Director: DAVID LEAN

U.K. • 1948 • BLACK AND WHITE • 115 MIN

Lean’s second dickens adaptation is a brilliant film noir evocation of recent history. the Expressionistic depiction of Oliver’s approach to Fagin’s lair recalls Germanic cinematic style in the years between Caligari and hitler. The workhouse where Oliver spends his childhood has chilling echoes of concentration camps. Above all, Alec Guinness’ extraordinary characterisation of the Jewish villain Fagin touched all kinds of contemporary raw nerves: near enough to caricature to be labelled anti-Semitic, yet funny enough to prompt sympathy (he is the first person ever to make Oliver laugh) and moving enough, when cornered by a mob, to evoke post-holocaust horror at the ferocity of Fascism. Entertaining and engrossing, the film is also an unflinching evocation of victorian England as a dark age of cruelty and injustice, and individual scenes such as nancy’s murder are the stuff of nightmare. Eisenstein always thought Dickens peculiarly cinematic and this adaptation has never been surpassed for bravura film-making.

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