Looking Back At THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS (2017) - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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The tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, the curmudgeonly old miser, and the ghosts of Christmas is one that has been told and retold innumerable times, finding its place in the pantheon of Christmas classics. Yet, in 2017, moviegoers were treated to a refreshing reimagining of this timeless story with The Man Who Invented Christmas. Rather than a simple retelling, this film delved deep into the creative process behind Charles Dickens' renowned novella, "A Christmas Carol."

Unwrapping the Premise
In the heart of Victorian London, a financially strapped Dickens, portrayed brilliantly by Dan Stevens, struggles with writer's block. With the weight of previous flops on his shoulder and pressured by looming debts, Dickens becomes inspired by the people and experiences around him. Over the course of a few tumultuous weeks leading up to Christmas, the film artfully traces the birth of Scrooge, Marley, Tiny Tim, and other iconic characters, highlighting how Dickens’ own life and relationships played an integral part in their creation.

Behind the Cinematic Canvas
Director Bharat Nalluri, known for films like Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, weaves a vibrant tapestry, blending facts with fiction, capturing Dickens' manic energy, and the broader societal shifts of the time. This was no ordinary biopic. It showcased the juxtaposition of Dickens’ personal struggles with his burgeoning creativity.

On the Production Floor
The production was meticulous in ensuring historical accuracy, from the cobblestone streets to the Victorian garb. Filmmakers also made use of authentic filming locations to transport viewers to the 19th century. It was a treat to see London as Dickens would have seen it, bustling with life, hope, and despair.

A Stellar Cast and Crew
Dan Stevens brought to life a version of Dickens that was raw, real, and riddled with doubts, while simultaneously brimming with creative fervour. The supporting cast, including Christopher Plummer as the haunting yet slightly comical Scrooge and Jonathan Pryce as Dickens’ father, John, added layers of complexity to the narrative. Their stellar performances made the characters more than just figments of Dickens' imagination, but embodiments of his own joys, sorrows, and regrets.

Directorial Mastery
Nalluri's directorial choices, as seen in his previous films, emphasize character-driven narratives. With The Man Who Invented Christmas, he brought a fresh perspective to a tale as old as time. Instead of focusing on the outcome – the novella – he delved into the process, making viewers privy to Dickens' whirlwind of emotions.

Release and Reception
Released in the US on November 22, 2017, the film was well-received both critically and commercially. Although it faced competition from other holiday releases, it managed a commendable US box office collection of $5.6 million and a global gross of over $8 million.

Comparatively, while not raking in as much as other holiday heavyweights like Elf or The Polar Express, the film carved its own niche. It was reminiscent of movies like Finding Neverland, which similarly explored the mind of an author and the inception of a beloved story.

Musical Echoes of the Past
The score, composed by Mychael Danna, was both evocative and uplifting. It wasn't just background music, but an essential character in the film, echoing Dickens' highs and lows, embodying the spirit of Victorian London, and encapsulating the magic of Christmas.

The Critics' Verdict
Reviews were a mixed bag. "Rolling Stone" lauded it as a "deft blend of fact and fiction", while "The Hollywood Reporter" felt it was a “pleasing but slight” interpretation. Despite some critics arguing that the film might have romanticized Dickens' struggles, the general consensus was that it was an imaginative take on a familiar tale.

The Man Who Invented Christmas serves as a reminder that stories, no matter how timeless, have origins rooted in the lives and experiences of their creators. It's not just about Dickens or the creation of "A Christmas Carol", but about the universal journey of creativity, the highs and lows of the creative process, and the inextricable link between life and art. The film is a testament to the enduring magic of Christmas, not just in the stories we tell, but in the lives we lead and the memories we create.

View all our Christmas articles and retrospectives here.

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