Friday, December 22, 2017
“Your Reclamation, Then” | George C Scott (1984)
Index of other entries in The Christmas Carol Project
After Scrooge goes to bed, director Clive Donner's TV movie cuts to a church steeple where the bell is tolling one. And back in Scrooge's bedroom, his little pocket watch is also chiming with a distinctive, merry little tune that becomes important later in the story. It's the bong of the church bell that seems to wake Scrooge up though. He sits up in bed, notices the time, and tries to remember, "What was it Marley said?" It's elusive though and nothing is happening in the room, so Scrooge concludes that Marley's visit and warning was just a dream. Of course, that's the Spirit's cue.
A wind blows through the room and into the curtained bed and then Scrooge notices a twinkling light. Maybe. It's really just a directorial flourish, because the twinking is inside the bed curtains and it turns into a bright reflection on the Spirit's large snuffer cap. The Spirit's not appearing on the bed though; this is just Donner's preferred way of communicating that spirits are transporting themselves. With Past, Donner will focus tightly on the cap as a way of transitioning from one scene to another. With Present, he'll use the Spirit's torch. So in this first instance, the large cap simply represents the first spirit's arrival.
Scrooge's bed curtains part and he sees the Spirit standing in the middle of the room. Like in the Albert Finney version, she's an older woman (well, middle-aged, anyway), but this one is trying to be faithful to Dickens. Her hair is long and - if not white, then at least very light, almost platinum blonde. The actor Angela Pleasence has an impish, mischievous look that gives a youthful quality to the character and she's dressed in archaic-looking robes and carrying the holly branch. She doesn't quite hold her cap; it just hovers near her.
Scrooge's attitude toward her is polite, but he's not at all afraid. It could be that he still thinks this is humbug, but he's at least willing to play along and see what happens. For her part, the Ghost is businesslike. That's probably the right approach to take with this Scrooge. She keeps it professional - at least at first - and he respects that.
Their conversation goes pretty much how Dickens wrote it, but with some nice changes. When he asks her to put on the cap, for instance, he expresses it in terms of "perhaps you'd do me the favor..." Her response is that she brings the light of truth. "Would you use this cap to put it out?" Scrooge is immediately and sincerely apologetic, but he's not nervous or frightened about it. He asks forgiveness from her like he would from a business partner or a peer.
The "light of truth" angle is interesting. I've written a lot this year about how this Ghost represents Scrooge's memories, but it's really more than that. She's going to show him things not as he remembers them, but as they really happened. The story doesn't make a big deal out of the difference between memory and reality, but she makes it clear up front that this is about objective reality. Her mission isn't to remind Scrooge of particular feelings; it's to show him factual events that cast light on the man he's become.
He continues to try to negotiate with her when they discuss his welfare. "I can think of no greater welfare than a night of uninterrupted sleep." But she shuts down the conversation by subtly reminding him that she has the power in this relationship. "Be careful, Ebenezer Scrooge. I speak of your reclamation."
He gives up. Even if he doesn't believe that she's real, he understands that this is something that he's going to have to go through with. "Well, if it's reclamation, then... let's get on with it."
She finally smiles and holds out her hand to him. "Come." As he gets out of bed and takes her hand, fog begins to engulf them. There's no window or fear of falling. Scrooge gets to hold onto his dignity in this one. And that means that there's no talk about touching his heart. As I've said before, this version is remarkable for making Scrooge relatable and grounded. Any change he undergoes is going to be relatable and grounded as well.
As they fade from view, she gives him some insight to what he's about to experience. "We shall be invisible. And silent as the grave."