OLIVER TWIST Director: DAVID LEAN U.K.| 1948. BLACK AND WHITE. 116 MIN. NEW 35MM PRINT. Book cinema tickets ‘WE WHO HAVE SEEN HITLER, GOERING AND GOEBBELS ON THE STAGE OF HISTORY,’ WROTE THE LITERARY CRITIC LIONEL TRILLING, ‘ARE IN NO POSITION TO SUPPOSE THAT DICKENS EVER EXAGGERATED THE MADNESS, ABSURDITY AND MALEVOLENCE IN THE WORLD.’ ASTUTELY SHARING THIS PERCEPTION, DAVID LEAN’S 1948 ADAPTATION OF OLIVER TWIST TURNED THE NOVEL INTO A FILM NOIR EVOCATION OF RECENT HISTORY. The Expressionist 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 dismal childhood has chilling echoes of concentration camps. Above all, Alec Guinness’s extraordinary portrait of the Jewish villain Fagin touched all kinds of contemporary raw nerves: near enough to caricature to be called anti-Semitic (and provoking riots in Germany and a temporary ban in America), 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. Marvellously entertaining and engrossing as the film is, it also has an atmosphere of mob violence worthy of Fritz Lang, an unflinching evocation of Victorian England as a dark age of poverty and slum housing, and individual scenes such as Nancy’s murder that are the stuff of nightmare (that scene haunted a young David Puttnam for years). Eisenstein always thought Dickens peculiarly cinematic and this stunning adaptation has never been surpassed in the Dickens filmography for bravura film making, even by Lean himself.Neil Sinyard. Director: DAVID LEAN U.K.| 1948. BLACK AND WHITE. 116 MIN. NEW 35MM PRINT.