Watched: February 22 2017
Director: David Lean
Starring: John Howard Davies, Alec Guinness, Robert Newton, Kay Walsh, Henry Stephenson
Runtime: 1h 50min
We assume (perhaps mistakenly, but still) that most people have some idea of the plot of Dickens’ 1838 novel Oliver Twist, and so we’ll keep our plot summary to a minimum. Suffice to say, Oliver Twist (Davies) is a poor orphan who is brought up in an abusive workhouse and who, through a series of unfortunate events, ends up alone on the streets of London. He takes up with a band of thieving boys, led by Fagin (Guinness), and the inexperienced Oliver is promptly arrested on his first outing.
Oliver is acquitted, falls ill, and ends up in the care of Mr Brownlow who takes him in as his own. But what is their connection? It turns out they are more connected than they originally assumed…
Meanwhile, Fagin and Bill Sikes (Newton), a brutal man who runs the show, are freaking out, worried that Oliver will blow their whole operation. They therefore kidnap him to keep him quiet, but Nancy (Walsh) feels bad for both Oliver and Brownlow and decides to snitch. How will this all end?
From the ominous beginning – storm, thorns and torrential rain – to the suspenseful ending, David Lean’s Oliver Twist is a great watch. Lean’s version is a fairly faithful adaptation of the novel although, as with all adaptations, there are fewer details and some parts of the book are only alluded to, changed, or left out completely.
The film is beautiful and atmospheric with gorgeous sets, a great score, wonderful performances and (naturally) Dickensian characters (including the somewhat racially offensive Fagin). We recommend it both to lovers of the novel as well as those who cannot be bothered reading it but still want to pretend they have.
What we learned: The things some people will do for financial gain… Also, lynch mobs are terrifying, whether in the flesh as in 19th century London, or online as in now.
Next time: Rope (1948)