Top positive review
4 people found this helpful
on 10 December 2017
A superb blu ray, featuring a 4k restoration from the original camera negatives. The image is crisp, clean and sharp. The film is beautifully made, it's colour palette reflecting Edwardian era fashion is made quite often of browns, whites, blacks, greys and gold. The same is true of the exterior shots of London, The lighting also does a fine job at reflecting the tone of various scenes. Colours tend to be boldest in the sunny outdoor exterior shots of Howard House. The film has high production values, which are clearly on display with all it's period piece costumes, it's grand scope and extensive supporting cast and top actors. Too many recent films set in Victorian and Edwardian times try to use too much CGI when doing various scenes. Howard's End though is gratefully not like this, whether it's the Streets of London, the interior of the homes or the idyllic English countryside everything looks authentic and real, the art and production design is outstanding, you really feel like your stood in an Edwardian department shop or on a train platform from 100 years ago.
Onto the story itself, for a title called Howard's End it surprising how little of the story actually takes place there, much of the first part taking place in London. Howard's end is portrayed as a charming house with beautiful grounds, home of the Willcoxes, a wealthy family, featuring two parents and there two rather spoilt children one of whom is recently married. The family comes into contact with the Schlegels, a well to do family made up of two sisters and a brother. In contrast the Schlegels are more liberal minded and take a real interest in art, music and more radical kinds of politics. At it's heart the film can been seen as a satire on Edwardian society with it's double standards as well as a comedy with tragic elements also woven in. Many of the issues feel very contemporary, the clash often occurring when two different families are brought together by marriage, the place of women in society and also issues surrounding houses and home. The Schlegels are to loose their home as the lease expires on it and developers want to knock it down and build new flats instead. Lack of housing security is an all too modern problem for many people living in London. The real tragedy of the story though is focused on the hapless Leonard Bast, a poor clerk with an interest in culture, especially the arts and sciences. An accidental encounter leading to a friendship with the Schlegels ought to be the begining of his ascent to greater things. Tragically though the contact with the sisters who want to help him leads to utter disaster for for Leonard.
While I love this film I wouldn't say it's flawless. I found the marriage proposal a bit abrupt, didn't really feel there was enough in it, also the 21 year age gap between two lovers was noticeable. Also in a few parts the editing felt a bit awkward, a couple of times it fades to black then reopens still in the same scene talking. Fade to black is normally used as a way to show a scene is ending. It's pretty obvious large chunks have been cut out of the film, the director confirmed the original cut was about three hours long. Also I found the portrayal of Charles Wilcox a bit off, he keeps pulling these silly faces. If you want to make him into the posh twit then okay, but that makes it much harder to take him seriously near the end when he becomes this threatening menacing character. Also it's made pretty clear throughout that he doesn't like the Schlegels very much so it's hard to understand why he feels the need to right a wrong as he sees it on Helen's behalf. I suppose he's an old-fashioned kind who feels married men who get another woman pregnant need to be taught a lesson, especially poor ones.
Overall all though this is a superb film adaptation of Forster's great book.