling these two out in no way lessens the performances from other cast members - each in turn creates an incredibly believable character.

So one of the BBC triumphs of the decade, and unmissable in every respect!
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An excellent production, superb performances.
celia789 January 2006
Dickens creates a fascinating world of characters in Bleak House and Davies does an excellent job of capturing the essence of those characters while bringing the production into the realm of 21st Century viewing. The camera work with the quick changes was distracting at times but sometimes accentuated the fast pace of this drama or emphasised plot points.

Watching for well known faces was fun but didn't detract anything from the performances of this superb cast. Anna Maxwell Martin gave a wonderful performance as Esther; outwardly stronger than in the book but this focused the viewer on Esther's strength of character, her compassion, common sense, loyalty and love. Lawson's Jarndyce was touching and gentle; Burn Gorman's Guppy a revelation and Charles Dance was eerily scaring and deliciously malicious.

Gillian Anderson also demonstrated her extreme talents as the aloof, lonely, bored, haughty yet vulnerable Lady Dedlock. Anderson subtly revealed the inner turmoil, fear and long hidden love of the outwardly cold 'My Lady'. With a turn of the head, a facial movement and those eyes that speak volumes she revealed the inner character, very often with no words at all. More Ms. Anderson, please BBC. The colourful performances of Timothy West and Pauline Collins also deserve a mention.

A fabulous production by all. Well done BBC.
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Early days but the signs are good
alfa-1628 October 2005
With just one episode broadcast, it's clearly possible that the BBC Drama Department may have it's second big success of 2005.

With an Andrew Davies script you know what you're getting, predictable, competent, unimaginative but faithful. Whether this series will go down with the classics or not will be down to the direction and the performances. And the signs are good. Very good.

Gillian Anderson fans looking in may miss her first scene, there is no trace of Scully whatsoever. People who've always suspected her of having more talent than she's had the opportunity to show are going to be saying "I told you so" to anyone who will listen for the next few months. She's that good. But Bleak House has the strongest cast we've seen in an adaptation since Brideshead. We've seen enough already to suggest that it's going to be full of gems And Anna Maxwell Martin, almost a TV débutante, may just be about to turn in one of the top central performances of recent times.

Set your videos and PVRs and don't miss a minute.

It'll be better than Rome.

(Update) We're halfway through and it's brilliant. Dickens can't write a shallow character so it needs a lavish cast to do him justice and that's what we have here. Gillian Anderson is brilliant, Charles Dance is memorable, Carey Mulligan, Pauline Collins and Johnny Vegas are outstanding, but Anna Maxwell Martin and Burn Gorman are just out of this world. I feel sorry for our American friends, impatient to get started but also jealous that they have the whole thing to look forward, to whereas we are now, sadly, over halfway through.

If you really can't wait, get the DVD of North & South (2004) and watch the adorable Anna twinkle in that.
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Midway and it's captivating!
IOBdennis7 February 2006
PBS is broadcasting "Bleak House" as an initial 2-hour segment, followed by 1-hour segments on subsequent weeks, for I believe 5 weeks: a total of 6 broadcasts. Now, halfway through, I have to say that this is some of the best, if not the best, television I have ever seen. The actors are incredible. The cast is perfect. Every single one of them is a master at his or her craft. Nothing finer! The tele-film is superb from the grimy lighting and atmosphere to parallel Dickens' own description of his times. The only thing I can find fault with is the soundtrack. The "whooshing," "clanging" transitions I find off-putting, but to me a minor flaw in this otherwise outstanding rendition of one of Dickens' most daunting novels.
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A breathtaking East wind
pekinman2 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
450+ minutes of a film is a long time to have your breath taken away but that's what happened when I first watched this magnificent adaptation of my favorite Dickens novel 'Bleak House.'

I always liked the earlier version starring Denham Elliot, Diana Rigg and Peter Vaughan, but this new version, adapted by Andrew Davies is superlative to the former in every way. For one thing it is more complete. The earlier version left out several characters altogether and glossed over most of the high emotion.

I'm not always a fan of Davie's work but Bleak House is a masterpiece of screen adaptation, even better than his Moll Flanders, which has long been one of my old standbys for a rainy evening or two.

Anna Maxwell Martin looks unprepossessing with her whey-face and funny lisp, but quickly her strength and intelligence waylay any doubts as to her being nigh-perfect as Esther Sommerson.

The only minor quibble with her in this role is that she looks nothing like Gillian Anderson's Lady Dedlock or John Lynch's Captain Hawdon, Esther's parents. This hardly matters in the face of some of the greatest acting I've seen come out of England on film over many years, and that is saying something.

As an Illinoisian I am proud to claim the beautiful and brilliant Gillian Anderson as a fellow traveler, she is from Chicago. Her Lady Dedlock is fascinating and goddess-like yet possessing a deeply human spark that she has buried under years of keeping her dark secret.

Bleak House is about secrets. It is a deep story, full of tragedy and human comedy at once. The villains are vile, notably Charles Dance's Mr Tulkinghorn. It isn't that Mr Tulkinghorn is evil, we create evil or reject it, but that he is just a cold cold human being who lives solely by the law, the ever-increasing book of the law that weighs down the human spirit and kills in the end. This is the best thing Charles Dance has done.

The entire cast is beyond reproach, and with two classic performances by Burn Gorman, the very embodiment of Mr Guppy, and Pauline Collins' bird-like Miss Flyte, I can't imagine Bleak House ever being more perfectly cast.

Even the cat playing Mr Krook's Lady Jane is a brilliant actor. I love cats but this is the most butt-ugly feline I have ever laid eyes upon. She looks like a cross between a bulldog and a toilet bowl brush, hisses on cue, flops over and groans, all with perfect timing. She glares malevolently with great meaning and comprehension and appears in almost every episode. A great performance.

There are some powerfully emotional scenes, not in a manipulative sense but in a deep, spontaneous sense. Anna Maxwell Martin and Gillian Anderson are dynamite, and their one and only scene together is second only to Jo's Death in impact.

Being Dickens there is also some fine humor along the way. Alas, some villains are allowed to get away with their wickedness, like the vile Mr Smallweed (Phil Davis is horribly fabulous as the seedy old money-grubber) and the good suffer horribly. It's hard-hitting stuff, Bleak House, and very pertinent to our times.

The cinematography, music, costumes, everything are great.

I can't think of a greater Dickens film adaptation. If you love his books you will want this set. If you don't know Dickens but like A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim then this Bleak House may be the entryway to the deeper worlds of Charles Dickens.
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Great piece of Television
bird-dog-14 February 2007
Now I'm not one for oldy worldy period plays, but having read the reviews, I mentioned it to my wife who seems to think she was in another life back then, so it was no surprise that she was waiting impatiently for the series to play here in New Zealand. Well, wait we did, but seeing as how all NZ TV is such crap, I kinda knew that this superior stuff would have no place on TV here-so we sent off for the DVD as soon as it was released in UK. Man I was hooked from episode 1 to the very end-such a pleasure to watch the finest actors, the finest of writers, and the very best of drama throughout the entire collection. A superb & engrossing storyline, it is indeed at times very dark, but compelling viewing-Bravo! to all who were involved.

Mike, Auckland, New Zealand
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sebastianharding-15 November 2005
This has got to be one of the most intriguing dramas the bbc might have ever done.They set the tone with the brilliant funky ads with ladytrons witching hour setting the tone with its mysterious base pumping rhythm.This is everything a popular drama should be.Relevant,beautiful, fun,informative and clever.Anyone whos ever said Andrew Davies is unoriginal obviously hasn't read the books he bases his adaptations on and I am so happy Anna Maxwell Martin(Esther summerson) is finally receiving the credit she deserves.I saw her a few years ago in the dark materials trilogy and have followed her career since then. If you haven't been watching the episodes so far get in now before it really is too late.I want this on DVD with lots of extras please!
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Bleak House Review
shivashaktidancer5 November 2005
An excellent series! Wonderfully shot! Gives a wonderful impression of the era.

Of all the cast, Gillian Anderson is the one who really excels. Her Lady Dedlock is captivating, and utterly mesmerising whenever she is on screen. She is understated and alluring. From the very first episode it was apparent that she would be the one to hold the story. Her character was only on screen for seconds, but she was the one you wanted the camera to return to. The rest of the cast are also very good, but she is the one to watch.

Each episode, leaves you wanting more. The 30 minute slots are a very good idea too.

Having never read "Bleak House" this series as encouraged me to now read the Dickens novel.

My only criticism, is that I wish there were more episodes! It's a shame that the show will not run for a little while longer. It's a real treat!

I'll be sad to see it end... but can't wait for next weeks instalment!
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wonderful adaptation of a masterwork
drifterrus30 March 2007
I've been an avid reader of Dickens since I was about 12 and "Bleak House" is one of my favourite works by this superb novelist. Therefore, I had some reservations about this series, especially because it's really difficult to put such a major work to screen. I need not have feared: everything here is just about perfect - even the swishing camera and jarring sound effects which eerily add to the atmosphere after one gets used to them - it takes about 20 minutes, so no big deal. Most lavish praise to all actors who turn in top-notch performances. If only television could offer us more of such superb and intelligent entertainment! I think I should immerse myself in the book now and then re-watch this high caliber period drama - it's one of the best. Thank you BBC, you deserve a big round of applause.
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Great expectations entirely justified
marcelproust21 June 2006
At the forthcoming request for Charter renewal by the BBC, the Governors could do no better than to sit MPs comfortably on their green benches and screen the entirety of Andrew Davies' magisterial adaptation of Dickens' Bleak House.

A TV series that can afford to throw away a consummate actress like Sheila Hancock as a giggling ninny with almost no dialogue who occupies just seconds of screen time must, by definition, be supremely confident in its ability to entertain. Bleak House has that confidence in spades, and rightly so.

There is so much to treasure here - not least from the seemingly unending parade of well-known (to British audiences, at least) faces on parade. I particularly relished Matthew Kelly's absurdly self-important Old Mr Turveydrop, Liza Tarbuck's do-gooding drab, Nathaniel Parker's loathsome Mr Skiphold, Denis Lawson's achingly tender-hearted Mr Jarndyce and Hugo Speer's staunch Sergeant George. But even from the lesser-known cast - like poor, sweet Harry Eden and the two young wards who float prettily at the story's centre - there are moments of pure joy.

Three performances, however, really stand out as being responsible for making this so much more than a collection of delightful cameos. Anna Maxwell Martin provides a calm and sensible centre to the many comings and goings in Dickens' complex tale - her pale, inquisitive face registering calm resignation at the turmoils Esther must undergo. Stalwart of epic dramas like The Jewel in the Crown, Charles Dance is hypnotically dreadful as the wicked Tulkinghorn, glowering and scheming with real menace, and without once resorting to camp.

For me though, the performance of the series (and that is saying something) is Gillian Anderson's Lady Dedlock. Shot in an eerily bleak blue light, and seeming always on the verge of cracking like a porcelain vase, she is nothing short of mesmerising.

In short, the finest TV adaptation of a Dickens novel ever made and another triumph for Andrew Davies and the BBC.
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Bleak House
natalierosen13 February 2006
I absolutely LOVE PBS Masterpiece Theater production of Bleak House. I think Gillian Anderson is perfection in that role. She brings yes, an icy quality to the role but also a quite humanness and piercing sadness to it as well. There is a crack in that ice that begs to be melted. The ice, I think, comes from years of desperation in a May/December loveless marriage of social class convenience and a yearning for the completed family she ever-so- briefly had. Love, which I think is the centrifugal element of Dickens from which ALL other social ills flow, has been, through no real fault of her own, denied Lady Dedlock in her life. I could talk about this work for hours. I am simply riveted by the character and by Gillian Anderson's performance. I think she is perfect!
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Brilliant television
michael-stead10 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Too many adaptations of Dickens seem to play up the preposterous aspects of his characterisation; here everything was beautifully underplayed, to terrific effect.

I found the drama as compelling as any modern soap opera. We are so used to the format by now, that it was never going to be a surprise that several seeming unconnected leading characters would end up being close family relations, but it was still fascinating to find out who would be related to whom, and which characters' love stories would end up in happiness.

The performances were so excellent that it seems unnecessary to single a few out for praise. Yet there were some for me that were especially memorable. Gillian Anderson was sublime as Lady Dedlock and I was transfixed whenever she was on screen. The whole relationship between her and her husband and the issue of her 'past' was beautifully portrayed, and I found it very moving towards the end when crusty of Sir Lester (Timothy West) stood by her grave and said 'If only she knew how much I loved her, and how little I cared for what the world thought of her.' Philip Davis' Smallweed was a masterly performance, keeping firmly grounded a character that could so easily have been merely a period grotesque if handled less skillfully. Anna Maxwell Martin made the goody-two-shoes Esther believable and three dimensional. And Johhny Vegas brought an interesting sinister dimension to Krook, which came as something of a surprise to me having known previously only his knock-about subtle-as-a-brick comedy persona.

What particularly pleased me, as someone who tires of shoddy dramas that thrown in foul language and humping bums to generate interest, is that Bleak House brought a tale of sexual misdeeds, and doomed amorous attachments, set partly in a world of grinding poverty, criminality and violence, without the drama itself being offensive. It is rare that drama is really adult these days; but Bleak House was, I felt, real entertainment for grown-ups.
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Best film I've ever seen
barrywood17 January 2007
This mini series is so exquisitely produced and filmed, that it would be impossible to name just one of the actors or actresses that makes Bleak House nothing less than brilliant. I watched the whole series in two days and it is indeed the best film I've ever watched in my life.

The film scenes, the clothes, the acting: all flawless. Sometimes when I was watching it, I would rewind the DVD to play a scene over several times. And the music: it's eerie and catchy and exact. I also liked the cliff hanger after each segment.

Some times I cried, some times I felt chills crawling up my back, and sometimes I laughed. No movie has ever touched my heart such as this one. I also like how it only took about ten minutes to get into it.

So if you have about seven or eight hours, I urge you to rent, borrow, or buy this exceptional movie. I think Charles Dickens himself would have been pleased with this film. Bravo to all concerned in making this classic come alive in my living room.
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Brilliant Dickens Adaption
John Bale1 December 2006
Bleak House is certainly one of the best adaptions of Dickens brought to the TV screens. It distills the essence of the long novel graphically and with a some brilliant characterizations by the superb cast. There is real feeling here for the period and the book. An truly excellent cast including perhaps surprisingly Gillian Anderson (The X Files) who impresses as the cool Lady Dedlock, Charles Dance as the sinister Tulkinghorn, Denis Lawson as kindly John Jarndyce, Alun Amstrong as Bucket, Nathaniel Parker as Skimpole, Pauline Collins as Miss Flute, Burn Gorman as poor Guppy, and particularly Philip Davis as the dreadful Smallweed, all wonderful Dickensian characters. The sets and locations have the right feel for the story the photography of a high order, with the only quibble being the zip shots into each sequence, a modern stylistic trick that does nothing to enhance the period story. Considering the complexity of the story and its great length the editors have done a great job in never letting the film drag. I rather think that Charles Dickens if he were still around would heartily approve.
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Perfect despite its imperfections
ianlouisiana25 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
In his introduction to the TV tie - in edition of "Bleak House" Professor Terry Eagleton writes:- "Like most Dickens novels,"Bleak House" is a wonderfully overpopulated work,crammed to the seams with grotesques,eccentrics,amiable idiots and moral monstrosities". The first task of adaptor Andrew Davis was,to many Dickens scholars, sheer sacrilege,the winnowing down of huge number of characters that pop up in various places in the narrative,seemingly unconnected,but all part of the author's overall vision of and structure for his work. Mr Davis was in a "no win" situation as far as the academics were concerned and there was general discontent in the Ivory Tower community that their hero's great work was to be reduced - as they saw it - to the level of a soap opera for the edification of the unwashed.It had clearly escaped their closed minds that Dickens had written the book in the first place with an intention not so far removed from the one they abhorred. In the event he succeeded brilliantly,producing not "Bleak House Lite", as many had feared,but a production that caught the core values of the novel and evoked the look and feel of the period perfectly. My only criticism - and it is a minor one - is that it occasionally yields to the temptation common to many post 80s prestigious TV series where the makers are apparently compelled to exercise the techniques they acquired during their apprenticeship in the industry which,as often as not,involved the making of commercials.By their very nature these require that their makers get to the point very quickly with the maximum of noise and flash and with a preponderance of big close-ups and high impact-making shots.It works fine if you're selling a BMW and have to pack it all into 30 seconds but is out of place in an adaptation of a 19th century novel.Having said that,so brilliant was the overall production that I found myself in the end ignoring their little tricks,forgiving them even,and waiting patiently like an indulgent parent for the children to stop showing off. Because when it's on track,"Bleak House" is Television at its highest level.Superbly adapted from a novel that's more accessible than you might think,it's funny.thrilling and moving by turns. It has been carefully cast,rather daringly in some cases,and all the care shows on the screen. Television is of course a huge consumer of talent with hundreds of channels working 24 hours a day.In those circumstances it is hardly surprising that majority of material it turns out is,to put it kindly,mediocre.All the more reason therefore to celebrate when it gets something so right,because despite my misgivings,"Bleak House" is,in my opinion,the best TV drama series since "Roads to Freedom". If you have never read Dickens and doubt his ability to entertain and amuse a 21st century audience I suggest you call at a Public Library,seek out "Bleak House" and simply read Chapter 21 "The Smallweed Family".You will find therein as funny,moving and true a document as you are ever likely to read,by a writer whose perception of the human condition has never been equalled
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Superb adaptation may never be surpassed!
michaelstep20049 October 2008
No need to write a long review -- others here say it very well.

This version of 'Bleak House' is simply one of the best films ever made.

It is the best adaptation of any Dickens work that I can remember, going go back to the wonderful 'A Tale of Two Cities' and 'Great Expectations' of the Golden Age of Hollywood. What is the real core of Dickens' message is highlighted, and the dated dross of sentiment eliminated.

Every single aspect of the production is of the highest excellence. There's really nothing more to say. A must-see, if anything is.
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