Blog Directory CineVerse: Meet the father of Scrooge

Meet the father of Scrooge

Friday, January 1, 2021

Who really invented Christmas? While the obvious answer is Christ and his followers, our contemporary and secular vision of the holiday was certainly influenced by numerous individuals and forces, not the least of whom was Charles Dickens, author of A Christmas Carol and conjurer of one of the most unforgettable characters in English literature: Ebenezer Scrooge. Our CineVerse group unwrapped a fresh gift of a film last week, The Man Who Invented Christmas, which explores the author’s life and the factors that inspired the creation of this classic Yuletide tale. Here’s a recap of our discussion (to listen to a recording of that group conversation, click here):

What did you find unusual, unforeseen, striking, or significant about this film?

  • It turned Charles Dickens the man into a fascinating figure. This Dickens is relatable to modern audiences in how he is challenged and stressed on multiple fronts, despite his literary talents. Dickens struggles with financial issues, family conflicts, and work-related pressures, as many of us do.
  • It provides an intimate depiction of what’s involved in the writing process – how characters can inhabit the writer’s mind, how authors struggle with writer's block, and the degree to which new and familiar faces can inspire the path of creativity. The filmmakers take an otherwise mundane and straightforward narrative and infuse it with color, humor, and vibrancy by envisioning a dialogue between Dickens and the fictional characters he’s giving life to.
  • As with many biopics and films based on “the true story behind the story,” this picture plays loose and fast with the facts. The movie is a somewhat liberal adaptation of the author’s true life and the circumstances and people that may have truly inspired him to write A Christmas Carol.
    • Actor Dan Stevens said in an interview: “Frankly, whether it’s historically accurate I’m not that concerned about. I was interested in that moment of the creative process, watching a great man struggle – to me, that's dramatically and comedically interesting. Certainly, I was keen not to play Dickens as a bearded old sage.”
  • The title seems deceptive and leaves unresolved questions by the end of the film. If Dickens truly is the man who invented our modern version of Christmas, which is highly debatable, how exactly and to what degree did he and his story influence the way we celebrate Christmas? He certainly wasn’t most or solely responsible for shaping our contemporary vision of the holiday: Clement Clarke Moore wrote ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas earlier, in 1823; Prince Albert is credited with bringing German Christmas trees and evergreens to England after wedding Queen Victoria in 1840; and big corporations have played a major part in the commercialization and iconography of Christmas (Coca-Cola’s depiction of Santa Claus in the 1930s was a major influence on the way we picture Santa today).

Themes crafted into The Man Who Invented Christmas

  • Write/create what you know. This version of Dickens is inspired by everyday people around him who serve as precursors or models for the characters in his story. We also see how Dickens is a generous, kind, and attentive figure but can quickly change, acting cruelly, selfishly, and with little regard for those close to him.
  • Ghosts of the past can either haunt us or inspire us to rise above – it’s up to us to choose. We see how Dickens as a child was forced to labor in a workhouse after his father was taken away from him and imprisoned. Dickens is besieged by these visions in his nightmares, but he also summons inner strength from these recollections, which he uses to reconcile with his father and, presumably, with his past.
  • Every person is capable of redemption. Dickens demonstrates this by writing the character of Scrooge, who ultimately chooses to make amends by the end of his story. The same is true of Dickens himself, who, despite his many flaws and negative character traits, is a better man by the end of this story, having patched up matters with his father and his wife, rehired the dismissed housekeeper, and impressed those around him who previously doubted his abilities.

Other movies that come to mind after watching this one

  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
  • Mary Shelley
  • Goodbye Christopher Robin
  • Saving Mr. Banks
  • Rebel in the Rye
  • Tolkien
  • Finding Neverland

Other films directed by Bharat Nailuri

  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
  • Spooks: The Greater Good
  • Killing Time

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