Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Great Expectations

1946 - Dir: David Lean
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 25th February, 2006
“Not only one of the finest literally adaptations ever made, but one of the best British films of all time”
“Great Expectations” was made by David Lean at the top of his early form. He was a film editor for seven years before directing his first film, and his career stands as an argument for the theory that editors make better directors than cinematographers do; the cinematographer is seduced by the look of a film, while the editor is faced with the task of making sense out of it as a story (you may choose to take this with a pinch of salt - these notes are written by a film editor). It is a fact that scenes from this film are used as examples of the film editors art in text books and at film schools the world over.
This film does what few movies based on great books can do: Creates pictures on the screen that do not clash with the images already existing in our minds. Lean brings Dickens' classic set-pieces to life as if he'd been reading over our shoulder: Pip's encounter with the convict Magwitch in the churchyard, Pip's first meeting with the mad Miss Havisham, and the ghoulish atmosphere in the law offices of Mr. Jaggers, whose walls are decorated with the death masks of clients he has lost to the gallows. Splendidly atmospheric and with superb performances from a marvellous cast, Great Expectations won two Oscars and was nominated for Best Picture. The Screenplay is largely the work of Ronald Neame who went on to direct “The Million Pound Note” (seen here last November).

  • Lean was not a particularly well-read man, and only became aware of the power of Charles Dickens' story when his wife Kay Walsh dragged him along to a theatrical production of "Great Expectations" in 1939. Incidentally, playing Herbert Pocket in this production, was a young Alec Guinness, whom Lean subsequently cast in the same role in the film version.
  • This was Guinness’ first film but his abiding memory of it was that his wig didn’t fit.
  • This was the first film directed by David Lean that hadn't been written by Noel Coward (not a lot of people know that).

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