For its classical Christmas production this year, the BBC has recreated yet another version of the Dickens masterpiece Great Expectations - and what a production it is, from the opening credits which show a white butterfly imbued with glorious black designs, the colour of which eventually bleeds until nothing is left but black decay, to the bleakly grey opening scenes where the orphaned boy, Pip, is clearing the weeds from his family's grave. Beneath a low and leaden sky which bodes of the ominous scenes to come, the escaped convict Magwitch (perfectly played by Ray Winstone who conveys a fascinating mixture of menace and nobility) rises up from the boggy waters to terrorise the shivering bundle of a boy like a burly demon from hell.
There are some wonderful actors in this production's glittering cast of which, most surely for the VV, Gillian Anderson's Miss Havisham is the star.
Although some have been uncomfortable with the apparent youth of this particular Miss Havisham, the VV thinks it a masterstroke to realise Dicken's anti-heroine as someone so tragic and vulnerable - a woman whose physical and mental life was cruelly arrested when wickedly spurned on her wedding day and whose soul and is now atrophying in the crumbling gothic grandeur of the wonderfully realised Satis House.
Miss Havisham tells the young Pip that she is the ghost of a bride. Her first appearance is suitably eerie and ethereal, robed as she is in a gleaming white, with white ringlets framing her pallid face and her voice one of childlike innocence. But the cracks and flaking lips, the bluish tinge around her eyes, the festering skin disease that eats away at the flesh of her hands is but the first of the outward signs of the malice seeping from her heart. Surrounded by dusty stuffed animals and maps of a world into which she will never venture again, this anguished beauty plots her revenge while 'nurturing' a friendship between Pip and her adopted daughter, Estella.
The VV looks forward to the final episode of this tense noir drama tonight, but for those who may not yet have seen it, the first two episodes are now available on BBC iplayer.
And here is the scene in which Miss Havisham interrogates Pip on his first visit to Satis House...
For a related post: IMAGES OF MISS HAVISHAM ON SCREEN