fri 03/04/2020

A Christmas Carol, BBC One review – Dickens classic recast as gruelling horror story | reviews, news & interviews

A Christmas Carol, BBC One review – Dickens classic recast as gruelling horror story

A Christmas Carol, BBC One review – Dickens classic recast as gruelling horror story

Scrooge reimagined as asset-stripping vulture capitalist

Season of ill-will: Guy Pearce as Scrooge

If you came to this expecting to be reminded of such ghosts of Scrooges past as Alastair Sim or Bill Murray, you will have been reaching either for the brandy or the defibrillator.

If you came to this expecting to be reminded of such ghosts of Scrooges past as Alastair Sim or Bill Murray, you will have been reaching either for the brandy or the defibrillator. In the hands of screenwriter Steven Peaky Blinders Knight and director Nick Murphy (from BBC One in partnership with the American FX network ), Dickens’s perennial tale of seasonal repentance has been transformed into a gruelling journey of cathartic horror.

Having said that, it was frustrating that the opening episode (with the final two following on consecutive nights) is the least compelling of the three. It took some time for the tone and feel of the piece to settle in, and the familiar structure of the story, with its visiting spirits seeking to shake Scrooge out of his Godless meanness and misanthropy, doesn’t kick in fully until episode two. Nonetheless you were left in no doubt that this was a Christmas Carol like none you’d ever seen.

The opening scene was enough of a trigger warning, as we saw a young man enter a graveyard and urinate on the grave of Jacob Marley. The camera followed the excretory trail underground, where the deceased Marley was awakened by the falling droplets. This led to a phantasmagorical sequence of Marley’s coffin crashing into the workshop of an infernal blacksmith, a monstrous figure who announced to the cringeing Marley (the now-ubiquitous Stephen Graham, pictured above) that the spirits had a job for him.

Marley, now desperate to repent of his sins, eventually received his full briefing after he’d trekked – tied with chains commemorating victims of his past misdeeds – through a snowy pine forest to a clearing where a giant fire blazed. This was being tended by the Ghost of Christmas Past (Andy Serkis, cowled and robed like some druidic prophet, pictured below), who made it clear to Marley that any redemption he might earn was inextricably linked to the fate of Scrooge, since they were bound together in shared guilt.

Meanwhile in the physical world, Guy Pearce was putting his steely stamp on the Scrooge role. Looking dessicated and pasty white, hair pasted flat on his skull as if to save on barber’s bills, he was the acme of meanness and sourness. In his huge, empty mansion, devoid of furniture and dimly lit, it’s always the season of ill-will. Even his east London accent was cheap and nasty.

He derisively spat out the notion of allowing Bob Cratchit (Joe Alwyn) to leave his office an hour early on Christmas Eve to be with his family, and demolished the entire notion of Christmas cheer, refusing to believe that for one day a year, “the human beast” becomes non-beastly. Scrooge views a Christmas present as a debt instrument which implies future repayment.

En route, Knight filled us in on some of the Scroogian back story. This Scrooge, in cahoots with his business partner Marley, is no mere money-lender, but a ruthless asset-stripping capitalist. A hellish glimpse of a blazing factory, with maimed and mutilated bodies scattered around, was testament to their indifference to the welfare of their luckless employees. Later in the story there’s a horrific scene in a Welsh coal-mine, where Scrooge’s skimping on timber has caused a catastrophic death toll. As Marley asks, “what was the purpose of our gross accumulation?’

Knight has also amplified the story of Scrooge’s loveless childhood with some additional grotesqueries, and vividly illustrates his cold-blooded quest to assess the monetary value of human emotions and personal relationships. It makes punishing viewing, and Knight has been miserly with the peace and goodwill. Happy Christmas? Er...

Comments

Typical BBC London Leftie sledgehammer lecture about the evils of capitalism. Dicken's delightful dialogue abandoned, Scrooge all wrong casting, idiotic sex abuse put into it, bad sound, a travesty of what was written as an entertainment with a subtle moral message. nought out of ten. Oh BBC, why do we have to pay a licencee fee?

Typical malign Far-Right attempt to promote hatred of the BBC on the strength on not liking one of its adaptations. No doubt you'll be complaining about casting diversity. Happy New Year, bah, humbug.

I think you'll find there's plenty in Dickens about the evils of capitalism, chum. Hard Times ain't exactly Atlas Shrugged.

I agree this was a load or rubbish, and if Charles Dickens himself could see this version of his much loved classic Christmas story he would turn in his grave, there were several things wrong with it, the accents for one of Scrooge and Marley who instead of having a clipped upper class accent, spoke like a pair of barrow boys, there was also Bob Cratchits wife being played by a non white actress, Dickens characters were all white and English, in changing their ethnicity the producers are losing the authenticity of the story, you cannot change the past and it it is enacted, has to be shown as it was, warts and all even it does appear non pc to the pc brigade.

A crackingly good production based on Dickens original, with a few twists for a C21st audience. Atmospheric from the start (was Adam Sweeting asleep?). Well done Stephen Knight and Nick Murphy.

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