Yesterday night, Sunday 26 April 2009, about 9 p.m.
At last, I think, Italian TV has decided to improve its own standards! So I sit in front of the telly waiting for the new adaptation of Dickens’s DAVID COPPERFIELD largely advertised on Tv programmes, the press and the net. Well, I know I’m spoilt by my collection of BBC costume drama, since the British usually offer high quality products and very respectful-to- the- original - text film versions, but I was truly deeply disappointed by what I saw.
The two- part drama, directed by Ambrogio Lo Giudice, stars a bunch of Italian actors I didn’t mind in their previous performances: Giorgio Pasotti as David, Maya Sansa as Agnes, Stefano Dionisi as Mr Murdstone and Gian Marco Tognazzi as Huriah Heep. This time, instead, the latter is the only one I found faithfully Dickensean: his grotesque, exaggeratedly creep characterization was the only decent one. As for the others, their acting was rather shallow and not very accurate and, often, I hardly could perceive what they were saying.
Then, main reason for my disappointment, they rewrote Dickens! Why?!? It’s pointless, nonsensical! There were so many changes in the plot I think “loosely based on…” is not enough to justify them.
1. Traddles is David’s mate at Murdstone’s and Grinby’s
2. Mr Micawber first meeting with David is after he’s robbed at night while he is trying to get to Dover
3. Mr Micawber rescues David and brings him to his home
4. David lives in his house for just one night and the next morning leaves for Dover
5. David becomes a successful lawyer and works for Mr Wickfield (not for Mr Spenlow)
6. Mr Micawber is in debt to Mr Wickfield and David is sent to him to ask for the money he owes
7. David becomes Mr Micawber’s attorney in a trial and succeeds in helping him with his financial troubles.
8. Dora goes to Yarmouth , sent there by her father who wants her to marry Mr Murdstone and not to see David
9. David decides to join her there and travels with Agnes and Steerforth
Who read or studied the novel will have understood … No need to go on. Can someone help ME understand why it is necessary to change so much to propose a 19th century classic to nowadays audience? The universal values in the story are priceless and timeless, they are so well-conveyed by Dickens that they really needn't add any correction in the plot to attract the reality show generation.
I’ve seen so many TV adaptations and films based on classics, I sincerely must admit some devices can be useful to charm modern audience, but the text and its author must be respected. For instance, one of my favourite Victorian novels is Gaskell’s North and South, and , though I noticed the changes the 2004 BBC version applied to the text, I found the TV drama very successful in depicting Margaret and Thornton as well as the conflict between masters and workers in the cotton mill.
So, what can I suggest to Rai Fiction? Apply for a stage at British BBC on how to film a classic before shooting another one.
However, last night the first part of DAVID COPPERFIELD on Rai 1 was seen by 6,164,000 people, with a share of 26%, and I was among them. Tonight I’ll try to see the second part, but it’ll be hard to get to the end. I just want to see what else they invented. Anyhow, nonetheless, as incongruent / incoherent as it may sound, I really hope they can repeat their success with the second part …. I hope they will beat BIG BROTHER on Italian Channel 5. Better a not-very-good David Copperfield than any BIG BROTHER show!