The trend for injecting a new lease of life into novels continues into the third decade of the twenty first century with a new film adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens novel by Armando Iannucci of the Veep and the Thick of It fame
Reviewers are already describing it as one of the greatest adaptations of a Dickens novel.
It stars Dev Patel who will be best known for appearances in the critically acclaimed films Slumdog Millionaire and Lion,who plays the character almost as a semi autobiographical depiction of Dickens himself as he collects sentences from his journey to make himself into a writer.
Iannucci is a devoted fan of Dickens and in 2013 he presented Armando’s Tale of Charles Dickens, a personal celebration of the novelist through the prism of the 1850 novel.
Starting right at the beginning at his birth, Copperfield drifts through both life’s hardships and its grandest moments swinging the viewer from the depths of despair to outsized optimism from the extremes of poverty to the most spectacular wealth and from wickedness to genorosity.
He meets many characters along the way Tilda Swinto as Copperfield’s beloved aunt, Betsey Trotwood, Peter Capaldi as Mr Micawber, Ben Whishaw as Uriah Heep, and Gwendoline Christie as Jane Mudstone. Hugh Lawrie as Mr Dick is almost worth paying the admission fee for alone, think the Prince Regent in Blackadder.
Armando Iannucci was re-reading David Copperfield several years ago when he was suddenly struck by a creative impulse.
“As I read it, I thought, ‘I want to make this as a movie,’” the writer-director explains. “Partly because it felt so contemporary. But also because the adaptations I’ve seen have been very serious and concentrated on the drama and the plot. And there is a lot of plot and drama. I think that’s the least interesting thing about it.”
The eighth novel of Dickens’ illustrious career, it goes by the full title: The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant to Publish on Any Account). Written in the first person, chronicling the eponymous character’s growth from infancy to maturity as he journeys through Victorian-era England, it was the humour in Dickens’ epic story that really drew Iannucci in.
“There are really hilarious scenes in the book, like David getting drunk for the first time,” he says. “There are little moments of almost slapstick comedy, like when he joins the law firm and has to negotiate his way around the creaking floorboards. Or when he falls in love with this girl, Dora, and then just imagines seeing her everywhere and her name everywhere – even in the clouds. It’s a very surreal and yet real book and I wanted to get that across in the movie.”
The Personal History of David Copperfield opens in the UK today Go and see it