Volume 91, Issue 46

Wednesday, November 19, 1997



Latest adaptation soars

©Mark Tillie/Miramax
THERE AREN'T ANY PICTURES LIKE THIS IN THE BOOK! Helena Bonham Carter and Linus Roache steam up the screen adaptation of Henry James' The Wings of the Dove.

By Brad Lister
Gazette Staff

Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Charlotte Bronte – three great women writers who have had their works transferred in the last three years to screen, both big and small. The next name to add to the list is not a woman, it is Henry James and the screen adaptation of his novel The Wings of the Dove.

Last year Australian director Jane Champion slightly misfired with her adaptation of The Portrait of a Lady and hardly anyone saw the adaptation of Jude the Obscure. But The Wings of the Dove director Iain Softley deftly takes James' work and breathes an incredible amount of life and vitality into it.

The film tells the tale of Kate Croy (Helena Bonham Carter), an ambitious young woman who in late 19th-century England falls in love with a common journalist named Merton Densher (Linus Roache). Conflict arises in the plot because Kate lives with her rich society Aunt Maude after the tragic death of her mother. Maude tells Kate she must give up her lover and keep her place in society.

Complicating things, but also opening up opportunity, is the arrival of American heiress Millie Theale (Alisson Elliot) – a woman with a tragic secret. Thus the stage is set for a densely passionate and coldly psychological story.

Softley spins the film's characters into a layered and dense story. The audience is drawn in so deep that one could cry without even realizing it. The film is a masterpeice of rich storytelling, supported by an incredibly strong script written by Hossein Amini.

The strong sense of story also carries over to the actors involved. Accomplished veteran actress Charlotte Rampling is stunning as Aunt Maude. Her performance allows the audience to realize at once the source of Kate's ruthless qualities. Helena Bonham Carter never lets Kate become unlikable, a role that a lesser actress could just as easily turn into a caricature.

Serving as a complement to Carter is the always powerful Linus Roache. Roache follows up his amazing performance in Antonia Bird's film Priest with a magnificent turn here as secret love Merton Densher. Finally, adding equal fire to this volatile group of actors is Alisson Elliot, who only recently came to the attention of American audiences in The Spitfire Grill – but here she blossoms.

Truly making the film an art is the camera work of cinematographer Eduardo Serra. Serra seems to literally paint his scenes, as the care of each scene is clearly evident on the screen. Serra paints the canvas with so many shades of blue they seem to truly suggest the sometimes cold emotions of the characters.

Sofetly has crafted an incredible piece, a true work of filmic art. The Wings of the Dove takes flight and soars to powerful heights.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1997