Puff Piece: The Personal History of David Copperfield

Your Humble Blogger watched The Personal History of David Copperfield, Armando Iannucci’s idiosyncratic adaptation of a Charles Dickens novel that I don’t like very much. The movie, however, was delightful.

The main thing that I really liked about it was how much the movie enjoyed the act of storytelling. I suspect some people will find it a stylistic muddle, and that’s certainly fair, but I was totally willing to forgive the muddleosity for the fun of it all. The moments where events being relayed second-hand were projected on the wall of the room the characters were in, or even when one character acknowledges her superfluity in the story. But also the moments where the characters—particularly David himself—enjoyed the act of telling stories or listening to stories, underscoring the fun that the filmmakers and the audience (at least this audience) were having. It’s one of the things I am most interested in, when reading novels and plays and watching movies and soon going to watch plays: the act of storytelling itself.

And, in my experience at any rate, the emphasis on storytelling allowed the Director to cast whoever he wanted in whatever part he liked them in. The actor playing David Copperfield does not have to be white—actors playing parents and children do not need to look like each other—the same actor can play multiple parts—and the audience can easily accept it as part of the story of David Copperfield that this particular group of filmmakers was telling.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

3 thoughts on “Puff Piece: The Personal History of David Copperfield

  1. Dan P

    Oh, this sounds like a lot of fun! How are the suspense-and-menace levels? (a key factor for the young audiences over here)?

    1. Vardibidian Post author

      Not very high suspense-and-menace levels, I would say. There’s Ye Olde Childe Laboure, which is pretty grim but brief, and there’s a Storm at Sea, and people shout at donkeys a lot. Oh, and David engages in fisticuffs at one point and is bloodied, but there’s no question of it spoiling his looks. Content warnings for comic depictions of alcoholism, a Dickensian understanding of mental illness (that is, surprisingly accurate for anything written before around 1990, but also quite awful) , and terrible concertina playing.

      I don’t know how sophisticated young audiences are these days–I think there’s enough silliness of the shouting-at-donkeys kind to keep them amused.


      1. Dan P

        Thanks! I think I’ll float it. (Currently the only thing the whole family is able to watch together is Murder, She Wrote, and the poor quality of some of the motives and mysteries is starting to cause rebellion even there.)


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