which was very short and mainly consisted of little more than Little Dorrit meets Arthur. I think the complexity of the plot is maybe a stumbling block and the thing to do was to get past that and find a structure that would work and allow you to develop things. If you were trying to just tell the story in a 90-minute film you‘d be spending all your time in getting Arthur here and Dorrit there. leaving no time to develop any of the wonderful stories in the book. So. very quickly Olivier Stockman and I hit upon the idea of doing two parts. just to make it possible to have the length. Then. we broke it up into pieces. accumulating
a biographical portrait of each character from what is said throughout the book. It is a very complicated and rather convoluted plot. We cut certain things; we wanted to show the society. the characters and the tensions between them and what happens to them and that means sacrificing elements of the plot. The ability to look at any character one way and then from another angle is the essence of our two points of view.‘
In Part One of Little Dorrit entitled Nobody ’3 Fault. events are seen through the eyes of Arthur Clennam. a man confused and bewildered by those around him and
Sarah Pickering as Little Dorrit emotionally shackled by the harshness of his strict evangelical upbringing. Part Two. Little Dorrit’s Story, views events from the sympathetic perspective of Amy Dorrit whose goodness. usefulness and concern give her a more generous measure of people and incidents. Edzard‘s film dispenses with characters like the villainous Blandois but remains remarkably faithful to the spirit. social concerns and grotesquerie of Dickens novel. Her simple but effective masterstroke is to treat everything and everyone as being real and any changes wrought in the original are
more concerned with tone than wholesale restructuring. ‘The sort of thing that had to be cut out of the original book was the sentimental dialogue. Maybe it wasn‘t meant to be sentimental as far as Dickens goes but we have lost the context of it and it now jars and is rendered twee. If you want to try and convey a feeling of real and plausible relationships that has to go. leaving the essentials. But. to compensate. you add Verdi' s music which brings back the romantic aspect of Dickens and was. after all. of his period.‘
The final frosting of Edzard‘s cinematic feast is an astonishing cast list of British luminaries; more than 250 roles are filled by the likes of Derek Jacobi. Alec Guinness. Joan Greenwood. Miriam Margolycs and Roshan Seth. The process of putting a face to a character took over a year. ‘It was complicated because some people had a week in November and then a day in March. but the parts were nice and people wanted to be in
DerekJacobi as Arthur Clenham
it. Alec Guinness had a wonderful understanding ofWilliam Dorrit and we saw hundreds ofgirls for Amy before deciding on Sarah Pickering who had to be dry and unexpansive. We've gone for a lot of theatre actors because they seemed right; Derek Jacobi has a sort of lovable quality which is quite extraordinary apart from his skill as an actor. [don't think I can really imagine anyone else as Arthur.‘
Filming for nine months on 8‘) sets at a reasonable price tag of£5 million. Little Dorrit's critical and popular acclaim has confounded early doubters who felt six hours of Dickens to be a commercial non-starter. and has clearly vindicated producer Richard Goodwin's assertion that the public's good taste is consistently underestimated. It is possible to conclude that the whole operation has been executed with the clockwork precision of a military manoeuvre but that would render impersonal the passion. conviction and deciated craftsmanship that has gone into the making ofa truly magnificent slice ofcelluloid Dickens.
Little Dorrit opens at the (Mean. Glasgow and the Cameo. Edinburgh on 22 January. See Cinema Listings for Details.
The List 22 Jan — 4 Feb 1988 7