Our Mutual Friend

No, I’m not talking about mutual friends on Facebook. I’m talking about a book by Dickens that was recently made into a movie by the BBC. It is in 4 episodes and each episode is about an hour and a half…typical Dickens length. I was a little skeptical because there are some really bad movies out there based on Dickens. I’ve always maintained that Dickens is just not meant for movies. You simply can’t make a good movie out of Great Expectations. His characters are meant for the page, not for the screen. But Our Mutual Friend proved me wrong on this point.

So, very much like Bleak House, there are about a 100 plots (well…maybe more like 8 or 10) and it was much easier in the movie to keep track of the plots than reading the book; I can’t imagine reading Our Mutual Friend. Some of the plots were quite funny, in a very tragic way. Tragic because they revealed the utter misery and baseness of humanity; they showed how low men will stoop and how we will deceive ourselves into satisfaction, even in the most deplorable conditions. The seller of human and animal bones is proud of his “noble” business and his fine collection of skeletons. He woos a young lady into marriage with the promise that he will only sell the bones of “men, children, and lower animals” because she does not want to be regarded in a “bony” perspective. Yet there is a redeeming quality to these people. I can’t explain it…but I felt a sense of sympathy for them. Perhaps this is because there is this conflict within us all: Everything we do is touched by the noble because we were made in the image of God. Everything we do is tainted by the ugly because we are fallen images of God.

Overall, the plots were very good. I know a movie is good when I can’t predict the ending. I was trying to guess what Dickens would do. There’s a poor, beautiful, and good woman…and of course a rich man has fallen in love with her. There’s a violently jealous other man who ends up attacking this rich man after he visited the woman. The episode left off with the woman rowing the mangled and bloody body of her lover to the town (his body was deposited on the banks of a stream). And so for a few days I wondered. Would Dickens have this man live? Would he live for just a little while? Would he die at once? Perhaps he was already dead?  And I couldn’t really decide what to predict, and I’m not going to spoil the plot, but this is why it was a good movie: I wanted him to live. I wanted him to live happily ever after with his beloved. In most movies when a crisis like this comes up, I want someone to die just to spite the boring, stereotyped lovers. I want them to suffer because they never do any other time and it seems so unrealistic and fake for everyone to live happily ever after. But in Our Mutual Friend, there had been so much real, deep, unending suffering on the part of this woman that I really did want her to be happy at last.

There were a couple themes I picked up throughout the movie: money vs. happiness and water. First, the movie portrayed different relationships and couples in different stages of this money vs. happiness thing. First the poor, but deeply contended Boffins. Then Bella (no, there aren’t any vampire lovers…) who declares she wants money above all things. John Harmon (the rich heir come back from some foreign land who was supposed to marry Bella, according to his father’s will) in disguise, trying to find out if Bella will love him and trust him without any money. The couple who get married on the assumption that the other party is wealthy…when in reality neither of them have any money and yet must maintain a pretense of splendor and money. The man who loves this poor girl and will rebel against the constraints of society to marry her. It is really quite interesting.

And the second theme, I confess I picked up only at the very end: water. The movie started with a view of the river. The movie ended with a view of the river. Some of the characters made their living by pulling dead bodies out of the river (my first thought: “were there that many dead bodies in the river that you could live off it?”). I already mentioned the scene with the mangled man’s body found in the river, and the girl rowing him to shore. Two very troubled characters found their demise in the river. I haven’t really figured out what all this means, but if you watch the movie, try to notice how Dickens uses water and what he might be trying to say.

While there were a few scenes that were very gory and disgusting, it was very good. It took a little while to get used to the very heavy accents and because of this I can’t say if there was much bad language because it was so hard to understand them anyways, lol.

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