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Great Expectations

August 30, 2010

Great Expectations (1946)
Director: David Lean
Actors: John Mills, Valerie Hobson, Martita Hunt

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Synopsis: Pip (John Mills), a poor blacksmith apprentice, is elevated into the position of a London gentleman by a mysterious benefactor….

Review: Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” gets a fitting and beautiful screen interpretation from David Lean in this – the first of his two memorable Dickens’ adaptations of the late 40s. More than anything else, Lean’s great success is in conjuring a celluloid spirit for the novel despite the necessary abbreviations and edits that have been made in the journey from page to film. This is exemplified in the much lauded – and rightly so – opening graveyard scene where Guy Green’s gorgeous black and white photography captures the eerie desolation of the marshes landscape (and by extension, Pip’s melancholic origins) superbly.

Watching the film again, it’s easy to detect other intelligent aspects to the adaptation beyond its mere cinematographic lustre. Lean casts a very similar looking Estella (Valerie Hobson) to Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt) so he can gradually emphasise the ominous metaphor of Estella morphing into another Miss Havisham. Most compelling of all is Lean’s uncanny visual appropriation of the atmospheric, fantastical element of the novel, and the apex of this interpretation comes in the brilliant swooping camera shot over a stormy London skyline that reaches straight into Pip’s apartment – a clever foreshadowing of Magwitch’s impending return that very evening. (December 2006)

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