I have to say that sometimes after reading a novel it becomes extremely difficult to watch the film adaptation because the more recent films focus more on maintaining the essence of the novel. That means, most of the story is bypassed in trying to do too much with the plot so it seems more of a way to fit things in than it does to make an actual film. That said, there is not much freedom in this film because much of it is to follow the novel to a T. So instead I mean to follow how Polanski uses Oliver Twist as a means to reawaken Dickens' sentiment. One thing to note is the differences between the wealthy and the poor. The colors change once Oliver runs off to London and then again when he gets to the city. Earlier than that, the workhouse is all gray with God is Love stamped on the back wall of the cafeteria. So there we see early Dickens sentiment, the idea that God will do well by you.
One significant part that I marked in the film was the scene where Oliver demands some more food. Yes, we all know that scene but this one I found markedly different because it portrayed Dickens' irony by contrasting the workhouse cafeteria to the wealthy benefactors who are eating a great feast of pretty foods. Mr. Bumble dashes in to announce that Oliver has demanded more food in which the reply he receives is one that considers it completely unnecessary and selfish to demand more food. Ironic, huh?
What I liked best in this film were the many notions of family. You first see the hostile female and benevelonet husband that take Oliver in. Then there is Mr. Brownlow and the maid, Fagin and the boys, Nancy and Bill Sikes. The film gives this idea of belongingness which is constantly reversed as Oliver switches hands throughout the film. It also gives this idea that Oliver has choice with where he decides to stay and he picks those that he most belongs to. Which is interesting because Oliver belongs most to Mr. Brownlow because he is a kind, intelligent old man, completely disregarding the fact that he is wealthy. Nancy, Sikes and Bulls Eye are most removed from the dynamics of family because they work towards their own selfish needs, although Nancy does redeem herself by helping Oliver find a home. Fagin and the boys work more as a pseudo family because you get the vibe that Fagin means well by the boys and wants to protect them but this is completely disregarded when he has a need to protect himself.
The film itself, apart from adapting a novel that has been quite overdone, has little to say in originality. The film is inconsistent in keeping with the story, it does so well as to render key points confusing unless you've read the novel, and other points are too dark to display as a true family movie. For one, the death scene of Nancy was way too brutal for kids to see and could have been glossed over, and the death scene with Bill Sikes is also too much for children. Oliver's upward mobility in social classes is also questionable because there is no explanation and because there was no narrative to be used as an explanation, as is the case in the novel. Oliver is not portrayed as a child, in fact he can barely be characterized at all because the actor is so lackluster.