Sunday, December 24, 2017

“Your Reclamation, Then” | Patrick Stewart (1999)

Index of other entries in The Christmas Carol Project

In the TNT Christmas Carol, Scrooge went to bed not at all sure that he'd really seen Marley. The ghost's words had made Scrooge pause and think, but as far as he knew, he was going to be able to fall asleep and wake up the next morning completely the same.

He's snoring as this scene opens, but he's awakened by a distant chiming. "Quarter past," he notes, and grabs the newspaper he'd taken to bed with him. The chiming continues though and Scrooge gets confused. "Half past?" And on it goes through "quarter to it" and "the hour itself." By the end though, he's not trying to figure out why time has sped up; he's relieved. "Nothing's happened," he says confidently. He knew it was all in his head. Or rather, in his stomach.

But the "hour itself" chime was just the lead up to the actual tolling of the hour. When that sounds, a bright light shines in the room and a black-gloved hand pulls aside Scrooge's bed curtains. It's Joel Grey looking very bright and Christmasy in a white poofy shirt, silver vest, and gold cumberbund. He doesn't hold the holly branch, but - like a couple of other versions - wears a garland of holly around his neck to keep his hands free. He carries the cap under his arm and I almost want to ask him to put it on myself, because an extremely bright light is shining on him. So much so that it washes out the rest of the picture. This is intentional though and the film will correct it soon.

Scrooge has to shield his eyes with his hand just to look in the spirit's direction. As they get the introductions out of the way ("your past"), Grey plays his role impishly with a twinkle in his eye and a mischievous smile on his lips. He stands very still as he does it, letting his face do all the work. It's a lovely performance and I like his Ghost immediately.

Scrooge asks the Spirit to put on its cap and be covered. The conversation goes as Dickens wrote it, but when Scrooge respectfully says that he has "no intention of offending you, sir," the Spirit's glow dims to a manageable level. He does have Scrooge's welfare at heart.

When he says so, Scrooge gets cranky and complains that a peaceful night of unbroken rest would have been more conducive to that end. I still get the feeling that Scrooge doesn't quite believe what's going on. But whether it's real or not, he resents its intruding on his sleep.

However, when the Spirit changes his phrasing to "your reclamation, then," that makes Scrooge thoughtful. Marley said that he believed Scrooge needed saving and now this Spirit has repeated it. It's starting to sink in.

The Spirit holds out his hand to Scrooge and says very gently, "Come with me."

Scrooge makes some awesome excuses. "Some other time, perhaps. I'm not dressed. I have a weak chest. Monstrous head cold." He's trying to reassert some control over the situation, but the Spirit oh so mildly insists. His hand still outstretched, he nods and smiles. "Rise. And walk with me." I love Grey in this. It's probably my favorite Christmas Past.

And of course Patrick Stewart is amazing as well. He gets up and holds out his hand, but he's shaking his head the whole time and there's fear in his eyes. If he touches the Spirit, this is going to become real. And that terrifies him.

As the Spirit leads him toward the window, he becomes even more frightened. He says that it's because he's mortal and liable to fall, but I don't think it's about the height. It's about whatever he's about to experience. And it suddenly hits me that Scrooge's mortality and ability to fall is also a metaphor for his spiritual state. He's petrified at being confronted with his own fallibility. It took Stewart's performance to reveal this. Genius.

The Spirit reassures Scrooge that "all I have to do is touch you... there." And he gracefully puts his hand on Scrooge's chest. He doesn't have to say, "And you shall be upheld." It's all in the performances. Scrooge's fear. The Spirit's encouragement. It honestly puts a little lump in my throat.

And as if to not agonize Scrooge further, the Spirit doesn't fly out the window with him. Instead, the room dissolves around them and becomes a snowy forest.


Caffeinated Joe said...

Great interpretation of Dickens' scene by all involved. Brings it to life, changing it slightly, but only for the better. Well done and, as you said, moving.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to you and yours, Michael!

Michael May said...

Thanks, Joe! Hope you and your family had a great season as well!


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