The Personal History of David Copperfield hit theaters in the US. It is the latest adaptation of a Charles Dickens work.
Today’s bonus prompt: what is your favorite adaptation of a Charles Dickens work?
The books were the prestige drama of their day. Fans would wait at docks to get the latest installment from overseas. An all too familiar scenario, perhaps, as these days Americans had to wait eight months for David Copperfield to arrive to our shores from the UK. “Where’s Dev Patel in a stovepipe hat?” clamor the masses. “And what of the fate of Little Dorrit?”
The stories do lend themselves to film adaptations though. It’s got everything you want: high drama, fabulous costuming, and characters with names like “Uriah Heap” and “The Artful Dodger”. There’s also the gothic imagery that lends itself to horror, such as the spectral Miss Havisham in the wedding dress that she has never been seen without since her failed wedding.
Dickens stories also tend to look at a class of people that oftentimes get ignored in contemporary works. Read enough classic novels and typically it’s about well-off people in lovely manor houses. With Dickens, you peek into the struggles of the working class, something Dickens himself was keenly aware of.
Despite the melodramatic nature of the stories, they’re also seen as prestige… mainly because they’re old. I think Dickens’ works were regarded as trashy literature by some snooty critics of the day. Some of the best Dickens films don’t shy away from the trashiness and go all in… perhaps sacrificing the literary accuracy but correctly pinpointing the appeal.
Dickens’ works have lent to a variety of different interpretations. There’s David Lean’s gothic masterpiece, Great Expectations. There’s the same story but with Gwenyth Paltrow that’s set in the 1920’s. There’s Disney’s pre-Renaissance film where Billy Joel plays a singing dog. Don’t get me going on the countless adaptations of A Christmas Carol, starring everyone from Albert Finney to Bill Murray to Jim Carrey.
And then there’s the one with Charlie Hunnam in a tall hat.
Next week: pirates