Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cranford and Oliver Twist

It took a couple of weeks, but I did become hooked on the BBC's adaptation of Cranford. I even warmed to the Judi Dench - I have long wanted to repeal whichever Act of Parliament it is that makes it compulosry for her to be cast in every British film.

The writers had to combine Cranford with two of Mrs Gaskell's minor works to get some plot into it, and the last episode was simply crammed with happy endings. Long lost relatives and fiances appeared from behind every tree, and little Harry didn't just get an education - he got a fortune too.

All rather overdone, but still immensely enjoyable. And you may also enjoy tonight's posting from Liberal Bureaucracy.

Oliver Twist, which began this evening, was less satisfactory. It is a difficult piece to adapt because it has been done so often before - and done superlatively well by David Lean nearly 60 years ago. But it is possible to do something new and interesting with the book, as Alan Bleasdale proved not so long ago.

Whoever wrote the new Oliver took it upon themselves to gild the early scenes. But they are some of the most extraordinary pages in the English canon. You are not going to outwrite Dickens there.

I also feel that having a more lippy Oliver does not work. It makes you think there must be something to be said for the workhouse (not that we saw much of it) if it turns out such self-confident young men. It also means that there is not enough contrast between Oliver and the Dodger.

You may complain that it was also nonsense for Dickens to make Oliver emerge from the workhouse as a little gentleman, but that does seem to be what the story requires. The moral is that Dickens knows best.

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