Saturday, December 21, 2013
'You Wish to Be Anonymous?' | Jim Carrey (2009)
Index of other entries in The Christmas Carol Project
In Robert Zemeckis' A Christmas Carol, the charitable solicitor scene has a couple of things in common with TNT's Patrick Stewart version. Instead of a pamphlet, Zemeckis has the solicitors offer Scrooge a card as credentials, but there's also a shot where Cratchit looks rather nervous at what's about to happen and sneaks away back to his little office. Gary Oldman plays this Cratchit as kind of a simpleton though, so we get an idiotic smile from him first as he approvingly listens to the solicitors.
When Scrooge corrects the gentlemen about Marley's death, he does it with a dramatic, ominous flourish. He not only wants to set them straight, he wants them to be uneasy about it. And this is before they've even mentioned why they're there. Jim Carrey's Scrooge is aggressively offensive. Stewart's Scrooge has built walls to keep people out, but Carrey's also has soldiers atop them to shoot at anyone who stops to show interest.
He calmly listens to their pitch, sliding his candle closer to look at their card, and when they finish, he responds in a careful, measured way. "Are there no prisons?" he purrs, holding the card close enough to the candle that it starts to sizzle.
The lead gentleman snatches the card away before it can burn. He's skeptical and cautious at first in how he answers Scrooge, obviously thrown off his game, but then he rallies and continues his pitch until Scrooge growls that he only wishes to be left alone. He asks the men to leave and they comply.
Overall, there's not a lot new here, but that's been the way with most of the adaptations. The solicitors generally show some hesitation when Scrooge asks about prisons and workhouses, but soldier on, thinking that they must have misunderstood him. They're simply not used to this kind of response. In addition to showing us more of Scrooge's attitude about the world, the scene highlights the contrast between his view and the rest of correct-thinking society.
In reality, Scrooge's view wasn't so different from a lot of powerful men in Victorian London, but Dickens writes as if it is. These portly - in Zemeckis' version, extremely portly - gentlemen may make merry all year round, but at least at this one time of year they think beyond themselves and consider those less fortunate. And they're used to seeing that attitude in everyone they talk to. It's not a radical kind of compassion, it's simply the baseline that any human being should be expected to possess. But Scrooge doesn't even have that.