Dickens on Screen

Dickens on Screen

Dickens on Screen

Dickens on Screen

TIFF Cinematheque - Holiday

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As part of the worldwide celebrations of the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens coordinated by Film London and The Charles Dickens Museum, TIFF Cinematheque is proud to present this generous selection of famous, neglected, rare, curious and fascinating adaptations of his beloved novels for film and television, stretching from the silent era to the modern day.

Films in Dickens on Screen

    • Great Expectations w/ Magwitch introduced by Adrian Wootton
    • Adrian Wootton introduces this programme that pairs David Lean's classic version of Dicken's great rags-to-riches tale with an inventive short that imagines the early life and criminal career of the story's legendary convict character.

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    • Little Dorrit Part One: Nobody's Fault
    • Christine Edzard
    • The first half of director Christine Edzard's epic adaptation of Dickens' mammoth masterpiece recounts the tale of an innocent young seamstress (Sarah Pickering) who follows her father into debtors' prison from the perspective of her would-be benefactor, Good Samaritan Arthur Clennam (Derek Jacobi).

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    • Adrian Wootton on Dickens and Film
    • The curator of Dickens on Screen presents a special illustrated lecture that explores the rich legacy of Dickens adaptations on film and television from 1898 to the present day.

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    • Dickens on Film w/ Dickens in London
    • This recent documentary on the long history of Dickens adaptations for film and television is accompanied by an inventive film that shapes Dickens' journalistic ruminations on London into an impressionistic biographical portrait.

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    • Adrian Wootton on Dickens and Crime Cinema
    • In his second illustrated talk, the curator of Dickens on Screen investigates Dickens' fascination with crime and detection, and explores how his novels contributed to the evolution of the modern crime thriller and film noir.

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    • Scrooge
    • Brian Desmond Hurst
    • The best-loved and best-remembered film adaptation of Dickens' famous festive tale features a career-defining performance from the scintillatingly brilliant Alastair Sim as the nasty but eventually nice Ebenezer Scrooge.

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    • Little Dorrit Part Two: Little Dorrit's Story
    • Christine Edzard
    • The second part of Christine Edzard's sprawling, ambitious adaptation of the Dickens classic switches perspective from Arthur Clennam to Amy Dorrit herself, as she gradually discovers the truth about her heritage.

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    • The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
    • Jim Goddard
    • One of the theatrical events of the 1980s, the Royal Shakespeare Company's legendary, eight-hour stage production of the Dickens classic was preserved on film in this full-length television version.

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    • Scrooged
    • Richard Donner
    • This Bill Murray-starring update of A Christmas Carol set in the cutthroat world of the New York television industry has become a cult favourite.

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    • Hard Times
    • Tempos Dificeis
    • João Botelho
    • Shot in brooding black and white, this bold and remarkably original version of Dickens' hard-hitting tale of social injustice relocates the story from a nineteenth-century English mill town to the contemporary milieu of 1980s Lisbon.

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    • David Copperfield
    • George Cukor
    • The first of MGM's lavish Dickens adaptations is brilliantly directed by the great George Cukor and features marvellous performances from Dame Edna May Oliver as Aunt Betsey, Roland Young as Uriah Heep, and the incomparable W.C. Fields as Mr. Micawber.

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    • David Copperfield
    • Thomas Bentley
    • This early film version of Dickens' beloved picaresque is considered by some to be the very first British feature film, and was hailed for its pictorial composition, naturalistic acting and use of actual locations from the novel.

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    • The Old Curiosity Shop
    • Thomas Bentley
    • Film director and former "Dickensian Character Actor" Thomas Bentley made his last of several Dickens adaptations with this early talkie version of The Old Curiosity Shop, which was hailed for its exacting art direction and Hay Petrie's unsurpassed performance as the devilish trickster Daniel Quilp.

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    • Dickens Silent Shorts
    • This selection of short, early silent adaptations of Dickens' works includes the first version of the oft-filmed A Christmas Carol and two films from the great cinema pioneer D.W. Griffith.

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    • Great Expectations
    • Alfonso Cuarón
    • Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert De Niro star in director Alfonso Cuarón's inventive updating of Dickens' masterpiece to contemporary Florida and New York.

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    • Oliver Twist
    • David Lean
    • Shot through with suspense and black humour, David Lean's second magnificent adaptation of a classic Dickens novel is famed for Alec Guinness' bravura and controversial performance as the devious Fagin.

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    • Great Expectations w/ Magwitch
    • David Lean's classic version of Dicken's great rags-to-riches tale is paired with an inventive short that imagines the early life and criminal career of the story's legendary convict character.

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    • A Tale of Two Cities
    • Ralph Thomas
    • Dirk Bogarde, at the height of his matinee-idol fame, gives one of his most accomplished performances as Sydney Carton in this handsomely mounted version of the Dickens classic.

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    • Oliver!
    • Carol Reed
    • Winner of six Academy Awards®, including Best Picture and Best Director, this exuberant film version of Lionel Bart's brilliant musical reimagining of Oliver Twist is packed with classic songs and outstanding setpieces.

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Though Dickens never lived to see the advent of cinema, many critics and filmmakers — including D.W. Griffith and Sergei Eisenstein — have suggested that his brilliant descriptive abilities and innovations in narrative in a sense "invented" the language of cinema. In any event, there is no doubting that Dickens is the most adapted novelist in film history. His vivid characterizations and masterly storytelling have proven to be a natural fit for the cinema almost since its birth; the first short adaptations of his works began to appear in the first decade of the medium's existence. Our survey includes a special short programme of some of these early silent gems — everything from a three-minute adaptation of A Christmas Carol to a thirty-minute version of A Tale of Two Cities — to give a taster of this largely unknown area of Dickens adaptation. Although avoiding a chronological approach, we offer samplings of some of the great periods of Dickens films from the thirties (George Cukor's David Copperfield), forties (David Lean's Oliver Twist and Great Expectations) and fifties (Brian Desmond Hurst's definitive Scrooge), as well as intriguing variations on the source novels: from musicals (Carol Reed's Oliver!) to updates and transpositions (João Botelho's modern-day, Portuguese version of Hard Times) to wild comedic twists (Scrooged).

Dickens has also been well served by television adaptations of his work, as the episodic structure of his novels lends itself almost organically to the TV format. One of the centrepieces of this programme is our presentation of the Royal Shakespeare Company's landmark, eight-hour stage adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby, originally broadcast on television in 1982 and shown here in its entirety. There is also an opportunity to see a range of new material produced for television: inventive short films to accompany feature screenings, the recent documentary Dickens on Film, and Chris Newby's wonderfully inventive animated film Dickens in London.

As Christmas approaches, there's no better time to come and sample the many pleasures of Dickens on the big and small screen, each of them imbued with Boz's imaginative genius.

—Adrian Wootton

Adrian Wootton is the CEO of Film London, Co-Director of the Dickens 2012 project and curator of Dickens on Film.