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Screenwriter Hossein Amini has abandoned the dense prose and convoluted syntax of Henry James's most complex and difficult novel and created instead a fresh, emotionally nuanced, and psychologically astute script, nominated for an Academy Award. With a remarkable cast, breathtaking cinematography (Eduardo Serra), and a soft background score filled with strings, harp, and piano (Edward Shearmur), Director Iain Softley has created a magnificent film that succeeds in being emotionally affecting, intellectually stimulating, and aesthetically rewarding, a film in which every element contributes to a satisfying whole.
Remaining true to the story of James's novel, the film introduces Kate Croy (Helena Bonham Carter) as the beautiful but impoverished niece of a wealthy socialite (Charlotte Rampling), bent upon finding her a husband of means, but Kate must first sever ties with her opium-addicted father and end her relationship with Merton Densher (Linus Roache), a penniless journalist. A friend of Kate, heiress Millie Theale (Alison Elliot), invites her to Venice, where Millie insists on living life to the fullest even as she is dying of an unnamed disease. There Kate introduces Millie to Densher, to whom she is immediately attracted. Kate desperately suggests that Densher pursue Millie, who may, upon her death, leave Densher wealthy enough to marry Kate.
Without such a brilliant cast, such a story would resemble the worst of melodramas, but Bonham Carter (nominated for an Oscar as Best Actress) creates in Kate a character so tormented by her love that one understands her deviousness to be the result of desperation. Alison Elliot creates a Millie whose strength and desire to live life are so strong that her passion for Densher is plausible, and her willingness to go to his room at night becomes a courageous statement, rather than a maudlin gesture. Linus Roache as Densher is phlegmatic enough that he can be manipulated by Kate, but he shows backbone in his desire to honor Millie and avoids the pitfall of being considered weak.
The acting is subtle, understated, and profoundly affecting, with many revealing close-ups, and emotions conveyed through gestures, body language, and occasionally, mere eye contact. The Academy Award-nominated cinematography, especially in Venice, features one element in a scene blending into the succeeding scene, bridges framing action on the canals, and the dramatic use of darkness and light. The Oscar-nominated costuming (Sandy Powell) adds to the mood and atmosphere, with the music providing an effective bridge between scenes. Every aspect of the film works, and not a word or gesture is wasted in this quietly presented drama of great power. Mary Whipple
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on 4 July 2003
Rarely has a film of such extraordinary visual beauty reached the profound emotional depths of this magnificently acted period film from Iain Softley. Based on the novel by Henry James, cinematographer Eduardo Serra sets a table of beauty and elegance while screenwriter Houssein Amini serves up dishes of love, passion and desire, all arranged in their proper order by director Softley, creating an unforgettable dining experience.
Helena Bonham Carter is Kate, a passionate beauty in love with Martin (Linus Roache), a man without money. Charlotte Rampling is her rich aunt, who may force her to marry well, but not for love. Kate has a fire burning beneath her dark beauty, however, and when fate gives her an opportunity to show Martin how she loves, a dangerous journey down winding currents is begun, and neither she nor Martin will be prepared for what awaits them at the river's end.
Alison Elliot is simply marvelous as Millie, her finest role since "The Spitfire Grill." Millie is a charming American girl of great wealth reaching out to touch life before it passes by. She and Kate will become fast and inseparable friends, but Millie's attraction to Martin and a secret discovered by Kate will set in tenuous motion a plan to solve all their problems. When the maneuvering of lives like chess pieces involves both the human heart and someone as special as Millie, however, unforseen complications can arise.
Helena Bonham Carter may have received all the nominations as the beautiful and passionate Kate, but Alison Elliot's portrayel of the sweet and open Millie, rich but lonely, and hoping for love, deserved an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination as well. Italy is beautifully recreated from the period in a film of both depth and beauty.
This film is a true cinematic masterpiece. Fine Italian lace is gently lifted back to reveal an emotionally naked look at the human heart. It is substance with beauty and beauty with substance, and is not to be missed....
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on 1 June 2006
I have seen this film several times and enjoy it a great deal. I can't fault any of the performances and save particular praise for Linus Roache who's portrayal of Merton is sensitive and moving. This is a love story where everyone is aloof and disengaged from one another until the emotional climax between Milly and Merton when a terrible deception is revealed. The tone of the film and the characters personalities are changed forever from this point as this intense scene strips away the reality of the central characters feelings. An excellent film in the Merchant Ivory vein; emotionally rewarding rather than romantic.
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To be honest there have been a few adaptations of Henry James’ novels to the big screen, but in most cases they haven’t really worked, and ultimately this is still the best adaptation of one of his full novels to the screen.

With good acting throughout, and indeed won Helena Bonham Carter a lot of praise this has wonderful costumes and great sets, as well as outdoor locations. One of James’ last novels this concerns wealth and the begetting of it. With two persons who are rather suffering in genteel poverty we have two others who are much better off, indeed one of them the very ill Milly, is an heiress to quite a fortune.

As you would expect, the original novel is more involved and complex than the film, but this is still worth watching and could result in some becoming more interested in and picking up ‘The Master’s’ novels and starting to read them. Quite deep and rather aloof and cold bloodied as such in parts this really helps to accentuate the whole morality of this tale.

This does include subtitles.
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on 25 April 2007
If you liked 'A room with a view' (which I am waiting for Universal to publish PROPERLY on DVD. The current version is a mess), you are bound to enjoy this piece like I did.

Helena Bonham carter, Linus Roache, Alison Elliott and Charlotte Rampling (my favourite in this film) all play beautifully. They express the character's emotions in a very subtle yet effective way - just a glance, almost unhearable whispers, or even silence. Each scene is carefully crafted + shot. It is just like a series of beautiful paintings.

This one is to be watched with a glass of good red wine.
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on 27 August 2002
This is a beautiful adaptation of the Henry James Novel. Set in London and Venice it is the story of a scheming young woman, Kate (Helena Bonham Carter) and her immoral plan of trying to get her lover, Murton (Linus Roach) to seduce a dying heiress in the hope of inheriting her fortune.
The costumes and settings are amazing and the director tells the story in a moving and timeless fashion. The characters are well developed especially Kate and we have a fair chance to judge her for good or bad. It is extremely moving and the rather open ending is dealt with very well.
I would highly recommend this film if simply just for the exquisite costumes and locations.
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This remarkable, well acted, impressively directed and emotionally sophisticated film comes to blu ray with a transfer which is not reference quality, lacks fine detail and is rather subdued so don't expect hi-def miracles. The audio is fine too and does it's job. Still this modern retelling (just slightly updated) of Henry James extraordinary novel of love, friendship and the realities of life is an essential part of any serious DVD collection. The cast are uniformally excellent and the candid depiction of the sexuality beneath the surface of James's nove, does not really damage the production but in fact gives the dilemma of the characters an added poignancy. However it may be a little strong for those expecting "A Room With A View - Part Two".
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There have been many successful productions of Henry James's novel, but this is surely the grandest and deepest of the screen adaptations. The novel is lengthy and complex, but director Iain Softley and writer Hossein Amini, put together a retelling that simplifies the story while managing to strike the touchstones at the heart of it.

The story tells of a young couple, Kate and Merton, who must face poverty if they marry. When it becomes apparent that a wealthy but dying friend, Milly, is in love with Merton, the pair hatch a plan to have Merton woe and marry Milly, and inherit the fortune on Milly's death, This mercenary scheme poses several obvious obstacles and dilemmas, which are raked over in detail in the novel, and depicted with well-paced moodiness and circumspection by the protagonists in this movie.

The story is told slowly and with patient use of silence to convey the love and the tension that drives the movie. It is a movie on a grand scale, with plenty of location shooting in London, Venice, and various stately homes..There is little to fault on its production. The atmosphere is a little oppressive at times, with seemingly nobody at ease in any situation. Even the bedroom scenes between Kate and Merton are so tense.that they border on being cold. The constant leaded seriousness of it is redolent of 1978's drama Interiors, though Bonham-Carter occupies the screen with characteristically meaningful moodiness that fits Henry James's work.

The lovemaking scene in which Bonham-Carter appears completely naked is strong and full of dramatic portent, but the director's baulking at male nudity in the same scene seems less than balanced. Actually, I regret that she appeared naked in this movie. She was achingly beautiful in the 1980s, but her nudity does rather unwrap and thereby diminish the gift to unrequited interest that she once was.

While the film is a look at how tragic circumstance can rip apart a relationship. I would have liked it more if it balanced the ominous death with some indication of hope, however it might ultimately have been trounced later, that Kate and Merton's love was something more than desperate, and that it was worth fighting for. It's just a bit heavy going; beautiful in many ways for all that, but at the same time unremittingly tragic.
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on 1 February 2001
This is a beautifully directed film. Especially if you are fond of the Venice city just like I am, you will truly enjoy watching it. The whole storyline develops around a triangle of love, hestiation, romance, passion and emphasizes people's weaknesses towards love. Helena Bonham Carter shows a marvellous performance. Should definitely be acquired
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on 9 April 2008
Based on the novel by Henry James, `The Wings of the Dove' is a beautiful film both in terms of locations, story and acting.
Helena Bonham Carter plays Kate Croy, who after being taking on as a ward by her Aunt Maude, is forced to meet illicitly with her lower class lover Merton Densher (played by Linus Roache). When Kate discovers that her new friend Mille (played by Alison Elliot), a wealthy American heiress is terminally ill, she sets about enticing Merton to seduce Millie in order for Kate and Merton to be able to marry through the acquisition of her inheritance.
The cinematography of the film is simply stunning, especially the night scenes in Venice, the costumes too are beautifully made and in my opinion Helena Bonham Carter has never looked better; whilst she may not want to be known as a corset queen, it must be said that her performances in such period films are always superb. It is also obvious why Bonham Carter was Oscar nominated for the film, she succeeds playing a complex character and the scene where she writes a letter to Merton, terrified that her lover will fall in love with Millie is almost heartbreaking to watch, we can truly understand her pain, yet we also understand that this is a pain of her own design.
All in all, `The Wings of the Dove' is to be highly recommended, darker than your normal period drama; the film looks at human manipulation and jealously. The final love scene is incredibly emotive, the viewer can almost see the pain etched on the protagonists' faces, and indeed it is interesting that during an act of complete and utter intimacy, the two lovers have never been further apart from one another.
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