Bleak House

The Internet Movie Database

From the novel of the same name by Charles Dickens

Well. Mr Otter had just finished reading Bleak House to me (and it took a year and a half, what with a 9 month hiatus for escrow, packing, moving and renovating, with time off for hysterics…) but we enjoyed it very much, especially his wonderful reading of it…he does all the voices, wow!

Anyway. We got together with our friend La Cuerva to watch the 6 1/2 hour BBC version that was made in the 90s, with Diana Rigg and Denholm Elliot…we had snacks, drinks, chips and pizza coupons, and all of us looked forward to this day with great anticipation…

And it was very good…the characters were mostly true to the book, and it was fun seeing the sets and trying to figure out who people were before they were introduced, putting faces and names together, and laughing over favorite scenes…as I said, very good…

UNTIL THEY REWROTE THE STORY.

OK, here’s a big fat ol’ tip to you filmmakers out there: if you’re turning a VERY VERY FAMOUS BOOK, especially one that has BEEN AROUND A LONG TIME and been loved by MILLIONS OF PEOPLE, into a film, YOU SHOULD THINK VERY VERY CAREFULLY BEFORE CHANGING ANYTHING.

This has become known as the Denethor syndrome around our house, in honor of Peter Jackson’s efforts along those lines in The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

Why? I mean, this is only 6 1/2 hours long: obviously, they can’t show every word, every conversation, every character. Most of the cuts made sense: the Jellybys didn’t show up at all, even though Caddy Jellyby was one of Esther’s closest friends…but that was a good decision: they didn’t advance the plot, and the missionary family who did advance the plot made the same point about the obsession with this kind of thing that was sweeping Victorian Great Britain.

But here, they actually added a scene that not only was NOT in the book, but actually detracted from the emotional impact of the ending…having Sir Leicester Dedlock and Lady Dedlock meet before she runs away made no sense whatsoever, and lessened the stress on him considerably…and why kill Rick with a heart attack? Consumption was just as deadly and ever so Victorian…although not as dramatic as having him collapse in the court, I admit.

The three of us were so disgusted with these egregious liberties taken by the scriptwriter that we spent the last two hours of the series hooting at the screen and telling the actors what was actually supposed to happen.

Yes, Diana Rigg and Denholm Elliot are excellent, as are many of the actors in the character roles, and I actually liked the fact that the budding relationship between Allan Woodcourt and Esther was hinted at during the movie, instead of being a total complete baffling surprise in the second to last chapter…but still.

Not so bad, probably worth seeing once…but could have been so much better…

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