Escaping the workhouse to seek a better life in London, young Oliver Twist (Clark) is befriended by a pickpocket known as the Artful Dodger and introduced to a collective of young boys who are trained to steal for their enigmatic master Fagin (Kingsley). Reuniting with screenwriter Ronald Harwood (who scripted the Oscar-winning The Pianist for him), Roman Polanski approaches Charles Dickens' formidable classic with an earthiness not present in previous cinematic versions. The production features a host of finely observed performances (not least from Ben Kingsley as the iconic Fagin).
Charles Dickens (novel); Ronald Harwood (screenplay).
Barney Clark (Oliver Twist); Jeremy Swift (Mr. Bumble); Ian McNeice (Mr. Limbkins); Richard Durden (Unkind Board Member); Timothy Bateson (Parson); Andy de la Tour (Workhouse Master); Filip Hess (Workhouse Boy (as Filip Hes)); Andreas Papadopoulos (Workhouse Boy); Laurie Athey (Workhouse Boy); Joseph Tremain (Hungry Boy); Peter Copley (Dining Hall Master); Andy Linden (Mr. Gamfield); John Nettleton (1st Magistrate); Tony Noble (2nd Magistrate); Michael Heath (Mr. Sowerberry). Please contact SFC to add other cast members and characters.
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A Soul Less Production
Mark Banks (United Kingdom)
Opinion: Limited Recommendation
Watching this film was a little like watching a football team of great individual team members playing to only an average standard; the potential was there for something special but it never quite materialised. Which all in all is a shame, because the two most-celebrated film productions of Oliver Twist to date; David Lean's 1948 classic, and Carol Reed's 1968 musical version are not particularly appealing to a younger crowd on account of their lack of colour and long running length (respectively). Yet Oliver Twist is a tale all youngsters should watch and furthermore enjoy watching. Oliver Twist is a big story (as in its significance) that deserves big performances. Yet simply telling us that young Oliver has "a look of melancholy" about him, does not mean that the audience will be fooled into thinking he does indeed have a look of melancholy about him. This in particular was a major fault of the film; the casting (and/or direction of) Barney Clark was simply wrong; the boy looked liked a well-bred confident young chap that had just stepped out of drama school. Contrast this with Mark Lester's shy performance in the '68 musical and there is much ground to make up. There were similar off-key performances from much of the rest of the cast too; only Ben Kingsley offered anything approaching memorable with his performance as Fagin. Another finer detail, though one that annoyed me throughout, was that the setting just didn't have the feel of London to me - be it the lack of humour and merry-making or the dead-level buildings that appeared to be the only buildings in London that had escaped subsidence; it just didn't ring true. Overall this is a production that lacked a real soul - a shame especially given it's great potential to bring something fresh to Dicken's classic tale.