Saturday, April 26, 2008

Great Expectations

I watched David Lean's version of Great Expectations on DVD, last night. The DVD presented the film in an excellent condition, and it was a joy to watch.

Lean's film is one of his earliest, and all the better for it. (From Lawrence of Arabia onwards, his films became long-winded and had the filmic version of verbosity. I talk about it in this article.)
It tells Dickens' wonderful story with economy, but doesn't stint on details (although one surprising omission is the murder of Mrs Jo (Gargery); in the film she just dies rather suddenly.)

And the photography is wonderful, atmospheric and equally detailed. The cast are top-notch, and John Mills, who ages from around 18 to his late twenties was actually 38 at the time it was filmed. I'd never have guessed it. Jean Simmons is superb as the man-hating Estella; unfortunately, even though Simmons could have played the older version of Estella with ease, the 'adult' role is given to Valerie Hobson, who's rather lacklustre by comparison.

Hobson apart, the rest of the cast has that wonderful Dickensian feeling about them that only the British can portray.

I reckon it's more than fifty years since I last saw this movie; and it's stood up to the test of time easily. In fact, it's been voted as one of the top ten films of all time on some list.

That's Simmons with Martita Hunt in the picture on the top right: as you can see, even at 17 she was mature enough to play an adult. 32-year-old Alec Guinness plays Herbert Pocket in the other photo: he was also supposed to be a teenager at this point.
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