This year for Christmas I had the unfortunate displeasure of being diagnosed with Covid just 2 days before the Holiday, resulting me spending the weekend living in isolation from not only the world, but my husband, my in-laws, friends and family of all stripes. The holiday certainly wasn’t the one I was looking forward to, my mother-in-law notified her kin and it was agreed to postpone the weekend together until this had passed. I alone had tested positive, but it was the safest for all to not risk it.
I decided on Christmas Eve to take in a movie, one I had considered in the past year but had not given time. Since all I had for the holiday was time, I decided that now was as good an opportunity to watch the 2019 FX Mini Series of A Christmas Carol, staring the likes of Guy Pearce and Andy Serkis. It was a three hour sitting, and it felt like it at times, the movie was long, but the story of Ebenezer Scrooge has often been a long one in classical renditions. Much of the veneer of the story has been stripped away, revealing a courser and more brutal allegory, while also painting a picture of a man who is less heartless and more broken by events outside his control.
The more joyful and warm spirits of Christmas Past and Present are reinvented, with Past being less of the light of warm memories, and rather a burner of forgotten things, executed with great effect by Serkis. Present becomes a more personal experience for Ebenezer, being a manifestation of his long dead sister, but this does lend itself to a new angle for the spirit, as one who seeks to save her younger brother from the torture of a life unrepentant. Christmas Future is well portrayed in a somewhat revised fashion, but never the less presents like an undertaker in their appearance leaning heavily into the death motif often associated with this spirit.
Unlike many other iterations of the story, this one takes a solid shift early in the life of young Ebenezer, and it is in this that I find my greatest appreciation for the tale. Rather than some almost inexplicable shift from being a loving child and young man, to a disciple of money and greed, Ebenezer is a tortured soul who was broken in youth by the trials of child abuse at the hands of his father and headmaster, the later of whom is strongly inferred to be molesting him, and with the full knowledge and consent of Ebenezer’s father, a drunkard and evil man who was already a disciple of vice and cruelty. It paints the old character of Scrooge as one who has been hardened against love, affection, and kindness, by his experiences and gives a sense of pity for him that was long missing in the character. It also gives him a greater motive to seek to ease suffering in those he can see suffer more readily in front of him, especially the character of Tiny Tim. Even before the spirits crash his night of solitude he is seen to demonstrate a hint of softness for animals, placing a blanket over a pair of unattended horses he encounters; this is not a man who has no heart, it’s simply a man who has forgotten how to use it.
While creating a character more sympathetic in one light, they do an amazing job of painting him more sinister in another, making him the source of torment for young Mary Cratchit, with a very intense scene in which you don’t know if Scrooge will prove utterly evil and depraved. It is a fine line, and one I don’t know that they walked without going too far. It’s certainly a wicked moment, and not in any positive sense of the word. What I find more interesting is that it is in this moment, that you are given to the notion that the spirits have little to do with Ebenezer, and more to do with the revenge of Mary in the aftermath, even in the closing scene, you have this reinforced, to what end I cannot imagine.
Even as the story comes to an end, for the promises made by Scrooge and the good he seeks to do, there is no resolution for him and his nephew. There is no great “god bless us every one” and there is no singing chorus of salvation, or echo of how he became as good a man, good a master, etc. It ends nearly as coldly as it opens. But for all it’s brutality, I think this re-imagination of the classic tale has solid points, and for that I would give it a 3.5/5.