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Madrid City in English
Friday 14th of December 2018
Laura Stephens 30th of March 2013 by editor 30th of March 2013
Robbie Coltrane as Mr Jaggers
Great Expectations (Grandes esperanzas)

Laura Stephens catches a preview of the latest adaptation of Dickens’ classic novel

Marsh country, Kent. An oppressive grey sky casts a dullness over the watery cattle-filled landscape. A young boy, aged 11 or so, runs along the riverside path and into a cemetery, coming to rest at his parents’ grave. A dirty, long-haired, bearded man shackled with jangling chains creeps up on the youngster and threatens to kill him if he doesn’t do as he’s told.

            For anyone who has read Charles Dickens’ classic novel, or seen one of the many film or television adaptations, this opening scene is unforgettable, indelibly imprinted on the mind as the beginning of Pip’s journey from simple blacksmith’s boy to educated gentleman. The encounter is the catalyst, unbeknownst to Pip, for his Great Expectations.

             Director Mike Newell’s latest cinema version is faithful to the novel; its twisting, intricate plotlines are handled effectively, which is no easy task when adapting a classic. The only change is a deeper focus on the love/hate relationship between Pip and Estella, which works well for pace and in helping the film maintain a manageable length. The characters walk from the page to the screen with ease, mainly due to the strength of Dickens’ writing and the calibre of the actors.

            Helena Bonham Carter is made for the role of Miss Havisham, sat in her cobwebby mansion, clothed in a disintegrating wedding dress and with her dark hair piled messily on top of her head. Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch, the coarse, unrefined escaped prisoner, is superb, his handsome features hidden under the beard and scruffy attire, and Robbie Coltrane does a great job as the imposing lawyer Mr. Jaggers, bringing a bit of empathy to the role.

            The landscapes and sets are magnificent too, and evoke the period perfectly. From the grey Kent wetlands, to the London of Dickens’s youth: dirty, dark, dangerous and yet exceptionally exciting.

            However, despite all of the positive elements, there are shortfalls—a lot of the novel’s humour found in Pip’s naive yet well-observed narration is lost, albeit by natural way of transition from page to screen. If you’re looking for a solid, well-executed story, the movie is worth your euro, but if you’ve seen David Lean’s definitive 1946 adaptation, or read the book, then you may find that this version a little unsatisfying by not bringing anything new to the table.

Great Expectations is out now

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Thanks for a great

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Thanks for a great commentary, as one of my top ten books of all times I was excited to hear a movie adaptation release of it. However, a rarely enjoy a screen adaptation of a fantastically written book and so am sceptical to go and see it. Though you say the opening scene (one of my favourite parts in the book) is well done and settings and the actors may just get down to watch it!