|Pip visits his parents' grave.|
|A horrible encounter with Magwitch.|
Miss Havisham is one of film's most macabre characters. Certainly mad, she is a dowager in a rotting wedding dress. Jilted at the alter years earlier, she hasn't let the sunlight enter her mansion since. The table is still set for the wedding feast with a moldy cake as centerpiece. Even the mice won't touch it.
|Inside the Havisham Mansion.|
What Makes Great Expectations Special:
This is simply one of the most visually rich films ever made. No scene is neglected. Of course, Lean had the wonderful source novel as grist for the mill. For example, Mr. Jaggers keeps death masks of clients he has lost to the gallows on his office walls.
Like all Dickens novels, the story is dense and complicated. Characters in the first act reappear later. Magwitch is one, and his second coming is dramatic and changes the course of the film. Lean, an accomplished editor before he turned to directing, knew how to trim it down without losing any of Dickens' unique flavor and atmosphere, or his biting social commentary. Everything is resolved in the end, of course.
Lean's mastery of direction shows up in little scenes, like the one where Jaggers asks Pip to look out his office window. The Point of View is Pip's--he sees a plaza below packed with rowdies come to watch a multiple hanging. The POV shifts to Pip's face for his reaction. We hear the crowd quiet as the camera moves in for a close-up. Suddenly there is a rousing cheer and Pip cringes. The execution appears off screen, but we know exactly what happened.
Alex Guinness made his speaking film debut as Pip's friend and roommate, Herbert Pocket. He would go on to work with Director Lean five more times, most notably as Fagin in Oliver Twist (1948) and winning the Oscar for his role as Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).
Lean would go on to international fame as a director of grand epics, like the aforementioned Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Ryan's Daughter, and Passage to India. But it is his early work, including the two Dickens' classics, that may be his greatest achievements.
John Mills, who plays the older Pip was 38 when the film was produced. He does a fine job, but he is too old for the role, which requires someone a good ten years younger. It is the only significant distracting aspect of the film.
Jean Simmons at 17 is quite beautiful. It is too bad her role is such a short one.
- Won Oscars for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, and Best Black & White Cinematography.
- Nominated for Oscars for Director, Picture, and Writing.
- In a 1999 poll it was named the 5th best British film by the British Film Institute.
- Brief Encounter 1945
- Blithe Spirit 1945
- Oliver Twist 1948
- Summertime 1955