The showing at the Lexi this month was David Lean’s Great Expectations. It was very well attended; whether it was due to being half-term or to the film itself is difficult to establish. It seems that the non U3A attendance grows month after month.
But because it was half-term we had to give way to the children show. Thus we were deprived of the exchange time at the end of the film and there was no time to examine Lean’s skill at story telling, his cinematography, editing or his attitude to adaptation from novels : “…choose what you want to do in the novel and do it proud. If necessary cut characters. Don’t keep every character, just take a sniff of each one.”
Most of the audience had seen the film before. Many of them remarked that they had forgotten how good it was.
From my point of view, I was struck by what I will call the ‘stuck in the past’ syndrome. Miss Havisham and Norma Desmond are both old women who live in the past. First why do we perceive them as old when their physical characteristics in both films do not signify old age? Neither Miss Havisham’s nor Norma’s physique show the usual signs of advancing age. They do not convey frailty but both are commanding in their speech and the use of their power. The impression of age is conveyed in both films by the mise-en-scene. In both we have the house and specially the rooms where these two women live. It is indeed the decor that conveys the state of mind of each of them. Whereas Norma’s environment shows her past glory with the countless photos of her stardom and magnificence of her wardrobe , in Miss Havisham’s case it is time that is frozen in the traumatic moment of her being jilted. This is shown by the signs of deterioration of the physical environment: the dust and spider webs and mice gnawing at the cake. Miss Havisham’s clothes also play a part in this creepy feelings. Deterioration in Sunset Boulevard is mainly in the garden where there are rats scuttling around. Unfortunately I have no time to examine in details the mise-en-scene of the two films. But I cannot stop myself from asking: what does what I call the ‘stuck in the past syndrome’ means in terms of the ageing woman ? Are there other similar characters female or men in the cinema or literature?
It also so intriguing that David Lean included ‘The Ageing Parent” in his adaptation of the novel. Brief scene but so pleasant a portrayal of a demented old man.