Saturday, June 9, 2007

David Copperfield

Charles Dickens' David Copperfield is somewhat based upon the author's own childhood, and in the author's own terms, his favourite (my favourite from him too!). The book itself I have read and re-read numerous times, but recently was my first time watching a film adaptation of the book. This movie was made in year 2000, starring Hugh Dancy as the adult David Copperfield (Notice in the image on the left that his name appears third, after the lady who plays his Aunt Betsey and the man who plays James Steerforth. I wonder why - no sarcasm here, I really wonder why!). When I first saw him, my reaction was "Wahhh... sai mm sai sooo lengcai ar?!" He is so, so, sooo handsome!(Curious or anxious to know just what type of men I consider handsome? Click on the link, or simply scroll down to where I have posted a photo of him... :P) But well, handsomeness aside... ahem, I found the film tolerably well (meaning you won't get as much negative stuff as you did in my Pride and Prejudice)

The film begins with beautiful scenery, the handsome adult David rowing a boat, then walking, then being in a coffee house having a man flip a table on him, then running home to begin writing "The Personal History and Experiences of The Younger David Copperfield" ('the younger' because his father was David Copperfield too). The narration begins with the first sentence of the first chapter:

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.

The narration goes on to the night David was born, a "post-humous child". He introduced his Aunt Betsey Trotwood, who was "mortally affronted" by his father for marrying his mother without first presenting her to Aunt Betsey for inspection and approval. (In the book, the reason was David's mother was "a wax doll"). She was sure that David's mother would have a baby girl, and she would be the baby's godmother. I quite like the lady who plays Betsey Trotwood - I think she portrays the character rather well, and despite her gruff eccentricity, she is very likeable. David's mother, Clara Copperfield, is almost everything that is described of her - very young, very pretty, timid and easily scared. I was looking forward to the scene where Aunt Betsey aimed a blow with her bonnet at the timid doctor, Mr Chillip's head, when he told her that the baby was a boy, not a girl like she wanted. However, it didn't happen in the film, and I wonder why! She simply stormed out into the storm and muttered "A boy! Hmmmph!" and went into her waiting carriage.

Peggotty (Clara Peggotty, always addressed as Peggotty because Mrs Copperfield's name is Clara as well), the servant, is quite alright, except that I'd have preferred a slightly younger actress in the part. The boy who plays young David does very well too, I think - cute, innocent with intelligent eyes. Mr Murdstone, however, is not as he is in the book - a gentleman with beautiful dark hair and whiskers, but instead, one with brown hair, no whiskers, and looks overbearingly hateful rather than fearsome (which I'd expect a character like him to look).

David follows Peggotty to Yarmouth for a fortnight, during which his mother married Murdstone (and was later bullied to death by him...). Most of the characters at Yarmouth are great. I really like Mr Barkis, and the way he said "Barkis is willing!" Peggotty's brother, Dan Peggotty looks every bit like a seasoned rough fisherman and Ham (their orphaned nephew) I daresay is really six feet tall, as described in the book. Little Em'ly (their orphaned niece) however, in my opinion, is not quite a pretty girl enough (the grown-up Em'ly is not pretty either *sigh*). In the book:

... by a most beautiful little girl (or I thought her so) with ...

One can argue that the beauty was in young David's eyes, but then again, it would really help to let us see through the said young David's eyes by casting a girl that would likely appear to be "most beautiful" in everyone's eyes. They have the same man play Ham in David's childhood and also adulthood when he returns to Yarmouth with James Steerforth, which I find rather unrealistic, especially for the fact that he looks almost the same, while the children around him (David and Little Em'ly) have grown so much. Mrs Gummidge has very little screen time, and none of

"I am a lone lorn creetur' and everythink goes contrairy with me."

which is something I really enjoyed reading.

Of David's schooldays, very little time is devoted to. Salem House school (where he met his 'saviour' James Steerforth, and lifelong friend Tommy Traddles) portayal is minimal and almost nothing of Dr Strong's school is shown. In fact, a lot of the characters have less screen time than I would have liked - that is the price to pay for having to make the story told in a loooooong book into a 3-hr movie.

Agnes Wickfield, David's childhood friend and guardian angel, is quite overlooked in the movie, unfortunately. The great influence and importance of Agnes in David's life is hardly felt, although I quite like how Agnes lets her emotions (feelings for David, that is) show, whereas in the book, her love for him is disclosed only at the very end. Dora, David's first wife, is also not quite pretty enough, but portrayed the child-wife part rather well.

The one person who has a lot of screen-time is Mr Micawber, played to perfection, except for a little bit of over-acting here and there. Uriah Heep is also played to perfection (in the sense that he makes you feel that you really want to slap him). Mr Dick is great - extremely adorable!

On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed watching this movie, despite it having some scenes I really didn't like - the young David fainting upon reaching Aunt Betsey's house after walking for days (it is comical in the midst of serious heart-rending, so it's quite cacat); Aunt Betsey's shouting "Donkey! Donkey!" in a sing-song manner, with the exact same low (Don-) and high (-key) notes every time (it sounds really, really fake, and damn cacat); Peggotty, delivering the news of Steerforth's shipwreck to David in a serious, gloomy manner, suddenly turns dramatic and poetic "... and the wave, like a high, green hillside *stretches her arm up high* ... ahh *swings her arm down in clenched fist*" (that is sooo out of place and seriously cacat).

I still wish there is more on Agnes and David at the end, but I guess I should be happy that I am thoroughly happy with a film adaptation of one of my favourite classics - it doesn't happen often :D

Hugh Dancy, who plays David Copperfield

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