Oliver Twist (1948) Directed by David Lean
I have a new MacBook Pro. I'm in love. Yet I have no time to actually do anything on the comp (except to write this quickly). But at least I know if I had more time, I'd have the stuff to be fast and furious online and elsewhere. Time is the real luxury item, as everyone keeps saying these days. Oliver Twist was poor in the classic old way of what the word used to mean. He had the luxury of time maybe, but no parents, no food and no one to look out for him, not even as a child. And then on top of this, there was no good will around, just evil sadistic adults.
Oliver Twist is of that great story telling, where no character is simply bad or good. Stupidity has its context as has evil. There are degrees of desperation which we have to consider when we judge characters like Fagin. He is a loner thief who houses a gang of orphans in his attic and teaches them to steal for their living. While he is the only adult they have for any kind of care, he also is a violent and controlling figure clearly injured by his own early losses. Nothing is black and white or disney-sweet.
Oliver is a great character for a children's story (and stories for kids are the best for adults): he goes through incredible neglect, violence and wrong-doing in general, but in the end his straight-upness and his trusting manner carry him back to his long lost family. This film adaptation from 1948 is both beautiful and cruel. London and its poor people in the streets look amazingly real in a touching fairytale way. It's good to reflect on what it means to have NOTHING, when in our state of poverty, we still buy the latest gadgets every now and again.
We dont watch much of anything nowadays. We have a child (two at weekends), we have work, we have no time. So the blog is struggling a bit. Regular posting a thing of the past. If we get to stick a movie on, it's normally centered around the family. Hence Lean's Oliver Twist. But this isn't really family viewing - don't be fooled by the cute kids.
Lean's reputation was built on pictures like Oliver Twist. It's understandable as this still looks like nothing out there. It's a dark, grim picture, which finally gives way to sentimentality. It works because we need that sentimentality, we can't take anything more happening to sweet Oliver. It's amazing to think that Oliver Twist was made a good 7 years before The Night Of the Hunter, as both films share the theme of children in peril and the sinister, evil adult villains that threaten their lives. You could argue that Lean's picture looks equally great. Lean regular Alec Guinness plays an iconic Fagin, whilst Robert Newton plays the deranged Bill Sykes. It's Lean's own adaptation of Charles Dickens, and he's faithful to the original.
"Can I have some more ?" It's my enduring memory of Oliver Twist when I saw this as a child. These last couple of weeks I've been reading and totally absorbed by David Peace's Red Riding Quartet of books. These books go to the heart of darkness, an alternative history of terror from my youth. Lean would go onto the epic not so long after Oliver Twist. At times with Oliver Twist he touches that heart of darkness and the things we dont want to think about.