Ultimately striking one at the heart, of the gentleness and care of its central feature, Little Dorrit.

Little Dorrit (1987) ***** Starring: Derek Jacobi, Sarah Pickering, Alec Guinness, Roshan Seth. Writer/Director: Christine Edzard. Running time: About six hours.

Based on Charles Dickens reportedly satirical novel about being rich or poor in Victorian society.

Part one—the three hour It’s Nobody’s Fault—is seen through the eyes of Arthur Clennam (Derek Jacobi), who becomes involved with the business of William Dorrit (Alec Guinness) and William’s daughter, Little Dorrit (Sarah Pickering), who is the seamstress of Clennam’s mother.

The Doritt’s are in a debtor’s prison—meaning they must pay back what they owe before they can be free. But Clennam aims to help them get out, by doing some investigating, with the help of a lawyer.

Part two is Little Dorrit’s Story, much the same storyline as part one, but told through the ‘eyes’ of Little Dorrit (or Amy).

Scene after scene is framed to see the second half through the perspective of Little Dorrit (who is called Amy under different circumstances in a significant shift of setting).

One finds respect for her, her kindness, genuineness, good manners and even temperament standing out, which made quite an impression.

The actual logistics of undertaking a film told from two character’s perspectives would be painstaking to produce, but effective in the end.

I loved the cast and characters. With a sprawling cast, Little Dorrit is filled with good performances and interesting characters.

As Clennam, Derek Jacobi exudes a youthful air. Clennam’s fineness and reserve is the surface but he is secretly in love. Clennam’s also impeccably generous which reveals nobility.

As Cleenam’s mother, Joan Greenwood is frightfully straightforward. Her reading of the Bible is of a punitive passage in the book of the prophets at exactly eight o’clock and no bible context is given.

Alec Guinness plays the gentlemanly head of the debtor’s prison. He sweeps those up in his conversation and is the object of adoration of Little Dorrit.

One has a certain amount of sympathy for William Dorrit, as he is someone the story sides with, especially evident in the final scenes which by the way are breathtakingly good.

With her bubbly personality and effervescence in a reserved society, Miriam Margolyes as Flora Finching stands out in the sense that she seems out of place, but in a good way.

Roshan Seth’s exuberance is catching, his cockney accent a change of pace from his refinement in Gandhi and a villain’s off-colour charm in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

The dialogue and interactions are sophisticated, more or less; may require one’s full concentration. Little Dorrit is more literate than most. An impressive production in the scale of storytelling despite the setting limitations, and ultimately striking one at the heart, of the gentleness and care of its central feature, Little Dorrit.

There is authentic production design, mostly indoors, which may be too wooden for some tastes, and there are timely costumes (the 1800’s), with the occasional flare for cinematic storytelling.



Swells to a drama that is riveting

A Passage to India (1984) ***** Starring: Judy Davis, Victor Banerjee, Peggy Ashcroft. Director: David Lean.

A Passage to India is a fine film. One becomes immersed in the grand sweep. One surrenders to it and hopes it doesn’t become spoiled by some off-putting scene that ruined the lot. The characters, their lives in the old British India, the roles the actors play, and the handsome production swells to a drama that is riveting.

Central to it is young British woman Adela (Judy Davis) who is meeting up with her fiancé in India, who is a magistrate. Along with Adela is his mother Mrs. Moore (Peggy Ashcroft). Adela is caught up in the romanticism of the country and is keen to discover more—details like this are so natural and true to life that one can immediately relate.

The Indian country is keenly observed and wanting to be discovered by Westerners. Adela and Mrs. Moore are immensely involved in the search. They are not proud that they are English and don’t look down on the locals. They don’t consider their privileged place in India because of her son being a magistrate as much to be boasted about.

The young woman is distraught, though, when she claims rape by an Indian guide, in a moment that seems uncertain and vague. The guide, Aziz (Victor Banerjee), who is a respected doctor, has the Indian people behind him who are upset by the claims.

East and West meet romantically, but also comes with a hefty dose of realism where East and West clash–the doctor is caught up in a scandal and controversy erupts, casting a blight on the British. The result of the scandal is grief and soul searching with a more abstract issue to consider, but also quite real: forgiveness.

A holiday which turned dramatic and where no one wanted it to. The larger meaning is the relationship between England and colonial India. The human meaning is underlying prejudice and fear of the unknown.

A Passage to India is based on the E.M. Forster novel of the same name, which was published in 1924 during the days of colonial England. The film is beautiful and grand, wonderfully acted, and larger than life-like characters engage vividly and vitally. It is especially recommended for thoughtful audiences and fine film aficionados.

Offside Mozart in dramatic telling

Revised from the original published at Entertainmentnutz, 2000. Amadeus (1984) ***** Starring: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge. Director: Milos Forman.

Amadeus is a compelling tale of the fictional drama of Austrian court composer Salieri and his jealously and revenge on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This fiction has an element of real life to it, in that it could happen in people’s situations.

Jealousy and revenge are the basest of human desires that can seem to worm their way into people’s hearts given the stimulus. Not that it’s condoned. It’s undesirable. Amadeus shows us its insidious effects, leading to a downfall.

In Amadeus, the stimulus to jealousy is Salieri’s inability to match Mozart’s musical level. It is a pride that he should be the best rather than Mozart who seems his moral inferior.

Salieri’s (F. Murray Abraham) confession of jealousy and revenge to a Catholic priest frames the drama, giving a confessional air about proceedings and a sense of tragedy.

All the same, Salieri cannot resist the divine sound and charms of Mozart’s compositions. His music somehow reflects the glory of God, as God has no favorites in which to express his gifts, though questionable is Mozart’s moral life and squandering of money.

Salieri and Mozart’s (Tom Hulce) professional and personal relationship was tainted from the beginning because of Salieri’s innate problems with Mozart.

Every part of a relationship is flawed where serious rivalry is involved. It smolders under the surface but is alive in the heart. Salieri’s characteristics—his ambition and pride—contributed to him following through on the way of the flesh, rather than asking for God’s help and subduing himself.

It takes a while for Salieri to unleash his “demons”—in a sophisticated plot involving the ‘ghostly’ presence of Mozart’s overbearing father and the naïve complicity of Mozart’s wife (Elizabeth Berridge) who is susceptible to Salieri’s good manners. Salieri’s passions had been simmering underneath for a good hour-and-so into the film.

It may be faulted at being too literary minded. However, Amadeus works. The production values are done to the hilt—wonderful to behold, immaculate—and stage operas compliment the drama.