Great Expectations (1946)


I have come back Miss Havisham, i have come back, to let in the sunlight!

The legendary  David Lean directs this British adaptation  of Charles Dickens’ novel of the same name. Having recently written a dissertation about the relationship between the two female characters Miss Havisham and Estella, I write this particular  blog post in the hope of not unravelling memories of living out a suitcase during the summer and desperately trying to meet the deadline. After  lots of tears and sleepless nights I got my 2:1. Anyway, back to the blog post.

Pip (Antony Wager and John Mills as an adult) is a young boy whose life changes forever when a convict Magwitch (Finlay Currie) tells him to steal some food. Some time later, the young Pip is summoned to the house of a wealthy and eccentric woman named Miss Havisham (Martitia Hunt) where he meets her very beautiful, but cold-hearted daughter Estella (Jean Simmons) and visits often until he is fourteen when he begins his apprenticeship as a blacksmith.

Six years pass and the adult Pip (Mills) is visited by Miss Havisham’s lawyer Jaggers (Francis L Sullivan) who informs him that a mysterious benefactor has offered to pay for his transformation to become a gentleman and  have ‘great expectations. ‘ Pip naively thinks it is Miss Havisham and travels to London. There, his roommate Herbert Pocket (Alec Guinness) tells him the whole story about the mysterious women living in Satis House.

Pip visits Satis House again where he is reunited with Estella (Valerie Hobson). His heart is broken as he discovers she is Miss Havisham’s puppet and is used as a vehicle to break men’s hearts. He also discovers that Magwitch is his benefactor and Estella’s father.

So the story all wraps up in the end (not forgetting Miss Havisham’s dramatic death). Lean also decided to give the end of the film a Hollywood ending where Pip saves Estella from spinsterhood, dramatically tears down the black curtains and declairing  that ‘he has come back to let in the sunlight’ and that he loves Estella.  The two live happily ever after as they leave Satis House accompanied by a romantic piece of music.

Overall, despite having written about this film endlessly for my dissertation it still seems to have a place as one of my favourite films. Out of the many adaptations of the novel that there are, this is the  most faithful of them all to the original source material. Some of it seems quite theatrical but it means well, with an excellent soundtrack.It is also fascinating that Lean threw in lots of symbolism too.

My rating: 4.5/5


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