Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 23 (1992)
This adaption was not for the academic, the scholar or the purist. As none of these, I admit that, with reservations, I enjoyed the film.
There were some very good things about it. The setting was very attractive (Stanway in the Cotswolds for much of the action because it is one of the least changed parts of England) and the photography superb, particularly in the Chase when the sunlight filtering through the trees made an extremely pretty picture. The fight between Arthur and Adam was well staged. lain Glen as Adam portrayed the strength and integrity of the character convincingly; the comparison with James Wilby's attractive but weak Arthur well sustained. Jean Marsh would have been even better as Lisbeth Bede if the scriptwriter had left in the passage in chapter 10 when Lisbeth gives only grudging praise to Dinah for her help in the cottage - surely a superb piece of writing which sets up her character so well; it was a mistake to omit it. I was given a copy of the script in the early days of filming and had tried to persuade the producer to include it as it seemed to me that George Eliot was here handing the character on a plate to the writer. The same happened in relation to Mrs Poyser 'having her say out' (chapter 22). Again I pointed out an exceptional piece of writing by the author who knew her character's strengths and weaknesses and created a Mrs. Poyser which Julia McKenzie failed to reach. Her Mrs. Poyser was attractive and funny and had many of Mrs. Poyser's sayings but she lacked the asperity which would have been needed had Maggie Wadey allowed her to 'have her say out'.
Susannah Harker's Dinah Morris, however, was completely convincing. Her gentleness and the serenity of her simple beauty shone through the portrayal. One could see how Hetty needed and responded to this truly good woman at the time of her desperate need. Sadly, the director changed the plot here and undid some of the depth and feeling during the confession scene in the cell by having Hetty confess to Adam instead of to Dinah' Certainly Adam came to call and forgave Hetty but the poignancy of Hetty at last confessing to Dinah was lost. Dinah's significant role in the cell is an important feature of the story and the change was unnecessary. I am told that the director felt that, in the book, the coming together of Adam and Dinah was long drawn out and, in a film of less than two hours, it had to be condensed. The confession to Adam in Dinah's presence was intended to be seen by the viewer as the bond which drew them together more quickly. I do not believe that this ploy worked and feel that, instead, the viewer was given the impression that only the push by Lisbeth as Dinah was leaving for Snowfield did the trick! Indeed, the cliche ending of the lovers in each other's arms was another error and an unnecessary deviation from the novel.