As a recently born Dickens fan I was highly excited about the new BBC adaptation of Great Expectations. I have heard my dad natter on and on about how both the original film and the book are brilliant but I never really got round to them. BBC dramas are usually absolutely brilliant as they really capture the essence of ‘period-drama’. Some say that they’re quite dull and boring because they’re all the same but I had a feeling that Great Expectations was going to be different.
Without having ever read Great Expectations I was quite surprised at the ease at which I was able to follow the plot. At the moment, I am reading Bleak House, another Dicken’s novel, and whilst it’s not too complex it is insanely long and you can really hear Dicken’s point of view of society at the time shining through. I suppose applied to Great Expectations as I could really sense Dicken’s views on the classes and the way children were brought up.
In short, Great Expectations is about a boy, Pip, who lives in the marshes. The story begins with Pip helping an escaped convict by stealing him a file and a piece of pie. The convict is soon captured though he touched by the boy’s good heart and does not say who helped him get the file. Close to his home is Satis House, where Lady Haversham and her adopted daughter live. One day, quite out of the blue, Pip is invited to Satis House and is told to come and play with Estella once a week. Pip is under the impression that Miss Haversham intends Pip to marry Estella and that is why he is invited round and is very disappointed when suddenly Miss Haversham gives Pip ‘what he wants’ and pays for his apprenticeship at the forge. Pip goes back to his life as a blacksmith until one day he is called back to Satis House. He is told that Estella is to leave for London and realises that Lady Haversham has just been stringing him along, when in fact, she had abosutely no intention of letting him wed Estella. Not long after, Pip receives a letter telling him he has a benefactor who is going to pay for him to go to London and learn to be a gentlemen. Pip is convinced that it is Lady Haversham’s work and again, it is so that he will be a good suitor for Estella. So Pip departs for London and his new life as a young gentlemen of Great Expectations, but things are plain sailing, nor are they as they seem.
I have to say, the thing that struck me most was just how beautiful Douglas Booth is. He is far to hot for Dickens adaptation though that was a ploy by the BBC to encourage teenagers to watch it. Douglas booth is a fairly unknown, British actor/model, though after this adaptation he’s sure to have the job offers rolling in. In addition, Booth is all set to star in Romeo and Juliet in 2012 alongside Gossip Girl’s Ed Westwick. He fitted the character of Pip perfectly, transforming effortlessly from a blacksmith to a true London Gentleman. Pip doesn’t get treated very well throughout this story and his face and mannerisms just made your heart melt and you couldn’t help but love him and his good and pure heart.
Lady Haversham was played by Gillian Anderson, and at 43, she’s the youngest actress to play the character on screen. Her interpretation of Lady Haversham was truly chilling and she captured the character perfectly. Every movement and every word was eerie and ghostly. The makeup was fantastic, she looked as white as a sheet and the burn on her hand looked disgustingly real, even her lips were just perfect. Kudos to the costume and make-up department. Ray Winstone portrayed Abel Magwitch and at the beginning he was absolutely terrifying but by the end he had softened by heart – the mark of a truly brilliant actor. There were also appearances from David Suchet and his hardened attitude was very different from the Peppy Poirot that I’m used to. Vanessa Kirby played Estella and she was the only character who I thought didn’t look the part even though she acted it very well.
I cannot say how accurate the television adaptation is in relation to the book; however, if you just take the short three-part series by itself it was absolutely superb. I was captivated from the very beginning and each day I found myself waiting for the next part. This series had me shocked and astounded and I even broke down in tears at one point. It is an absolutely beautiful drama that touched my heart and is easily my favourite BBC adaption to date. The costumes, the music, the acting – everything was superbly British and Dickens-esque. This was the perfect Christmas drama and if you haven’t already watched it, catch up on BBC iPlayer now! In fact .. I think I’ll be off to watch it again.
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