Wednesday, December 23, 2020

A Christmas Carol Reimagined

While I did make it through this year's A Christmas Carol directed by Jacqui Morris, I was tempted to walk out of the theatre, something I've never done before. I don't mind a slow movie and I don't mind artsy and experimental movies (I'm the one who normally likes to go out to see plays, ballets, and operas, remember?). I just didn't think this film made good use of dance (except perhaps when it came to Scrooge and his fiancĂ©e or maybe the Ghost of Christmas Present), nor of its references to the stage. And the constant voiceover narration and dialogue kept removing the viewer from the emotion of what was on screen. I would have enjoyed the movie more on mute, I think. 

Anyways. I had thought perhaps I would do a dual movie post. But as I haven't much good to say about the aforementioned movie, the rest will focus on one that is not quite new but that I just saw for the first time this year--The Man Who Invented Christmas directed by Barahat Nalluri. While it is not strictly a retelling of A Christmas Carol, in telling of Charles Dickens writing the story, you do get most of the familiar characters, dialogue, events, and themes.

In that way, it is a sort of fresh look at the familiar story. And it is interestingly composed as far as the bleeding of the fictional world into the real one. That aspect is what brings me into my topic of focus. We're all so familiar with Scrooge's story that it's easy to follow his journey from miser to ecstatic giver with complacency. But what this movie, with its focus on Dickens's own person, does is bring the focus back onto the self.

We aren't meant to see Scrooge's story to remark on what an awful person he is; we are meant to be reminded of that bit of Scrooge in all of us (though it will manifest itself differently in us each). We're not meant to simply say good for you, old Scrooge, for changing your rotten ways. We're meant to remember that we, too, can constantly be improving. And this isn't just expressed in the way in which Dickens struggles in his own person. It's also in the observations he makes.

When we see, for instance, a familiar piece of Scrooge's dialogue from a person in his own life, we see how the theatrical words can in fact live in the real world. What looks so fantastical on the page does in fact have its place in reality. We do often say and hear harsh things or do and see done harsh deeds. If that weren't the case, we wouldn't feel the need to keep retelling Scrooge's story--in every time period and with whatever class or type of characters (be they present day, historical, rich, middle class, poor, or Disney mice or frogs and pigs). It's a universal theme: remember that your actions affect your fellow Man. 

As we take the last couple of Christmas days, watch those last movies or read those last stories, curl up on the sofa with family, and get ready for the opening of presents and festive eating, let's let that be the thing that we get from it all and bring with us into the dark wintry season ahead. We need one another.

Merry Christmas

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