(Author’s note: This remains one of my favorites, and I think I’ll post this here so that everyone sees it. Plus, it being the Christmas season…)
The year? 1843.
The man? Charles Dickens.
The object? One of the greatest books ever written.
I know the title at the top says “movie review”, and I’ll stick true to my word and review this noble movie, but The Man Who Invented Christmas is a movie about a book. A Christmas Carol, to be exact. It’s also a story about a writer, and how he wrote the book. This movie is essential watching for any young writer. It remains a gushing fountain of inspiration for me, and it never fails to make me write.
Charles Dickens, in the wake of his new novel Oliver Twist, has become immensely popular. Englishmen as well as Americans adore his works. However, after three book flops on the market, he needs a new (And better) book. His debts are beginning to catch up with him, and he’s in need of cash.
Desperately, he wracks his mind for new ideas to put on paper. However, as luck would have it, a series of unlikely events occurred, and Dickens finally visualizes A Christmas Carol. Bharat Nalluri (Director) stages the film so profoundly that Dickens finds inspirations for characters like Scrooge and Tiny Tim in his day-to-day life.
As time goes on, Dickens gathers more and more inspirations from his day-to-day life to put in his book. The way the movie is spun (We see all of this from Dickens’ perspective) we see the characters of his creation in actual, incarnated entities: In fact as the movie wears on, Dickens gets in literal and audible arguments with his characters, whom, from his point of view, are as real as anything else.
As the movie draws to a close, Dickens becomes agitated and develops a form of Writer’s Block, and for some reason he cannot finish the story the way he wants to. The deadline of his book draws ever nearer, but he doesn’t know what to do. In the end, however (No spoilers beyond this…I’m telling you, you gotta see this movie!) he shakes his blockage and finishes one of the greatest books ever written.
The way the story is written tells a compelling tale: It’s the story of what kind of relationship a man has with his writing. There are other elements, but this is prominently among them. One of the coolest things is that, to Dickens, his book characters are visible, physical entities. They overflow with personality. It’s a good cue to us writers out there.
What’s the cue? Well, by formulating our characters by what we see in reality, we can make them better, more believable, and more interesting.
Say, you want to make a character. Let’s say this character is a pirate. There are DOZENS of pirate clichés out there to choose from to add personality, and they include peg legs, eye patches, cursing, “Aarr!”, naval language, a tendency to drink, usually found in taverns and bars, tellers of tales and singers of songs, and an unquenchable thirst for adventure. (Cue not-so-subtle Tintin theme) Since there are so many pirate archetypes out there, let’s put them to use! Make an archetypical pirate, but then, THAT’S where you add the twist. THAT’S where you make THIS pirate YOUR pirate. Maybe he’s a knight-pirate, locked in armor and honor-bound but still in all other respects a true pirate. Maybe he (Or she) is a a gentleman (Or woman), leaving behind all those rough words and rude habits.
There’s a saying that goes, “Good artists borrow, but great artists steal.” It’s true. I don’t mean copyright infringement. Ideas are what’s game; and ideas are not copyrighted. Dickens took inspiration from the world around him, the Victorian age of London. From it, he let his imagination run free, and we now have a masterpiece of literature. He got rich and VERY famous. Learn to take the greatest inspiration from the smallest things. Learn to “steal” things by way of inspiration, and use it to fuel your own imagination.
Overall, this movie is a great five out of five stars for me. Just simply because of the movie’s magical effect on me, I can’t resist going away and writing when I’m done watching. I heartily endorse this movie to any would-be (will-be, that is) writers, or even full-fledged writers. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
Good luck, and happy writing (or watching, which you still should)!