Thursday, December 18, 2003

Charlie Dearest

I saw the Charles Dickens biography/documentary/dramatisation/[insert description of choice] on PBS last night. This was not something the man who wished to continue to worship at the altar of Charles Dickens should have done. As a husband he turned out to be something of a louse and his children claimed to have been afraid of him, though there was no hint of physical violence.

Yes, like everyone else I knew about the Ellen Ternan affair, if that's the word for it. Bad enough, but I never knew how obnoxious he was to his wife about it.

The film itself took some getting used to. Ackroyd himself narrates it and appears in it. There are current scenes of 21st century London, re-enacted scenes of Dickens' life, re-enacted (invented, I presume) interviews with Dickens' contemporaries, and enacted scenes from his novels. Ackroyd in his modern dress wanders through all of these. (Although, maybe not the novel enactments. Those seemed to be scenes from previously made films.) For the first half hour that format was very distracting but as it continued it made more sense and one got a sense and a feel for what Ackroyd was doing.

On the whole, a very well-done production. The sets,scenery, locations were all superb and the acting outstanding. Every once in a while a little dose of reality was needed: no, that's an actor. The real Dickens has been dead for over a hundred years. Geoffrey Palmer as an elegantly smarmy Thackeray is especially worthy of notice.