Dickens on Screen at TIFF Bell Lightbox
As part of the global fete of Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday, TIFF Cinematheque is launching a retrospective of the famed author’s various screen incarnations. From the famous to the rare, from the classic to the contemporary, “Dickens on Screen” promises to be a rare treat for the film and literary lover alike. (Psst – there are some silent goodies in the mix as well, PCF readers).
Charles Dickens, though he didn’t actually make it long enough to see motion pictures, holds a rather special place in cinema history. Many famed filmmakers like D.W. Griffith and film theorists like Sergei Eisenstein were profuse with praise for the cinematic qualities of Dickens’ writing. Indeed, his flowing prose style is a kind of proto-montage in printed form and his narrative style is episodic in nature. Those qualities, and early cinema’s impulse to be at least a little high-minded, make the works of Charles Dickens favorite candidates for adaptation. As a matter of fact, every single Dickens novel was adapted during the silent era at least one time.(For a really extensive list of Dickens on film, check out this post from The Bioscope.)
The “Dickens on Screen” programme launches on December 13, 2012 with David Lean’s classic and enduring adaptation of Great Expectations (1946). With a superb cast including John Mills, Valerie Hobson, Alec Guinness, and Finlay Currie, the film is not necessarily completely faithful to his literary inspiration, but it does adhere to spirit of the work. The word “Dickensian” comes to mind from the opening scene when Pip encounters the escaped convict in a foggy graveyard and the Dickensian atmospherics persist through out the movie. This movie is a true classic and the sheer enjoyment of a tale well told demonstrates why not only the movie remains so popular but why Mr. Dickens himself remains an object of veneration.
Great Expectations will be screening twice, once on December 13 and again on January 2. Both screenings will be opened with Magwitch, a contemporary imagining of the early life of the convict-turned-benefactor of Great Expectations. The first screening will also include an introduction from author and Chief Executive of Film London, Adrian Wootton.
While I would recommend seeing anything (or hey, everything!) in the “Dickens on Screen” programme, of special interest to PCF readers there will be two separate silent film opportunities. On December 27 you can catch Thomas Bentley’s David Copperfield (1913), considered by many to be the first British feature film. Then on December 31 “Dickens on Screen” presents a selection of early silent short adaptations of the Dickens work. For more information about the screenings and the entire “Dickens on Screen” Programme, visit the programme page on tiff.net.