director David Lean
Among other things in my life, I read a lot. And in recent years, I’ve been reading Charles Dickens and liking him a lot.
Great Expectations is Dickens via David Lean with a great cast including Alec Guinness, Martita Hunt, Francis L. Sullivan, Bernard Miles, Jean Simmons, and more. As with any major literary figure, there are a lot of versions of a lot of his works, and so a lot of versions probably have their assets and weaknesses, some may vie for “best”.
For my money, this Great Expectations is excellent, containing the over 500 page novel into a 2 hour movie (there is often a lot of sprawl in Dickens), capturing the classic characters like Pip, Estella, Mrs. Havisham, and Mr. Jaggers vividly, and even succinctly and deftly creating the scenery: the marshes, London, Satis House, visions imagined made “real”.
More than anything though, Mrs. Havisham’s house and her dedicated decay are very effective when made visual. There is a hauntedness like a ghost story.
All that said, Pip (John Mills) falls for the cruel Estella, groomed for evil of heartbreaking, heartlessness, as he does in the book. I watched this with my daughter who is going on 13, and she had a hard time understanding why he would like someone who was so outwardly cruel and mean. Well, if it was Jean Simmons, I think I could make an argument, but that is one aspect of truncating a story that can’t always translate.