The Violent Blue blog***Comics, Horror and Pop Culture***Updates Tuesday through Friday (and occasionally at random)

A Christmas Carol (2013)

 

I’m not going to waste time recapping the synopsis of A Christmas Carol. If you don’t know the story of A Christmas Carol, then you’re really in the wrong place. And indeed, the wrong movie… Which may be the key to watching and understanding it all together.
 
The 2013 edition of A Christmas Carol seems to be vehemently hated by the reviewers up on IMDb. But I’m not sure that it deserves the hate that it gets. The thing is, this vision of A Christmas Carol isn’t the straightforward film that everybody was expecting. It’s visually stylized and gorgeously realized, but it comes off almost as more of a music video style story then a feature film. It’s focused very much on the imagery and layering concepts and frames on top of each other. This leads to long stretches, particularly when Scrooge is observing the scenes the ghosts set before him, that are merely dialogue. There are stretches over and over with the actor or the narrator simply speaking to the audience, telling, not showing. But the telling is done in a beautiful mosaic way. Clouds and fire overlaid on top of the image of men and ghosts. It had to have been a hundred days of green screen for these guys, and yet the effect is quite striking. Indeed, it’s so visual, it might actually have made a better comic book than a film.
 
That’s not to say there isn’t a traditional narratives here as well. The vignettes of Scrooge and Cratchit, the scenes at the Cratchit household and the scenes of Scrooges past they’re all presented in straightforward and competent manner. Someone’s going to a lot of trouble to arrange filming at historical sites to make it work right. That’s impressive. Doing a period piece on a low budget is a Herculean task, and this crew has pulled it off admirably.
 
Of course the low budget is a big part of the problem. It shows. Those blank walls? While they’re perfectly appropriate for historical building, and probably quite stunning to be inside, they come off as long stretches of negative space in a film. They may actually be more accurate than some of the more lush adaptions of dickens work out there, but we’re so used to greater detail and more complex that design, that for all the authenticity that they add, they also bring the production down in their planes.
Also present are the pervasive close shots. Tight one/two shots of people, with a camera in close enough so that you see very little of the dark and background. The gloom of course, is there to hide the more modern architecture of the room. They do their best to get around it. Every trick in the book, including overlays, shooting through windows, lighting and framing, but those type of shots are always a hallmark of a low budget film production that does not have room to show a well dressed background.

The greatest failing here though, is it it’s cast. The director has cast a bunch of theater actors, and it shows. There is great enunciation, but it comes at the cost of passion and emotion. The performance would absolutely reach the back of the room in a stage setting, but Scrooge in particular, lacks expression necessary to convey the emotion that he must show, increasingly so as the film goes on.
 
Nevertheless, I see it for both what it is and what it could be. I really enjoy this movie, and considering this is a very early work for this Director, I see a lot of promise here. For me, this is a perfect companion piece. Certainly not a main version, not my first choice, but probably my second… and definitely a perfect party movie. In the background of a crowded room, you could look up to a television and know exactly what’s happening, and benefit from the Christmas setting and provides us. It’s an admirable stylized effort, and really needs to show up as a special feature on a better edition rather than the main feature itself.
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