Thursday, December 19, 2013
'You Wish to Be Anonymous?' | Patrick Stewart (1999)
Index of other entries in The Christmas Carol Project
Like with a couple of other adaptations, TNT's movie starring Patrick Stewart gets clever with the introduction of the charitable solicitors. They stop Scrooge's nephew on the street after he's left his uncle and ask him for directions to the office. They tell them that they're new to the area (something that will come up again shortly) and are collecting charitable donations for the poor. Fred is confused at first, but figures out that they're completely unfamiliar with Scrooge. Oddly, he doesn't warn them, but gives them directions and watches them go with a bemused, "those poor bastards" expression. As we noticed in the last scene, this Fred can be kind of a jerk.
True to their newness in the area, the men don't know if they're addressing Scrooge or Marley, so Scrooge corrects them in the traditional way. Stewart gives it an interesting twist though by making Scrooge seem to recollect just at that moment that Marley died seven years ago that very night. It's a little weird since Scrooge and Cratchit were talking about Marley's death before Fred came in, but maybe Scrooge didn't connect that it was the actual anniversary. Stewart's Scrooge doesn't seem to hate Christmas so much as he simply dismisses it. (Scrooge's specific feelings about Christmas and why the various adaptations suggest that he feels that way is something I want to look at next year when we cover Cratchit's asking for time off. Hopefully I'll remember.)
The lead solicitor introduces himself as Williams - his companion is Foster - and hands Scrooge a pamphlet that Scrooge doesn't yet look at. The men offer their sympathy, which immediately makes Scrooge suspicious. He nervously asks if they're relatives and I wonder if he suspects them of looking for an inheritance from the business. He's relieved when they explain that they're not, but his suspicions go up again when they use the word "generosity." He finally looks at their pamphlet and hands it back with a sigh.
As the gentleman continue to explain why they're there, Cratchit looks uncomfortable about what he knows is about to happen and slinks back into his office. With a sneer, Scrooge says that he takes it that the gentlemen are new to the district. He obviously has a reputation and he's rather proud of it.
The rest of the scene proceeds pretty much as Dickens wrote it, with Stewart alternating between perfectly sincere delivery of his lines and making faces during theirs. Scrooge is doing everything he can to let them know that he's not interested, but they don't seem to grasp it. When they finally ask him what they can put him down for, his "Nothing" is a harsh challenge to continue the conversation.
Of course, they still can't believe it and ask if he wishes anonymity. He tiredly whispers, "I wish to be left alone" like he means it. I noted in the last couple of scenes that Stewart's Scrooge is a severely lonely man. He seemed to have some emotion connected to Marley at the funeral, but displays none of it seven years later. He's throwing up walls all over the place like he's desperate to push people away, but I can still see sadness occasionally peeking through in Stewart's performance. It's a genius bit of acting.
He talks about decreasing the surplus population very matter-of-factly and makes Cratchit show the disbelieving gentlemen out. There's no emotion in his dismissal. The walls are firmly in place.