Tony Wager in Great Expectations (1946)

Great Movie with High Expectations

The story of Pip, the orphan boy who was raised by his strict Aunt and her blacksmith husband and who as a young boy finds himself aiding an escaped convict who grabs him in a graveyard. After that Pip is sent to the estate of Miss Havisham where he is to play with the pretty young Estella and who he becomes sweet on. But when Pip comes of a certain age he has to become a blacksmiths apprentice whilst Estella. It is some time after that he receives a mysterious benefactor who arranges for him to go to London where he meets Herbert Pocket who is to aid in turning him into a gentleman. But who is behind it and why?

I blame the British education system of the 80s for my aversion to classic literature as reading was a dull experience, old books which had no life in them analysed rather than brought to life. For that reason I have also had an aversion for movie adaptations of classic literature, fearing that the actual stories will end up boring me. But if you can empathise with me then I beg you to find a copy of David Lean's "Great Expectations" as not only will it encourage you to pick up a classic novel and start reading but you will fall in love with cinema at its best.

John Mills in Great Expectations (1946)

Now I am not going to discuss the storyline to "Great Expectations" other than to say it is eventful and every minute of the movie will keep you interested from the run in with Magwitch the escaped criminal to Pip going to Mss Havisham's home where to his shock he finds her in a room thick with dusty cobwebs. There is enough curiosity to all this that you will find a need to read the novel for yourself.

But the strength of "Great Expectations" is that it is visually extraordinary, the composure of scenes, the locations, the camera work it all combines to create something which quite simply is stunning. I read somewhere that what David Lean did was to turn Dickens "Great Expectations" into a picture story and I guess that is what he did but what a fantastic picture story it is. You could write books on Lean's work in visualizing "Great Expectations" it is quite simply visually perfect, a real movie lovers movie.

Yet it is not just Lean's visualization which makes "Great Expectations" captivating as it is also the acting. Tony Wager who plays young Pip does such a brilliant job of creating this innocent young man that it takes something special from John Mills to take the character further in to adult life. It is the same with Jean Simmons who is stunning as the teenage Estella making things tough for Valerie Hobson to follow on from. Plus of course you have an extraordinary performance from Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham and a fun performance from Alec Guinness.

What this all boils down to is that "Great Expectations" is an exceptional piece of cinema which all movie lovers should watch at least once, although if you appreciate cinema you will watch it more than once. The look, the acting and the story combine to deliver the complete package which draws you in, keeps you watching and leaves you wanting more.