Bleak House

This Downton Abbey thing has wet my appetite for more Brit lit classic drama stuff, so Gail and I did Bleak House together. It’s different from Downton Abbey though, it isn’t some soap opera dramatized for modern tastes. It’s a dark, scathing indictment of the British legal system based on the book written by Charles Dickens. He’s famous.

Let me be clear, if you’re in the mood for this type of Brit lit tragedy, comedy, romance, drama kind of thing, you need to head straight for this BBC version of Bleak House, now. Period. Bypass Jane Austen, bypass Merchant & Ivory, bypass Downton Abbey; nobody involved with those is worthy of carrying Charles Dickens’ undergarments. In fact, I couldn’t think of a better way to blow your two-week free trial of Netflix than taking in the seven hours or so of Bleak House.

Esther Summerson is a fictional character to hang your hat on. And Gillian Anderson knocks it out of the friggin’ park in the role of Lady Dedlock. It’s also one of Carey Mulligan’s first roles and she nails Ada Clare. I want to consume more Charles Dickens stuff soon. I’m thinking Great Expectations next.

Twice this month I’ve been half way through something and said to myself, “Man, do I really have to keep going?” Wow, what a payoff in both cases (this and A Storm of Swords). Mark my words, I will never, ever, stop a work of fiction at the half way point. Ever. I’ll either stop it at 25% or 75%, never 50%. Hold me to that.

I’m not as familiar with Dickens as I should be. I read Oliver Twist in the 90s but can’t recall it all that well. I remember The Artful Dodger a little but that’s about it. I was a different person then and maybe a little brain dead or something. I just don’t think I’ll forget the characters from Bleak House. I’ve mentioned a few but there are so many; Snagsby, Krook, Tulkinghorn, Guppy, Smallweed, Skimpole, Bucket, … amazing crew.

I was a little put off at first by the camera work. It’s dark and scenes open with loud, sharp noises and distant camera angles, often multiple noise/angle scene openings. I got used to it though. Such a great miniseries. It’s complicated and you’re in the dark for a big chunks of it, but clarity comes in time and the ending is heart wrenching and victorious. Despite the Netflix/Apple TV problems we’ve been having (cutting out in the middle of shows, not available), it’s been paying for itself so far.