Friday, 21 September 2012

A Tale of Two Cities and, surprisingly, Batman

I feel like I should start this post with a disclaimer about how much I love Dickens. I love Dickens more than a person such as myself, a person who has really not read much of him at all, should love him. I love his descriptions and his lengthy sentences. I love his delicious but transparent character names. I love his London and his Londoners. However, I have not always been so amorous towards Charles. My first encounter with him was when I was 11 years old and I was forced to read Great Expectations for school. I don’t know whose idea that was, but it was a terrible one. I couldn’t get through it and ultimately I skipped so many large chunks of the novel that when it came to in-class analysis I barely had a grasp of who Estelle was. I didn’t touch Dickens again until the first year of my Undergraduate degree and all I had was the memory of that initial painful encounter. On my second try though, I was immediately in love.

I experienced a repeat of these events when reading A Tale of Two Cities, because my goodness does that book start slow. In the beginning you’re not really sure who anyone is, and it’s difficult to grasp why the jumping around in time is necessary or why we are supposed to care about the shoe-maker and his frequently-fainting daughter. Then, suddenly, you’re on the last chapter and unashamedly balling your eyes out because every character in this thing is Just. So. Perfect. One of the best moments is when the formidable Madame Therese Defarge comes face to face with Miss Pross, and though neither speaks the others language, they have an interaction which is one of the most nail-biting episodes I’ve ever read.

So, imagine my delight, when I recently went to see The Dark Knight Rises and found that the film has pretty much the same story as part of the book focused on the descent of France into the revolution of 1789. The film and the book are tales of societies descending into chaos. Both are trigged by reactions against the systems of power in place, in France the poverty stricken peasants reacted against the rich monarchy, everyone knows the “let them eat cake” line. In the film, the lower classes of society, who are largely portrayed as criminals, react against the falsely idolized figure of Harvey Dent at the instigation of Bane. My favourite thing about discovering this link is that when you originally believe that Bane is the son of Ra's al Ghul that makes him the same character as Therese Defarge, the terrifying and constantly knitting woman who incites violence everywhere she goes. There is something about the image of Bane knitting that tickles me no end.

The main result of the connection between these two storylines was that I spent the end of the film sobbing, as Commissioner Gordon reads a quotation directly from the end of the book. I cried, and was left trying to explain to my boyfriend and his mate why I was making such a spectacle of myself in the local Vue cinema. One should not cry at action films. One should cry, however, at the gorgeous finale to A Tale of Two Cities in which the character you least expect captures your heart and then breaks it. Plus, if it’s good enough for Nolan, it’s good enough for me.