Great Expectations (1946)
The sordid tale of a boy named Pip based on the sordid book by Charles Dickens...oh boy! Interestingly enough, I have not read Great Expectations apart from a small snippet of the book that I was forced to read in middle school and my retaining powers are not that sensational. Still, I was familiar with the story because while you might hate Charles Dickens, you can't deny that he's popular.
The movie begins with the fantastically dry and dusty narration from John Mills who plays the adult version of our main character.
In the first scene, Pip is visiting the grave where he parents are buried and gets sidetracked by an escaped convict who threatens the young boy with murder. He coerces Pip into getting him some food and a file to break the chains around his feet; but he doesn't get very far before he's captured by the police again and sent back to jail.
Pip's domestic situation is dysfunctional at best. He's the orphaned child, taken in by his cruel sister and her push-over-blacksmith husband.
A year after the incident with the escaped criminal, Pip is given attention by a peculiar and rich woman named Miss Havisham. A perfect example of a woman whose mind has been lost because her heart has been broken, Miss Havisham spends most of her days waging wars against men...because what else is she going to be done?
She has taken in a girl named Estella (played by Jean Simmons and Valerie Hobson) who serves as the antagonist of the film. This is one of the few times that the beautiful girl in the movie isn't good for the boy. The audience cringes at her appearance, begging Pip to have more sense than to fall in love with her...alas, sense is not something that Pip has in abundance.
Estella is cruel to Pip like no one else in the film. She mocks him, slaps him, teases him, and plays with his feelings...what a lovely creature!
But Pip's time in Miss Havisham's company doesn't last long. He gets taken away from the blacksmith (his sister has had the good graces to die by now) and adopted into high society, benefiting from an anonymous benefactor (or as I call it benefitifactoring).
He receives much money and is told to not ask many questions. All his affairs are adopted by a lawyer known as Mr. Jaggers (Francis L. Sullivan, who is simply the best part of the movie) who also serves as legal council to Miss Havisham.
Moving into a new apartment with an odd and funny roommate Hebert Pocket (a very young Alec Guinness).
So not much has happened thus far, but don't worry because that'll change.
"Great Expectations" is a curious work that blends melodrama and borderline cerebral moments into a very cohesive film. At the helm is master director David Lean before he became known for the Hollywood epics.
It's a great adaptation and everything here crackles with tension: the odd conversations between Miss Havisham and Pip, the lighting of the film, the mysterious characters that keep reappearing, the connectiveness of it all..."Great Expectations" has almost everything.
Posted by Micah Jones