Hard Times (1977– )
Admirable adaptation of a lesser-known Dickens creation
29 October 2002
Unlike Charles Dickens's better known works like David Copperfield, Great Expectations and Oliver Twist which mainly deal with social ills such as poverty and / or the hardships faced by orphans or children displaced from their parents, Hard Times deals with the effects of upper middle class affluence, force-fed "Facts" based education and authoritarian - almost dictatorial- parenting on the development of children. Mr. Gradgrind's misplaced but well meaning and relentless "education" of his children ultimately yield tragic consequences. Repeated readings of this book have convinced me that this is Dickens's indictment of the loss of human values and the growing emphasis on material interests and accumulation of scientific knowledge (the "Facts" that Mr. Gradgrind places so much emphasis on) which were ushered in by the Industrial Revolution. Gone is the bloom, the blush and the romance of 'The Arts' as the cold, grey, grimy new self-conscious affluence is ushered in. This aspect of the book is extremely well captured by the screenplay and cinematography. Great moving performances by everyone involved in this production - especially from Edward Fox (a long time favourite actor of mine) who plays the slick, opportunistic Mr. Harthouse, a symbol of the times. Rosalie Crutchley turns in another stellar performance. It is a shame that neither the book nor this production have received the attention so richly deserved.
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