Photo from The Telegraph
Great Expectations is one of my favourite books so I’ll naturally want to see any adaptation going and also be hyper-critical of it. A new series ran for three consecutive evenings on BBC 1 this week. Was it good television? Absolutely. I was glued to the screen and each hour passed in a flash. Did I like it? Not much. It wasn’t so much a film of the book as an interpretation of it, one which made everything obvious in case the viewer didn’t get it (Orlick’s hatred of Pip, for instance) and hinted at things previously unimagined (Jaggers’ relationship with Molly).
As I said, it did make good television but I can’t understand the need to change a story which is already pretty nearly perfect. There’s quite enough going on in the book without making things up, like Herbert Pocket cut off by his family and being friendly with Wemmick. Then there’s what was left out. Joe Gargery was rather modern, not touching enough (where was his devoted nursing of Pip?) and although at the end he did say, ‘Always the best of friends’, we never got the one thing everyone remembers: ‘What larks, eh Pip?’ Poor Wemmick had even lost his Aged P.
Only David Suchet’s Jaggers came near my imagining of any of the book’s characters. It’s hard to feel any sympathy for the Pip of this production until he nurses Magwitch at the end. Estella was neither beautiful nor proud enough. Gillian Anderson’s Miss Havisham looked stunning but seemed so mad that one couldn’t imagine Jaggers thinking her rational enough to take legally binding decisions or to manage her own money. Then there was the unjustified suggestion that she killed herself. Heigh ho, they did choose the happy ending of the two Dickens wrote.
I very much enjoyed the TV series of 1999 (blimey, that long ago?), the one with Charlotte Rampling as Miss Havisham. So good I watched it twice. The trouble is that the definitive film was made over seventy years ago and nothing ever betters it.