Wednesday, December 13, 2017

“Your Reclamation, Then” | Walter Matthau (1978)



Since Rankin-Bass' The Stingiest Man in Town spent so much time on Marley, it keeps this introductory scene incredibly short. We'll have to get to know the Spirit of Christmas Past as we go.

Scrooge doesn't even get a chance to go to sleep. He's still quivering in his bed when the Spirit draws back the curtain and introduces himself. And he's decidedly a man. And an old one.

If you're not going to go all out and do the young-old, genderless representation, I understand the impulse to make the ghost old. Scrooge himself is an old man and this spirit represents all of his previous Christmases, so it makes sense that it's as old as he is. Dickens' adding a youthful quality is just a metaphor for how fresh our memories are. We remember even childhood things as if they were "just yesterday." If you've got to pick either young or old though, I think old is the way to go.

Incidentally, it's just this year that I paid any attention to the Spirit's explanation (which does come up in this abbreviated version) that it specifically represents Scrooge's past and not all Christmases past in general. I used to think the Spirit must have been 1,980-something years old, but really it's only going to be in its 70s or however old Scrooge is.

What I don't accept as much is the decision to make the Spirit male. If you're not going to go genderless, then why not add a woman to the already very male-heavy cast of characters?

The Spirit is small like in Dickens, but not supernaturally so. He just looks like a very short person. And he does carry the holly and the cap and he has the bright light shining from his head. This Scrooge is still terrified, so he doesn't dare ask the Spirit to put the cap on. In fact, he doesn't talk to the Spirit at all except to ask if he represents "long past."

The Spirit doesn't touch Scrooge's heart either. He simply commands Scrooge to take the Spirit's hand and then flies them both out of the window. As we talked about last year with Scrooge's question about "how" to change, I think his heart has already been touched. He doesn't know what he needs to do, but the interest in changing is already there at this point.

As the window opens, Tom Bosley's Humbug character has the chance to come back in, since he was trapped outside during the Marley scene. He watches Scrooge and Spirit go, but stays behind. I don't remember if he witnesses the past with Scrooge, so maybe he catches up later.

2 comments:

Caffeinated Joe said...

That is something I don't think I ever thought of, that the Spirit of Christmas Past was JUST from Scrooge's past. I just assumed it was the Spirit of ALL Christmases past. Interesting. I wonder then, going forward with Scrooge changing his ways, if his Ghost of Christmas Past gets to be a little bit happier each year, with Scrooge doing good in the world?

Michael May said...

Ha! That's a great question. I imagine so!

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