A Complex Dodger?
Regarding Oliver Twist
in general: Nope, the accent's not the greatest, and neither is the adaptation of the story. But it does have some good points, and I think this scene is one of them. (For overall comments on this movie, click here
I asked the Faculty member who located and sent me a VCD copy of Oliver Twist to pick the first scene we'd look at from that movie, and this is the one she suggested. Good choice--it certainly plays to Elijah's strengths (which many parts of the movie don't). You might say it gives us a glimpse of the "inner Artful Dodger," that's hidden by the persona he's adopted in order to survive. He lets down his guard enough to let Oliver know - without directly telling him - that his life isn't as wonderful as he pretends it is. His main message is: If you have a chance to escape, take it! But then the outer persona comes back, claiming that, of course, he doesn't want the type of life Oliver's hoping for.
So we have this boy who, at age - what? - maybe sixteen, believes it's already too late for him to escape, but he wants this younger version of himself to have a chance. There's a line I listened to several times, because I realized I'd been hearing it wrong in previous viewings of the movie. Oliver says, "It isn't a game any longer." Dodger replies, "It never was, mate. We just thought it was." Previously, I'd thought the line was, "You just thought it was." That "We" makes his lost innocence even more poignant. He's already world weary and cynical, warning Oliver not to trust anyone, least of all him.
That's all in the script, so we can't really credit Elijah for it. But, as usual, we can credit him with showing us more clearly than the words do what's going on within the character. The scene's shown mostly in close-ups (well, I did say it played to Elijah's strengths), and we can almost watch the "real Dodger" and the self he shows the world play across his face. I'm not at all sure I've figured this out, but it seems to me that when the outer persona is speaking, we generally see a somewhat self-mocking raise of the eyebrows.
This is supposed to be a child-friendly movie, and most of the characters are pretty uncomplicated, emotionally. Of course, a viewer doesn't have to pick up all of the nuances Elijah gives the Dodger to understand the character well enough to follow the story, but - at least in some scenes, including this one - they're there.
There isn't much movement or plot development in this scene, so I'm simply putting up screencaps that show some of the subtle emotional action going on. They are in chronological order and are taken from spots throughout the entire scene.