When you play this adaptation of the world renown novel, one thing becomes perfectly clear: this is a perfectly balanced movie. It’s not too tacky, aggressive, overly zealous or anything like that, but perfectly nuanced to accentuate parts that help you to truly immerse yourself into this world. With huge, realistic sets and costimography that will blow you away, Oliver Twist feels and looks like the real thing. The reasons for this are numerous, but the most important one could be the correlation between Charles Dickens, Roman Polanski and the protagonist of this movie, Oliver Twist. All three of them were forced to work when they were very young. Polanski lost his parents in 1943 and was forced to survive on his own in wartime Poland, while Dickens had to start working at the age of 12 to pay off his father’s debts. Polanski remembers that period and he recreated it perfectly, without any additional sappy and melodramatic moments. Only people who went through those hardships can truly know how fucked up it really was and they dare not to tarnish that with some commercial bullshit. They want to expose human nature for what it really is, only one step away from a ferocious beast and sometimes even worse than that because we have the ability to do better, much better. Honest and uncompromising, this is a movie that should played over and over, so the new generations get just how fucked up things can become.
I will skip the main story, because I think that most of you already know the story of a young orphan who is forced to work for a ruthless criminal that goes by the name of Fagin. Instead of trying to package and deliver the morals of this novel, Polanski decides to leave that to the viewer and presents us with rational facts, trusting our judgement. There’s no that classical childish storytelling that we’re used to seeing in those television adaptations, but the movie progresses as some fucked up drama. Starring Ben Kingsley as Fagin, the casting was spot on, along with everything that was happening off the screen. For example, they hired professional pickpockets and magicians to make the movie feel as real as it could be. This also goes for the rest of the invisible power structures that were much more “visible” back then. You could see the urban moral decay, the foundations of this society that we’re living in right now. While watching you can notice how most of the things that we say we have left behind in the 17th and 18th century are still with us, alive and well…
Director: Roman Polanski
Cast: Barney Clark, Ian McNeice, Michael Heath, Ben Kingley
Fun Facts: The set was so huge that Roman Polanski rode around it on a motorized scooter.