---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 30 Apr 95 13:10 CDT
From: Margaret Conrow <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: tv Martin Chuzzlewit
Patrick McCarthy suggested that once this series was over he would be intereste
d in the reactions of the members of the list. I have been recording it and mi
ssed the first episode, and have not yet seen the last one, but I doubt that my
opinion will be changed by seeing the last episode, as it has been getting more
and more entrenched. Succinctly put, I am hating it. I am watching it out of
a sense of duty (I'm not sure to what) and to be able to be more secure in my
opinion (you can see how objective I am going to be on watching the last episod
e). But actually, I am interested in why I dislike it so much, and hope that
some others will be interested also. No doubt it all comes down to the standar
d problem, that dramatizing novels means omitting the language. Usually this
works better with Dickens than with some other novelists ( e.g. Thackeray)
because there is so much dialogue. But we all know that Dickens' language is
one of the reasons for his inimitability.
More specifically, this version gives us all the nastiness of Dickens'
dark themes and evil characters and none of his comedy. I don't want to appear
to be one of those who want to divorce Dickens' dark themes from his comedy,
and try to say that the comic Dickens is the "best Dickens," but Dickens'
greatness is not in his subjects or in his "darkness" ( or in his characters or
anything else) per se, but in the combination of all these; his vision is what
is given us through his extreme and exaggerated language, and without this, all
we have is, in this version, is the unpleasantness &, unfortunately exagger
ated, the sentimentality. I don't even find Mrs. GAmp amusing in this series.
I don't think I am prone to discount the nastiness that appears in Dickens; in
hat appears in Dickens; in
my article on "Wife abuse in Dickens' fiction" I have used Merry as an example;
I do think that this series has translated the text of this part of the novel
fairly accurately, and that is one thing I will be interested in in the final
episode; so it is not that I find distortion on the level of particular inciden
ts; rather it is the absence of Dickens' particular humanity and some kind of
delight in the exposure of these characters that I cannot find, in spite of
the lavish costuming and wonderful phsyiognomies that British Television always
seems to find when picking actors for Dickens' novels. (although I must objec
t to Pinch's wig.) Because there is nothing comic in these evil characters, I c
an only see them as morally and spiritually ugly, and at the same time, of
course, exaggerated and caricatured, but with no excuse. This takes all the
possible "dark point" away, and leaves either caricature or straw men.
As for the sentimentality, we have this underlined by a) long silences,
apparently to enhance the unearned emotion, and b) music.
As if all this were not bad enough, on my screen, the series is literally
dark. This symbolism easily can be taken too far; obviously I think it is!
well, Patrick- no doubt you will edit this as you think fit-
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