The most iconic Christmas story, after The Nativity, has got to be Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. Reshaped time and time again in different written and film versions, it’s a story known universally across the ages. The Man Who Invented Christmas is a film that tells the story of how Charles Dickens came to write this literary classic.
Set in 1840’s Victorian England, the scenery is just adorable. All cobbled streets, floor to ceiling books, plush furniture and elaborate decor, it was easy to be quickly swept back a Century or so.
Our story begins telling the sorry tale of Dickens last three books being failures. Facing debt and considering giving up writing, Dickens is struck by an idea to write a book about the impending holiday – Christmas.
A short conversation with his childrens nanny leads Dickens to find out an old Irish fable about how spirits are believed to return to the present day on Christmas eve and a chance encounter with a grumpy old man at a burial begin the conception of Dickens most loved tale. Few people around him believe that with just six weeks to go until Christmas, and the fact it’s “such a small holiday”, that the book will even come to life, let alone be a hit!
I won’t say much more about the story in case you want to see it yourself! I loved how the tale was filmed, from the perfect scenery and attention to detail, to the hops between past and present. My favourite thing about the film was as Dickens envisions each character, they come to life in front of his eyes. The first character from the book that we meet is our miserable protagonist, Mr Scrooge, who follows Dickens around, even waking him in the night. I also appreciated that the dialogue was not overly Victorian, I find it hard to follow “Old English”, for me it had just the right amount of Victorian phrases and discourse.
For the best part of the film, and probably even until I got home, I was super disappointed with the distinct lack of festiveness in the film! We don’t meet a Christmas tree until about the last 10 minutes of the film, and given it was set in the six weeks leading up to Christmas, I (im)patiently anticipated a door wreath and some decorations from the get go.
Now I’m home, and thinking back to things that were referenced a few times in the film, I think the Victorian era post Dickens Christmas Carol just didn’t have that much of a “thing” for Christmas as we do now. It undoubtedly shaped the current “spirit” of how we celebrate Christmas, with tonnes of forgiveness, love and compassion. Which in hindsight makes sense, I think the title of the film is a complete give away to what the story shows, maybe I am naive because it took me a while to figure it out, Dickens really was The Man Who Invented Christmas.