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Without the prose you are losing so much and with the filming adding so much just by being visual that fidelity is never that true. I wrote about it here -- https://thecritic.co.uk/in-defence-of-the-netflix-persuasion/

I need to catch up with club reading. I haven’t done Dombey!

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Mar 29, 2023Liked by Henry Oliver

Thanks, Henry, for this post.

One of the (many) things I don’t like in this adaptation is Pip’s age - he’s too old & already set in his ways. We don’t see how the impressionable little boy is swayed by his own ignorance & that of those around him which I think is a major point of the book.

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Mar 30, 2023Liked by Henry Oliver

“...the genius of Dickens’ characters is that they are not real. He took eccentric aspects of the British character and magnified them.”

I don’t think that this quite hits the mark. Dickens did not take eccentricities and magnify them. He took ordinarities and exaggerated them.

Chesterton explains this as follows: “We talk of the power of drawing people out; and that is the nearest parallel to the power of Dickens. He drew reels and reels of highly coloured caricature out of an ordinary person, as dazzlingly as a conjurer draws reels and reels of highly coloured paper out of an ordinary hat. But if anybody thinks the conjuring-trick is easy to perform, let him try it with the next ordinary person he sees. The exaggeration is always the logical extension of something that really exists; but genius appears, first in seeing that it exists, and second in seeing that it will bear to be thus exaggerated. https://www.britannica.com/topic/G-K-Chesterton-on-Charles-Dickens-2215538

Someplace, and I can’t put my finger on the source but it was in an essay on Dickens, Chesterton observed that Dickens draws his characters from real life. All you have to do is look at someone, anyone, and try to see that person as Dickens would. Suddenly, you are looking at a Dickensian character. (Whether you can reduce it to writing is another matter entirely…)

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Mar 29, 2023Liked by Henry Oliver

Yes, I found the Dickens reading club about a month ago, & it’s a joy.

I don’t know if adaptations are always reductionist, which I think you said. I think the playoff is between fidelity (to the original) & authenticity. Of course, that’s a bit question-begging, but we can choose what in the text is crucial to us, & what we’re going to drop. In which case - what’s going to make for a great, illuminating adaptation is the adapter’s commitment to the text, & imagination & talent in reanimating it based around the essentials.

I’m thinking of the Prokofiev ballet in relation to Romeo & Juliet, & West Side Story (both of which in my view are masterpieces that add additional layers of meaning & interpretation to the original), versus (e.g.) the Matthew Bourne Romeo & Juliet, which has wandered too far away from the essential premise & is totally different (quite good, but not really R&J at all).

The liberties that Armando Iannucci took with David Copperfield were used to recreate the original premises with total brilliance, I thought. A wonderful adaptation.

I haven’t watched this one yet. The BBC’s 2011 version with Gillian Anderson I thought so awful - ie, so based on the wrong things - that I actually threw away the DVD I’d bought.

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Excellent article!! I really need to join the dickens reading group

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Some people need to calm down me thinks! Artists have been adapting literature for years, and thank goodness they do. It adds layers of richness and challenge too.

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I agree that a film adaptation must depart from the original simply because it utilizes a fundamentally different medium.

The key is how well it captures the essence of the original--does it capture the mood, convey the same sense of characterization, consider the same themes?

Besides, how else could Miss Havisham live like that if she didn’t have an opium habit? ; )

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