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Ladybugs in the movies

Great Expectations

A review of the novel by Charles Dickens (1812 to 1870)
with comparisons to the movie released circa. 1997

When I was still an impressionable, young lass at about age 14, I attempted to read "Great Expectations". I had heard it was about a young boy who is led on a lengthy adventure full of romance and riches.

I recall my attempt to read it. Already into the first chapter, I was saddened by young Pipís poor, humble existence as an orphan, living with his abusive older sister. I was also frightened during the scene which the escaped convict accosts him in the cemetery. It really scared the crap out of me. I could not read on, as I was afraid for Pipís life, being held at knifepoint - on his dead parentsí headstone by this merciless brute.

Dickens wrote so well describing the bleak conditions of this area of England and the dreadful scene in the cemetery. I was depressed, numb and frozen with fear. I could not read on.

At this point - if you have actually read this far - you may be asking impatiently, "what on earth does this have to do with ladybugs?"

Enter the movie version of "Great Expectations". This movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Anne Bancroft, Ethan Hawke and Robert De Niro was released around 1997. Due to family responsibilities during that blur of the late 1980ís to the late 1990ís, I did not get out to see movies very often.

In the spring of 2001, they were advertising the up-coming presentation on the Showcase channel. I made a special effort to watch it then.

The cinematography of the movie was beautiful. I was drawn into the lush green world of "Paradiso Perduto" and the refreshing but threatening waters of the ocean.

image ladybug The ladybug symbol made its appearance at both the beginning and the end of the movie. One lighted upon Finís hand when he was an innocent, creative boy and again as a grown man who was now scarred by heartbreak and defeat. I saw the ladybug as a symbol representing the start and end of his long experience with hope, love and deceit. In a way, a symbol of serendipity and the elusiveness of dreams.

Although the film version was visually appealing and held more of an element of romance glazed with sensuality, it drifted much too far from the original story.

Instead of 1800ís England, this movie was staged in the 1970ís in the southeastern United States. Instead of the lengthy dialogue between the poor boy and his well-to-do tormentress, there were titillating scenes in the movie that Dickens would not have dared to write about during his time!

In the book, the young hero is the receiver of "great expectations" or funding from an anonymous benefactor. He is groomed to be a gentleman to work in the financial field. In the movie, he is an artist presented with the opportunity to display his creations in the big city.

I can understand the changes for locale and era, but they cut out too many of the key characters (Wemmick, Herbert Pocket and Jaggers). Was it to keep the movie within reasonable time limits and to make it seem more in line with our times? At least they still kept ìUncleî Joeís character accurate at most times. My favourite character in the book was Wemmick and how he loved and cared for his aging father in their humble but delightful home. I believe the term of endearment he used for him was "Old Heart".

The producers of the movie did not even allude to Estellaís parentage and the paradox it presented.

May 2001, I went on a quest to the Ottawa Public Library for a copy of the book and to buck up and brave the story once more.

The normal print books were all on loan so the large print version had to suffice. This turned out to my advantage as large print books are great for reading in bed. You sit up with one or two pillows behind your back and one on your lap (or a small stuffed animal). Then you rest the book upon your lap and read.

The story presents the theme about the common class struggle and loving someone who comes from a different social and financial position. It could also teach people to be more perceptive to influences around them. Pip (or Fin) assumed his benefactor was one person, whereas all the while it was another.

Except for the spiders, bugs and beetles crawling around in Sardis, Miss Havishamís crumbling estate, there was NO mention of Ladybugs in the book version!

In the end I enjoyed the opportunity to read this classic book and actually finish it! I liked it much more than the movie.

T. Jobateh
October 2001

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