Great Expectations

A review by Mike Shea   Movie Rating: ( * * * * · )    DVD Rating: ( * · · · · )

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I only first heard of this movie with the 1998 remake starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow, but learned of this story later as I browsed the Criterion DVD collection. This Dickens classic has been remade four times on the screen by name and countless times with others. Great Expectations is another movie in which love isnt looked at as the affectionate feelings of two people, but as obsession and as a weapon. The story is wonderful. An old woman uses the beauty and charm of a young girl to extract revenge on all men. This girl can hardly help herself from crushing the spirits of all men she comes across including the noble boy, Pip. The story follows his life as he goes from young commoner to a gentlemen, always with a dagger in his heart from the cold Estella. The movie does an excellent job of recounting this story but with the coldness of the movies of its time. We are not treated to the raw emotion we so often see in films today, only the emotion described to us in monotone dialog. Still the movie shows the power that the story requires. Only the end is a disappointment in which we are to believe that a weapon as powerful as Estella is simply turned by open windows, beaming sunshine and the final requests of Pip. The DVD hardly deserves the Criterion label, though that label is meaning less and less these days. We get a single mono track audio and a 4x3 1.33 to 1 picture. This is of course how the film was mastered though, so I cant complain too hard. Overall, a powerful story and an excellent film.