Cinerama: Oliver

Posted: September 11, 2009 in Cinerama


By Mike Derderian

Like an enchantress fairy that appears to you in the middle of the night, life sometimes conjures up images of happiness and sadness, images that form life’s metaphors with meanings which affects our emotions and state of mind for quite some while. It was past midnight when I was driving around Amman. I know you might ask what was the purpose of this late drive in the middle of the night like a nocturnal creature. To tell you the truth I wanted to feed. Don’t freak, I’m not a vampire, not yet. During my drive back home and after a successful quest for nourishment, I stopped at a red traffic light where I saw the most saddening scene. A ten-year-old boy with a face that hasn’t been washed lately covered with dried and thickened blood, which reached all the way to his chain, was standing there awaiting charity from passing strangers.

The boy was bare footed; a thing that added to his suffering for it was cold that night and instead of being tacked in a warm bed enjoying it’s warmth, he was standing there facing his unknown future. “Please, sir, I want some more,” words that echoed in my head, as I gazed at that poor child who resembled Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist the orphan boy, who after his mother’s death grew up at a 19th century workhouse in England which served as both an orphanage and a place of hard labor for poor, degraded and unfortunate children.

Most of Dickens’s writings revolved around people who suffered the injustice of the strict laws that came as a result of the new industrial age that replaced man

with machines thus leaving thousands unemployed, starving and simply wretched.

To those who cannot have the pleasure of enjoying his works through reading, most of his novels were transferred to the silver screen, one of which is the 1968 musical “Oliver.”

Now you might wander why I chose a musical based on one of Dickens’s melancholic works, well if you read right till the end you might find the answer my dear reader and whether it is significant or not simply depends on you.

This merry musical directed by Carol Reed had quite a cast of well known actors during the sixties beginning with Ron Moody, Harry Secombe, Oliver Reed, Shani Wallis, Jack Wild, ending with Mark Lester, who played the role of Oliver.

Produced and directed as a musical did not undermine Dickens’s original work for this brighter version with all the sung dialogues offered a different perspective through musical connotations, great choreography, fabulous costumes.

Music, songs and lyrics were the most important elements that made the pure family film invigorate anyone into a humming and even singing frenzy. Songs like “omm pah-pah”, “food glorious food”,  “who will buy,” or “you’ve got to pick a pocket or two” sung by Fagin (Moody) when he first meets with Oliver to make him understand what makes a boy a good pickpocket like the Art full Dodger (Wild).

The plot is simple and easy going, no into the psyche of actor’s melodrama, however, there are some scenes where Reed tries to bring out some emotions from the characters even if they were villains like Fagin and Bill Sikes.

An attempt that was noticed evidently in the scene where we see Sikes (Oliver Reed) lying on bed half sleepy, being badgered by the charismatic Nancy (Wallis), who keeps on asking him if he loves her, however, her feelings of love towards Sikes would soon shift to motherly feelings of love for the benign Oliver.

Lester’s appearance as a blond boy with blue eyes and a tender chorus-boy voice made Oliver’s character loveable by everyone who had seen and heard him, not to mention the comic character of Fagin, who runs a pickpocket gang made out of children with the help of his sidekick Dodger.

If you’re an emotional person who sees life in the color pink then this is the film for you, for all musicals have happy endings that are found somewhere over the rainbow, which always appears after a heavy shower of cold rain. On the other hand, if you’re a reader of classical novels who has an affinity to see realistic films based on his favorite novels you might dislike this film not because it is bad or tasteless but because musical films make life appear like one big beautiful ride, which wasn’t the case with that poor boy whom I will always remember as Oliver.

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