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Friday, April 17, 2009

Bleak House. BBC Worldwide Limited 1996. DVD Acorn Media UK (2006)


A great cast in a great story combine to produce an engaging and substantial television drama. The single most impressive aspect to this production is how the creative team resisted the temptation to film the book. They have created a superb television drama that stands apart from the book on its own merits. Charles Dickens may well be my favourite author, I really enjoyed Bleak House, it is a great novel, as a book it would be a terrible television drama. It is too widespread and generous, Arthur Hopcraft has done an expert job of filleting the book to create a effective and gripping drama.
A dispute over a will lies at the heart of the drama, the case is being heard in the Court of Chancery, a civil court system that dealt with disputed wills among other types of disputes. The slow grinding process of the Chancery is the source of anger that runs through the drama, the case is also the spiderweb that connects and traps the extensive cast. The connections, sometimes obvious, sometimes very subtle that connect the poorest, Jo a boy who sweeps a path through the rubbish on the street to Lady Deadlock, wife of a aristocrat and a great lady are explored with a nice sweep and flourish, the plot is elegant and thoughtful and it arises directly from the on-going actions of the characters.
The actors take to their meaty roles with great energy and tremendous skill, Peter Vaughan is outstanding as the silkily venomous solicitor, Tulkinghorn, Diana Rigg is luminous as Lady Deadlock who finds that her life is steadily unravelling around her, Denholm Elliott proves that a good man can be an interesting one. They are just a few of the extraordinary performances in the drama, they bring the huge cast from the book to vivid and singular life. The pacing is deliberate and effective, the story is given the room to develop and expand while never losing focus. Hours of pleasure.

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