Tuesday, December 6, 2011


On the twelfth Lynchian day of Christmas, we present Robert Zemeckis's big budget 3-D motion capture Disney adaptation of Charles Dickens's classic A Christmas Carol (2009). David Lynch's contemplative approach to film feels at home with Dickens's style of writing, something hinted at in the Dickensian The Elephant Man (1980). And Dickens's novella A Christmas Carol is probably his most Lynchian work. For instance, the novella plays on Ebenezer Scrooge's uncertainty about whether he is dreaming or in fact receiving angelic visitors that Christmas Eve—like the literal angels at the end of Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992). And like many of Lynch's films, A Christmas Carol centers on a character wrestling with guilt as he confronts his own horrifying reality.
Dickens's A Christmas Carol was first published in 1843 and has been adapted to screen dozens of times for cinema and television audiences. And while everyone has a favorite version, we consider the 3-D animated Disney version released two years ago one of the best, most faithful, and Lynchian renderings of the story to date. When leaving the movie theater, we overheard people in the audience comment that the movie is too intense and frightening for children to watch. Partly at fault was the misleading trailers for the film, which framed it as a zany cartoon rather than a powerful examination of life and death. And although Zemeckis indulges in some madcap frivolity here and there, the film is dark and introspective in ways rarely encountered in modern animated movies.
In many ways, Robert Zemeckis's A Christmas Carol resonates more with traditional Walt Disney era animation than with today's crop. Walt Disney was willing to take his animated movies to much darker places than most modern animators. If you think back to your childhood, some of the most frightening scenes were in Disney movies. Pinocchio's transformation into a donkey, Dumbo's mother protecting him and getting roped down, Dumbo's infamous drunken hallucination of elephants on parade, Bambi's mother shot by a hunter, etc. And like those early Disney films, A Christmas Carol does not shy away from featuring some surprisingly horrific imagery, particularly in the disturbing Lynchian scene where Scrooge  is introduced to the personifications of Want and Ignorance and witnesses the dissolution of the Ghost of Christmas Present into a segue for universal death. A Christmas Carol (2009) is a great Christmas film and the story is as relevant today as it was in mid-nineteenth century London.

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