(A note before I start: I am aware that I am using the term metafiction improperly here: I should say metadrama talking of Pirandello, metafiction for the novel The man who invented Christmas, metacinema for the film. But this is not an academic work: I write for fun. Or I could just say Meta, but I don’t fancy the word much, except perhaps in conversation)
There are stories so well devised that they can be made into countless films, and they will always work; A Cristmas Carol is one of them: you have the Disney version, the Muppet version, the ones adapted to the modern world, and they all work. The mixture of sentimentality and social criticism, of realism and fantastic elements is absolutely perfect.
The new film The man who invented Christmas is not a direct adaptation, as it is based on a novel by Les Standiford by the same title (which I haven’t read). It may not be a great film, but it is highly enjoyable and – no surprise there – the best parts are the ones in which Charles Dickens interacts with the characters of the story he is struggling to write. As an Italian, I thought of Six characters in search of an author, the play by Luigi Pirandello in which some characters discuss their lot. A Christmas comedy may not be as original or deep, but it is definitely more enjoyable and more fun to watch. That’s one wonderful thing to do, making metafiction light and enjoyable even by audiences who have no idea what it is; besides, seeing a writer deal with his characters as if they were real people, but not really, is bound to be intriguing even for viewers who wouldn’t be bothered to get anywhere near difficult, theoretical stuff, provided they love stories.
(The picture above belongs to Rombus Media)
As films are always dubbed before they are released in Italian cinemas, I am going to have to wait for the dvd to hear the original dialogues and enjoy the acting properly, but even just watching the acting was good. Christopher Plummer is stratospheric as Scrooge – to the expected cinicism and harshness he adds a glint of despair in his blue eyes I had never seen in other Scrooges.