The journey that led to Charles Dickens' creation of "A Christmas Carol," a timeless tale that would redefine Christmas.The journey that led to Charles Dickens' creation of "A Christmas Carol," a timeless tale that would redefine Christmas.The journey that led to Charles Dickens' creation of "A Christmas Carol," a timeless tale that would redefine Christmas.
From start to scratch, it took Dickens just six weeks to give the world what would become one of the great classic stories of all time. At least, that's the premise of the film, which itself is based on a 2011 novel of the same title by Les Standiford. The book's subtitle explains a little more, lest there be any confusion regarding the much older Christmas origins of St. Nicholas and of the birth of Jesus. It's about "How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits."
According to some reviews, Standiford did considerable research for his book. The background on Dickens's family, his writing to that time, and his precarious financial situation then is likely in public records. Still, much of that part of the story is interesting and probably not that well known by most people, including fans of Dickens books. The very colorful segments of imagination in this movie are another matter. How much of that may have been able to be traced to notes by Dickens himself, or to other sources, is uncertain. But, this serves as a very good technique for the author, and the filmmakers, to get across to a non-writing public how a great story teller may come to the plots and characters of a book he or she will write. After all, who can't remember a time as a child when one's thoughts roamed freely into a world of make-believe?
So, what we would come to call day-dreaming, is a very likely and real way that Dickens, and some other authors like him (surely, the great story-tellers, at least) would have thought up and developed their plots and characters. And, the interplay of the hero's daydreams here with constant interruptions from family and friends, helps one understand the frustrations and difficulties Dickens had as he hurried to get out a Christmas book in time - something his publishers deemed would not fly. Of course, everyone knows the outcome, but this story is well done, and the film is very good.
The acting is mostly superb throughout "The Man Who Invented Christmas." Dan Stevens gives believable life to the character of Dickens. He even looks very much like Dickens from a portrait of the author around that age - 31. Justin Edwards is very good in the role of Dickens's friend, John Forster. Forster was himself a writer, and it was his 1872-74 biography of Charles Dickens that is the best and most authoritative source on Dickens. Moryfdd Clark plays Dickens's wife Kate, and Jasper Cotter plays Charles's father, Walter Dickens. Christopher Plummer plays the character of Scrooge in Dickens's daydreams. That and some other small parts lend some humor to the story.
There are some small deviations in the script from the real background in Dickens's life. For instance, it implies that he didn't like reporting or journalism work and calls it names. In real life, he was a reporter, general writer and editor of newspapers and magazines. One interesting thing to note is that this film was shot entirely in Ireland. The cast is mostly made up of English and Irish actors, with an occasional Italian or French actor here or there. And, while they aren't mentioned in the movie, the three "flops" alluded to, for which Dickens was now in dire straits, would be: "Nicholas Nickleby" of 1838-39, "The Old Curiosity Shop" of 1840, and "Barnaby Rudge" of 1841. Of course, all have been published since then, and none are considered flops.
"A Christmas Carol" must top any serious list of Christmas movies, and there are a number of variations with prominent actors playing the different roles over the ages. This film, about the author and origin of the classic novella, is a very good and most enjoyable story to add to one's Christmas collection. An ideal family situation at yuletide might be to show this film first and then watch the favorite (or two) renditions of "A Christmas Carol" movie.
But, however one enjoys this film and others by its subject, it's sure to help take the humbug out of the Christmas season as it restored the spirts in England on that Christmas of the mid-1800s.
- Nov 12, 2019