Friday, December 30, 2011

Great Expectations fulfilled, I think...

I first read Great Expectations when I was ten or eleven and operating under the impression that to be literary one must have read the 'classics' and operate under blind obedience to the literary canon. Hence my bookshelf filled with numerous bulky, black, penguin classics (which are mostly comprised of lengthy, in depth introductions which I thought had to be read!)

The timing of the BBC series this Christmas has been extremely helpful, it's helped me to revisit the book in time for my degree and inspired me to delve back into the book. I know the series made many changes - one quite drastic one in omitting Biddy - but I still think it kept the balance. From Pip's delusions of he and Estella being meant for each other, a relationship artificially constructed by Miss Havisham, to come full circle in the revelation of Estella's parentage and how destiny may simply have planned it in a different way of which both were unaware.
 The casting of Estella was curious, she trod a thin line between acting restrained and simply being wooden. On the whole I think she delivered a good performance, being primarily both haughty and cold although in the book it is clear Estella is much more beautiful than Pip - something seemingly reversed in this version... although that might just be me being fickle.

Douglas Booth came into his own in the latter stages, but it was the younger Pip who delivered a startlingly good performance - laying the groundwork for the bond with Magwitch -which, for me, is the essence of the book. Winstone played Magwitch very well, though I chuckle to think of him as Beowulf, and Gillian Anderson was delightfully grotesque as Miss Havisham. This version was very accessible, which I think is a positive but there is naturally a lot more intricacy in Dickens's writing. Nevertheless I found the series very moving and satisfying and I'm sure I will have more to say once I have delved into the book once again!

"That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day." 
- Charles Dickens, Great Expectations