"Great Expectations"

Discussion in 'Movies' started by David Grove, Jan 25, 2006.

  1. David Grove

    David Grove Stunt Coordinator

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    I notice that there are four productions of "Great Expectations" over the past 50 years.

    Might anyone comment on whether any of them are particularly famous or notorious? I'm considering which one(s) to buy, and am unfamiliar with the merits of the several (re)makes. I'm wondering more about the artistic differences than the DVD quality issues.

    Thank you.

    DG
     
  2. Ray H

    Ray H Producer

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    Well, maybe you should rent a version to check it out first.

    Personally, I've only seen the David Lean and Alfonso Cuaron versions. I haven't actually read the book ([​IMG]), but I assume Lean's version is a fairly faithful adaptation complete with a complicated conspiracy ending that seems to be common in the works of Dickens. I believe the Lean version is pretty well regarded, but I found it kinda dry.

    I prefer the 1998 version with Ethan Hawke and Gwenyth Paltrow though. It's a wonderful and stylish movie that is fairly underrated. As far as an adaptation goes, I suspect it's pretty loose. It gets rid of the conspiracy ending and quite a bit to update the story for modern audiences but I really dug it. [​IMG]
     
  3. David Grove

    David Grove Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, I guess I can't argue with that advice. [​IMG]

    Still, it doesn't hurt to solicit opinions from informed sources.

    I did read the novel, but so long ago that I remember it only broadly and vaguely. I guess I should read it again.

    DG
     
  4. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    The ending of Lean's film is 100% Hollywood and 0% Dickens. OTOH, Dickens himself wrote two endings to Great Expectations; the original one was unhappy and true to the story, while the revised one was happy and strains credulity (but in an oh-so-artful way). Since Dickens himself wasn't above pandering to the popular desire for a happy ending, I guess Lean can't be blamed. [​IMG]

    I also like Cuaron's film, but it's updated to contemporary times, which means that it both gains and loses in the translation. Its ending is closer to one of Dickens' two endings, but I won't say which one.

    M.
     
  5. Ray H

    Ray H Producer

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    Interesting to learn about Lean's ending. Though I was mainly referring to the coincidence of Magwitch being Estella's father, blah, blah, blah.
    According to SparkNotes ([​IMG])that's still true. Didn't know about the other stuff though.

    Of course, the best production of "Great Expectations" was the one from South Park. [​IMG]
     
  6. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    When I said the ending in Lean's film was 100% Hollywood, I was referring to:

    Estella taking the place of Miss Havisham, leading Pip to rip down the drapes and "rescue" her. None of that happens in either of Dickens' endings.
    As for the famous Dickensian "coincidences", they're not limited to Dickens. They're just part of the artifice of constructing stories, and in the best of Dickens (including Great Expectations), they become a poetic expression of fate and the inability to escape the past.

    One of the novel's main themes is how the past shapes our present and future, even when we're not aware of it. Once you start reading the book with this idea in mind, it's amazing how deeply the theme is woven into the imagery and the very language of the narration. A notable example occurs at the very beginning, when Magwitch is escaping from prison. He has to hobble across a graveyard while still wearing leg-irons, and it looks to Pip as if the hands of the dead are reaching out of their graves to grab at him. There's the entire novel distilled into a single image.

    In very different styles, both Lean and Cuaron found cinematic ways to express that idea. Some of the best imagery in both films comes at the decaying home of Miss Havisham (renamed Miss Dinsmoor in Cuaron's version).

    M.
     
  7. andrew markworthy

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    It would also be totally wrong to see the coincidences in Dickens as simply contrived plots - they are all there not just for the sake of having a few unexpected twists, but also to point out the undercurrents in life and society. For example, think carefully about Estella's true parentage - what is Dickens saying about what makes a person a member of the ruling class?
     
  8. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    I never said it was a "Hollywood ending". It was the ending of Lean's film that I described as "100% Hollywood and 0% Dickens". The second ending of the novel is routinely referred to (at least in this country) as the "happy" ending, because it's a convenient shorthand for an ending that concludes with "the sun was shining". But as with almost everything Dickens wrote, there's a lot more going on (as I said, it's "oh-so-artful").

    As you can probably tell, I'm not a fan of the second ending.

    M.
     
  9. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    I've seen Lean's version and Cuaron's; preferred Lean's but am still searching for one that really sits well with me (the BBC one may be it). I may have to watch Cuaron's again because I saw it shortly after finishing the novel and of course was not open to the modernizations. Actually, most things I was fine with but the fact they made Estella actually lead on and seduce Finn/Pip really bothered me. It ruined one of the most powerful moments in the novel when Estella points out she never lead him on and never gave him any reason to think she could/would return his feelings, highlighting how inflated and misguided his expectations really were.
     

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