This past weekend I decided to watch BBC’s 2008 rendition of “Little Dorrit” (screenplay adaptation by Andrew Davies). I watched all 14 half-hour episodes in one night, and, the next day, went back and watched them all again. I have never read the book, but after watching this, I want to. In fact, I’m going on a Dickens kick right now thanks to “Little Dorrit.”
I’ll admit right now that I haven’t read a great deal of Dickens, although I can assure you that he wrote far more and far better works than A Christmas Carol. I’ve been various film and TV adaptations of his work, and frankly, I prefer watching a good adaptation than trying to read the books. Why? Because I’m a modern reader spoiled by modern writers and I rarely have the patience to try to wade through Victorian English prose. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of lovely pieces of dialogue and description in Dickens but it was written for another people in another era and was originally released in serial format to readers. Their form of television episodes, basically, so the style and language is very different from what I’m used to. Maybe when I’m older I will be able to appreciate Dickens’ craft better than I do now.
Either way, if you get a good writer like Andrew Davies to update the language just enough to make it accessible and to cut out the dense prose in between the action…then you’ve got one hell of a show.
The production values of “Little Dorrit” are top notch: gorgeous costumes, locations, music, and cinematography. The acting is absolutely stellar in all cases, from the main characters down to those on the periphery. I absolutely loved Claire Foy and Matthew Macfadyen as Amy Dorrit and Arthur Clennam. But even more than that, the story that they bring to life is amazing. You are introduced to several different characters who, at first, don’t seem to have anything to do with one another. But, as the story unfolds, they each gradually become entwined in one another’s affairs and lives, weaving an intricate tapestry of love, lies, and the politics of society. The gaining, losing, and earning of honor and respect, and the harsh realities of debt and poverty are central to “Little Dorrit”…and yet this is one of the more light-hearted tales in Dickens’ repertoire.
Like many of Dickens’ works, it is a love story as well as a rags-to-riches story. I deeply identified with Amy Dorrit, the young woman who loves helping others and often sacrifices her own happiness in order to aid her family…but has a deep core of strength that allows her to, in the end, chose the life she really wants. Arthur Clennam is one of the rarest kinds of men: one with honor who values honesty and the settling of debts. Watching their stories converge gave me so much joy, and the best part was I was always eager and surprised by the twists and turns of fortune.
I’m afraid to say anymore because I don’t want to give away spoilers, but if you have access to a library or Netflix, I highly recommend watching “Little Dorrit.” It’s a lovely way to experience the wonder and wit of Charles Dickens. His ability to create characters is unparalleled.