The Personal History Of David Copperfield

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Visually there is so much going on, David Copperfield’s runtime genuinely fizzes by

Are filmmakers too driven to copy an original creative’s vision? Naturally, there isn’t a clear answer, but there’s definitely a consensus that films should be created in the image of how they were originally intended, especially corncing the transformation of novels into feature productions; bring to life the story that was written, not a self created vision of that. But, Armando Iannucci, of The Death Of Stalin and The Thick Of It Fame, has challenged that on an entirely new level, imagining a classic Charles Dickens novel, in his own way, with a style so different from what the novel originally intended it’s almost unrecognisable on first sight.

Born to a single mother, David Copperfield (Dev Patel) is sent to a workhouse by his vicious new stepfather Mr. Murdstone. Lost in the London surroundings, David meets a multitude of characters as he makes a name for himself, including the empoverished Mr. Micawber (Peter Capaldi), his best friend James Steerforth (Aneurin Barnard) and his wild, donkey hating Aunt Betsey Trotwood (Tilda Swinton).

David Copperfield

As with almost all of Iannucci’s work, David Copperfield is absolutely wild. A whirlwind of colour, character and madness, the film gallops at a rapid pace, supplying a long novel in a mere two hours. It’s necessity to jump from each plot point to the next gives it a perhaps undesirable sense of hurriedness, but it does mean little of the film could be labelled boring or empty. Visually there is so much going on, David Copperfield’s runtime genuinely fizzes by.

With so much going on, it’s ability to really stress, and take a moment when one is needed, isn’t there. And for a story with so much to reflect on, that is certainly a shame, but, again, this is absolutely Iannucci’s vision for the piece, and the focus on comedy is impressively clear. It seems that the choice is part directorial, part sequential. Similar to a nature vs nurture debate.

Spearheaded in it’s wonderful cast, with an affinity for fun and playfulness, The Personal History Of David Copperfield is a joy to watch. It may leave a sour taste in the mouths of those clinging onto the classic, bleak style most Dickens adaptations opt for, but the difference this fresh vision takes is both exciting and wonderfully silly.


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