Advent Calendar 2017! - Day 1


Version: A Christmas Carol (1984, dir. Clive Donner)

Welcome to the first in a series of 24 articles analysing shot-reverse-shot conversations between Ebenezer Scrooge and various urchin children in cinematic adaptations of A Christmas Carol. Today's shot-reverse-shot comes to us from Clive Donner's 1984 version, where Scrooge is played by George C. Scott.

This version of the conversation sets the standard for all future shot-reverse-shot Scrooge/urchin dialogues to come, if not in quality then in form. We have shot 1 of Scrooge, immediately after having recovered from his encounters with the three spirits, looking down from a high window at a small urchin to ask him what day of the year it is, and we have shot 2 of the small urchin looking up in response. This is a textbook example of how this conversation is shot, with every subsequent version either conforming to or rebelling against this template. The shot composition is quite simple, with each actor in the center of their respective frames, but note the way in which the camera looks up at Scrooge, matching the eyeline of the urchin, and the way it looks down at the urchin, matching the eyeline of Scrooge. This simulation of the characters' respective heights is a key recurring element in the way this scene from Dickens' original work is adapted to film. It is also worth noting that while both Scrooge and the audience are looking down upon the urchin, the slightly off-balance angle of these shots prevent Scrooge from being a dominating or threatening presence to the boy. Both actors are afforded the same amount of relative space in their frames, placing them at equal footing. There is clearly a strong sense of respect between these two fine citizens of Dickensian London.

If you need a crash course in how to shoot the Scrooge/urchin dialogue from the concluding stave of A Christmas Carol, look no further than this version. It has all the staples of the form that avid Dickens fans have come to expect over the years. It isn't perfect however; it is a competent rendition of the scene but it fails to innovate or in any way develop the on-going cinematic dialogue that exists between A Christmas Carol adaptations of how best to commit Scrooge talking to the urchin to film. Regardless, this is a fine version, even if fine is all it aspires to or achieves.

Framing 8 out of 10.
Scrooge's Reaction To The Date 7 out of 10.
Urchin Accent 10 out of 10.
Window Height 10 out of 10.
Scrooge Nightgown Quality 7 out of 10.
Urchin Cap Quality 7 out of 10.
Final Score 8.2 out of 10. A strong example of the form.