Thursday, December 21, 2017

“Your Reclamation, Then” | Albert Finney (1970)

Index of other entries in The Christmas Carol Project

The musical Scrooge made sure to show us Scrooge's setting his clock at the end of the last scene, so it was about 10:07 went he went to bed. This scene picks up straight from that one. He doesn't go to sleep, but immediately hears a clock chiming from somewhere outside. I can't tell any difference between the chimes, but Scrooge somehow realizes that time has sped up. He counts off, "Half past ten," and then, "Quarter to eleven?" That gets him sitting up and looking at his own clock, which now reads 1:00. As soon as he says the time out loud, there's a large BONG! from outside and Scrooge's curtains pull aside at the foot of his bed.

An elderly, finely dressed woman stands just inside his door; clearly the first spirit, but looking nothing like Dickens' description. This certainly isn't the first representation to take liberties, but the others at least put their versions in antiquated or fairy-like clothing to make them look otherworldly. This one just looks like she's visiting from a very nice neighborhood.

Scrooge - who went to bed not believing that he actually saw Marley's ghost - isn't afraid of this apparition. He demands to know who she is, but her reply is cagey. "I am the spirit whose coming was foretold to you."

He says what I'm thinking. "You don't look like a ghost!"

To which she replies, "Thank you." I'm not sure yet whether I like the contemporary look of her, but I do very much like her. She's haughty and aristocratic, which puts her in a similar category as the Alastair Sim version. She carries authority and isn't going to let Scrooge push her.

He's going to try though and insists on a more precise answer to his question about who she is. She declares herself the Ghost of Christmas Past and they go through the whole "Long past? No, your past" conversation.

When she says that she's there for Scrooge's welfare, he gets snotty about it. "To be awakened by a ghost at one o'clock in the morning is hardly conducive to my welfare!"

"You're redemption, then!"

I wonder if screenwriter Leslie Bricusse thought that "reclamation" was an outdated word and picked something more contemporary that sounded more or less the same. I like "reclamation" better, though, because it paints Scrooge as lost to his base, greedy impulses. He needs to be reclaimed for the side of good. The spirits are on a rescue mission. "Redemption" is similar, but it carries the additional idea of payment. Like when you redeem coupons. Nobody's paying for Scrooge in this story. They've come to reclaim him, but he's going to have to do the work of changing all by himself.

There's going to be a battle of wills between the Ghost and Scrooge. She's not taking any guff, but he's not backing down either. She holds out her hand to him and commands that he rise and walk with her. He grabs her hand, but snaps, "Where are we going?"

Her response is direct. "We are going to look at your childhood." And the scene immediately changes to a snowy forest.


Caffeinated Joe said...

I don't know. This seems to school marm-y, to me. Like he is going to learn his lesson, OR ELSE. Feels less likely he'd be inclined to to listening and learning if he is busy being at odds with her. But, that is just me.

Michael May said...

Yeah. It's a weird and interesting choice. I imagine that there's a reason for it that'll become apparent later, but I don't know what it is yet.


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