Oliver Twist (2005 film)

Oliver Twist (2005 film)
Oliver Twist

Original poster
Directed by Roman Polanski
Produced by Roman Polanski
Robert Benmussa
Alain Sarde
Written by Ronald Harwood
Based on Oliver Twist by
Charles Dickens
Starring Ben Kingsley
Jamie Foreman
Barney Clark
Harry Eden
Leanne Rowe
Edward Hardwicke
Mark Strong
Music by Rachel Portman
Cinematography Paweł Edelman
Editing by Hervé de Luze
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures/Pathé (UK)
TriStar Pictures (US)
Summit Entertainment (International)
Release date(s) September 11, 2005 (2005-09-11) (TIFF)
September 23, 2005 (2005-09-23) (United States)
October 7, 2005 (2005-10-07) (United Kingdom)
Running time 130 minutes
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $60 million [1]
Box office $42,580,321[1]

Oliver Twist is a 2005 British drama film directed by Roman Polanski. The screenplay by Ronald Harwood is based on the 1838 novel of the same title by Charles Dickens.

The film was preceded by numerous adaptations of the Dickens book, including several feature films, three television movies, two miniseries, and a stage musical that became an Academy Award-winning movie.

The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2005 before going into limited release in the United States on September 23.



Young orphan Oliver Twist is forcibly brought to a workhouse in London on his ninth birthday. He and the other resident children are treated poorly and given very little food. Facing starvation, the boys select Oliver (through a lottery) to ask for more food at the next meal, which he tentatively does. This results in Oliver being chastised, and the workhouse officials, who are wealthy, well-fed, hypocritical men, decide to get rid of him. After nearly being sold as an apprentice to a cruel chimney sweep, Oliver is sent to Mr. Sowerberry, a coffin-maker, whose wife and senior apprentice take an instant dislike to the newcomer. After more poor treatment, Oliver snaps and attacks Noah, the snotty older apprentice, for having insulted his mother. Knowing his life with the Sowerberrys will only get worse, Oliver escapes on foot.

With little food, Oliver determines to walk 70 miles to London. A kindly old woman gives him food and lodgings for a night, after he collapses from exhaustion. After a week of travel, he arrives at the city, penniless and shoeless. He meets Jack Dawkins, or “The Artful Dodger,” a boy-thief who takes Oliver to his home that he shares with many other young pickpockets, and their eccentric elderly leader, Fagin. Soon, Oliver is being groomed to join their gang. On his first outing with the pickpockets, two of the boys steal a man’s handkerchief and Oliver is framed. However he is proven innocent by an eyewitness, and the owner of the handkerchief (the wealthy Mr. Brownlow) takes pity on Oliver, who had collapsed from a fever in the courtroom. Brownlow informally adopts Oliver, giving him new clothes and the promise of a good education. However, while out running an errand for Brownlow, Oliver is forcibly returned to the pickpocket gang by Fagin’s associate, the evil Bill Sikes, and the young prostitute Nancy (who is in a complex and abusive relationship with Sikes). Fagin and Sikes worried that Oliver would “peach,” and tell the authorities about their criminal activity. Oliver is put under supervision until Bill Sikes discovers the boy’s connection to the rich Mr. Brownlow. Sikes and his accomplice, Toby Crackit, force Oliver to aid them in robbing Brownlow’s house. They are discovered and Oliver is wounded in a brief shootout between Brownlow and Sikes. As the three escape, Bill decides to murder Oliver to ensure his silence, but falls into a nearby river before he can take action.

Sikes survives his near-drowning, but is confined to bed with a heavy fever. He and Fagin (who, despite treating Oliver kindly, remains crime-focused) plot to kill Oliver when Sikes has recovered. Nancy has a maternal love for Oliver and does not want to see him hurt, but she is controlled by the abusive Sikes. She drugs Bill, and goes to Brownlow’s house where she arranges to have him meet her on London Bridge at midnight so she can provide information about Oliver. At the meeting, Nancy cautiously reveals that Oliver is staying with Fagin, and that the authorities will find them easily. Brownlow leaves to call the police. The Artful Dodger, who had been sent by a suspicious Fagin to spy on Nancy, had heard everything and is bullied out of the information by Bill Sikes. Sikes is furious at Nancy’s betrayal, and brutally beats her to death in their apartment.

The next day, information about Oliver and Fagin appear in the newspaper, along with Nancy’s murder and the suspected guilt of Bill Sikes. Sikes’s ever-present dog, Bullseye, is a dead giveaway to his identity. After unsuccessfully trying to kill the dog, Sikes takes up residence with Toby Crackit. Fagin, Oliver, and the boys are hiding there too, after escaping their previous location before the police could find it. Bullseye escaped his master’s cruelty, and led a group of police and locals to the group’s hideout. Eventually, Dodger, who is outraged at Sikes for killing the good-hearted Nancy, reveals their location to authorities. Bill Sikes takes Oliver onto the roof, knowing he will not be shot at if the boy is with him. When trying to scale the building using a rope, Sikes, after being distracted by his dog, loses his footing and accidentally hangs himself.

Some time later, Oliver is living comfortably with Mr. Brownlow again. Fagin was arrested (though the fate of the pickpockets is unknown), and Oliver wishes to visit him in jail. Brownlow takes him to the prison, where they find Fagin ranting and wailing in his cell. Oliver is distraught at Fagin’s fate, as he had been something of a father figure to Oliver. As Mr. Brownlow escorts a tearful Oliver to a carriage, gallows are being set up in the courtyard. Townspeople begin to gather to watch Fagin’s execution.

Production and adaptation

In Twist by Polanski, a bonus feature on the DVD release of the film, Roman Polanski discusses his decision to make yet another screen adaptation of the Dickens novel. Following The Pianist, he was anxious to make a film his children could enjoy. He realized nearly forty years had passed since Oliver Twist had been adapted for a feature film and felt it was time for a new version. Screenwriter Ronald Harwood, with whom he had collaborated on The Pianist, welcomed the opportunity to work on the first Dickens project in his career.

For authenticity, all scenes featuring pickpocket skills were choreographed by stage pickpocket James Freedman and magician Martyn Rowland.

The film was shot in Prague, Beroun, and Žatec in the Czech Republic.

Like David Lean in his 1948 film version of the novel, Polanski and Harwood entirely omitted the Maylie family from the 2005 film, but unlike him, they also omitted Monks, as well as the entire subplot of a conspiracy to defraud Oliver of the inheritance money that his father left him. In the Polanski film, unlike the novel, Fagin's intentions toward Oliver become murderous, when he and Sikes plot together to actually kill the boy.[citation needed]


Critical reception

The film received generally positive reviews. It has a 'fresh' 60 percent score on movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus that 'Polanski's version of Dickens' classic won't have audiences asking for more because while polished and directed with skill, the movie's a very impersonal experience.'[2] Review aggregate website Metacritic further assigned the film a score of 65, signifying 'generally favorable reviews.'[3]

A. O. Scott of the New York Times called it a "bracingly old-fashioned" film that "does not embalm its source with fussy reverence" but "rediscovers its true and enduring vitality." He added, "the look of the movie... is consistent with its interpretation of Dickens's worldview, which could be plenty grim but which never succumbed to despair. There is just enough light, enough grace, enough beauty, to penetrate the gloom and suggest the possibility of redemption. The script... is at once efficient and ornate, capturing Dickens's narrative dexterity and his ear for the idioms of English speech." [4]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times was similarly positive; he lauded the film as "visually exact and detailed without being too picturesque."[5] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle praised it as a "grounded and unusually matter-of-fact adaptation," continuing, "Polanski does justice to Dickens' moral universe, in which the motives and worldview of even the worst people are made comprehensible." [6]

Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly graded the film B+ and commented, "On the face of it, Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist is in the tradition of every faithful Oliver Twist ever filmed — a photogenic, straightforward, CliffsNotes staging of Charles Dickens' harrowing story... Yet precisely because this is by Roman Polanski, it's irresistible to read his sorrowful and seemingly classical take, from a filmmaker known as much for the schisms in his personal history as for the lurches in his work, as something much more personal and poignant." [7]

However, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone rated the film two out of four stars, calling it "drab and unfeeling" while "lacking the Polanski stamp." He further felt Barney Clark's performance as Oliver was "bereft of personality." [8] Todd McCarthy of Variety echoed Travers' sentiments about Clark, labelling him "disappointingly wan and unengaging," while writing that the film was "conventional, straighforward" and "a respectable literary adaptation, but [lacking] dramatic urgency and intriguing undercurrents." [9]

In the UK press, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian opined that while "[Polanski's] Oliver Twist does not flag or lose its way and is always watchable, the book's original power and force have not been rediscovered." [10] Philip French of The Observer wrote that the film was "generally disappointing, though by no means badly acted," and alleged that it lacked "any serious point of view about individuality, society, community."[11]

DVD release

Sony Pictures released the film on DVD on January 24, 2006. It is in anamorphic widescreen format with audio tracks and subtitles in English and French. Bonus features include Twist by Polanski, in which the director reflects on the making of the film; The Best of Twist, which includes interviews with production designer Allan Starski, costume designer Anna B. Sheppard, cinematographer Paweł Edelman, editor Hervé de Luze, and composer Rachel Portman; and Kidding with Oliver Twist, which focuses on the young actors in the cast.


External links

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