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Oliver Twist


Year: 2005 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC PG Cert – Parental guidance 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Oliver Twist

The film is an adaptation of the classic novel by Charles Dickens, the first instalment of which first appeared in the magazine Bentley’s Miscellany in 1837. The film’s protagonist is an orphaned boy who becomes acquainted with a pickpocket on the streets of London. He joins the gang that this pickpocket belongs to, under a master called Fagin.

I went to see this film with a sceptical mindset but am glad to say that I was proven wrong. The adaptation was very good – arguably the only thing that should have been included was the resolution of Oliver’s parentage. Roman Polanski has managed to introduce one of the world’s greatest writers to a whole new generation of children. The choice of actors was first-class with Ben Kingsley portraying Fagin spectacularly. Twelve year old Barney Clark gives a very memorable performance as Oliver – portraying the emotions of the orphan depicted in Dickens’ writing very well. Probably the best performance of the film comes from Jamie Foreman as Bill Sykes. He portrays the hateful, cruel character without flaw and from beginning to end, generates fear throughout the audience.

The reconstruction of Victorian London is stunning and well worth praise. Some have argued that the David Lean’s version was more effective as it was filmed in gritty black and white; argued to be closer to the city that Dickens inhabited. Yet what these critics fail to grasp is that a 21st century child is not going to be enthused by a black and white film! After all, we do want the film to be accessible to children. Exposure to classic literature (even if it is in the form of a film) is crucial to the continuation of a sense of culture in this country! Polanski’s Oliver Twist is an adaptation worth significant praise. The actors were well chosen, the plot thoughtful and the scenery magnificent.

Jenna Drennan

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Screenings of this film:

2005/2006 Spring Term (35mm)