Sunday 12th December 3.30 pm at Leeds University.
Members can claim up to 2 free tickets for this special festival screening
The man in question is, of course, Charles Dickens; and his invention is his novella ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1843). This must be the most famous contribution to the festive season in modern times. There are likely two dozen adaptations of the book on film plus others on television, radio and in the theatre. And its influence can be seen in many other tales rolled out every year; it has always seemed to me that It’s a Wonderful Life works by inverting the earlier story. The smart variation offered in this movie is the portrait of Dickens writing his masterwork in the last weeks of 1843.
It is a dramatisation and whilst much of it is accurate it also includes invention and embroidering; check out ‘History vs Hollywood’ which examines some of these issues. The six week time period of the film is accurate; in that year Dickens was seeking an elusive popular novel and also worrying over financial problems. Meanwhile the Victorian Christmas was emerging; the 25th became a Bank Holiday in 1834; whilst Boxing Day and Bob Cratchit had to wait until 1871. The source for the movie was US writer Les Standiford who produces historical non-fiction and had the bright idea of presenting both how Dickens produced his famous work but also its influence on the increasing importance of this festival.
The film depicts Dickens drawing on his own life experiences to dramatise a tale of ‘light’ and shadow’; incorporating already existing practices such as the large fowl for dinner and the succulent pudding. He also added family get togethers and carol singing. The film tends to emphasise the sentimentality that was part of Dickens’ writing. There is less emphasis on the darker aspects of Victorian Britain; aspects written about vividly in the same period by Frederick Engels (‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’, 1845).
In the course of the film we see Dickens (Dan Stevens) tussling with the characters he develops, including Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer); receiving inspiration from those about him including an invented Irish maid Tara (Anna Murphy): and revisiting his past and family, including his father John (Jonathan Pryce). He also has to tussle with publishers, printers and illustrators as the novel takes shape and prepares for publication.
The amount of sentiment gave mental indigestion to certain critics; but a larger number appreciated the topicality for the season and the interest in seeing the gestation of one of the most remarkable contributions to English literature. There is some fine playing form a cast of familiar British actors and characters. The production values, produced on digital formats, are good. The title is in widescreen, 2.35:1, and colour and runs for 104 minutes. This is an entertaining way to develop that Christmas mood extolled by Dickens. And there is time left before the Festival to revisit the original. In 1843, if you waited until Christmas Eve, you would have been disappointed as the first edition had fully sold by then and you would then have to wait till the days before the New Year.
For this special Christmas screening, Friends of Hyde Park Picture House are entitled to up to 2 free tickets, all other tickets are £5.
If you had an active Friends membership in February 2020 (irrespective of whether this may have lapsed since then), your registered email address will already be on the box office system. This means you can purchase online, and the system will automatically discount your tickets.
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