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The story, like many of Dickens' stories, centers on a young person who is thrown into a stormy sea of vividly-seen adult characters, and is often entirely in the dark about his own history and prospects.David Copperfield asks at the beginning of his story "whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else." He is writing, of course, after its events have all taken place, and still does not know the answer.Polanski's version never identifies Fagin as Jewish and does not depict him as the usual evil exploiter of young boys.
He must have met a Fagin or two, who were not good people yet not as bad as they might have been.
In Dickens there is always the contrast between horror and comedy; his biographer Peter Ackroyd observes that the novelist sometimes referred to his plots as "streaked bacon," made of fat, meat and gristle. Brownlow, who trusts the accused pickpocket with money and books.
This is not Ye Olde London, but Ye Harrowing London, teeming with life and dispute.
The performances are more vivid and edgy than we might suspect; Kingsley's Fagin is infinitely more complex than in the usual versions.
And even the mixed feelings of the Dodger (Harry Eden), who betrays Nancy to Bill and then has second thoughts and regrets.
True evil in the film is seen in Bill Sykes, who comes to such a ghoulish and appropriate end, and also in the society which surrounds and permits all of the characters.Fagin in his way is kinder than the workhouses and the courts of respectable society.The line "You were kind to me" is not a sentimental addition intended to soften the ending, but proceeds, I believe, directly from Polanski's heart, and is a clue to why he wanted to make the movie.Brownlow from time to time simply to return calm to the story.Polanski's film is visually exact and detailed without being too picturesque.In it he found his voice by listening to the memories of the child he had been.Polanski I think is listening to such memories as well.And Barney Clark, who was 11 when the film was made, is the right Oliver, a child more acted against than acting.Oliver Twist was Dickens' first proper novel, after the episodic Pickwick Papers.Brownlow (Edward Hardwicke), and has become a young gentleman. Oliver asks to see Fagin, and Brownlow takes him to the old man's cell, where they find a pathetic, self-pitying ruin.In the novel, Oliver asks Fagin to pray with him, and says, "Oh! " In the movie, he says that, and something more: "You were kind to me."For so Fagin was, after his fashion.