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In this version of Henry James' novella "Daisy Miller", a young, bright and bubbly 19th Century American girl on her Grand Tour of Europe meets a fellow American, Frederick Winterbourne. Winterbourne is shocked by Daisy's modern behavior toward life, and spends his time with her trying to figure out if she's having innocent fun or on the path to becoming a fallen woman. Along the way, Winterbourne's judgment is helped and hindered by the other people in Daisy's life. Is Daisy really naive or naughty? Written by
Rebecca J. Burke
This is a film adaptation of Henry James' Novella, "Daisy Miller." It is available on YouTube with annoying sub-titles.
Cybil Shepherd more than adequately interpreted James' character, Daisy Miller. Something of an insubstantial flibbertigibbet, Miss Shepherd conveys that with a speeded, clipped speaking pattern. Never mind, the character Daisy Miller has something of a self-centeredness to her, to the point of self-destruction.
The other principals were more than adequate, but that is why they get paid the sums they do.
Peter Bogdonavich attempted fidelity to James' novella. But an important part of the James novella is the role of the omniscient narrator unfolding the story through interior monologue, a voice over, if you will; but not quite a voice over nor really similar to voice over.
While Frederick Winterbourne provides the first person omniscient narrator, the reader is not fooled that this is Henry James speaking through Winterbourne. And James/Winterbourne can make any number of comments (ironic or snide) and observations that do not appear in the overt spoken dialogue of the story line.
Look at James' narration following the opening gambit of dialogue: "The young lady inspected her flounces and smoothed her ribbons again; and Winterbourne presently risked an observation upon the beauty of the view. He was ceasing to be embarrassed, for he had begun to perceive that she was not in the least embarrassed herself. There had not been the slightest alteration in her charming complexion; she was evidently neither offended nor flattered. If she looked another way when he spoke to her, and seemed not particularly to hear him, this was simply her habit, her manner. Yet, as he talked a little more and pointed out some of the objects of interest in the view, with which she appeared quite unacquainted, she gradually gave him more of the benefit of her glance; and then he saw that this glance was perfectly direct and unshrinking. It was not, however, what would have been called an immodest glance, for the young girl's eyes were singularly honest and fresh. They were wonderfully pretty eyes; and, indeed, Winterbourne had not seen for a long time anything prettier than his fair countrywoman's various featuresher complexion, her nose, her ears, her teeth. He had a great relish for feminine beauty; he was addicted to observing and analyzing it; and as regards this young lady's face he made several observations. It was not at all insipid, but it was not exactly expressive; and though it was eminently delicate, Winterbourne mentally accused itvery forgivinglyof a want of finish. He thought it very possible that Master Randolph's sister was a coquette; he was sure she had a spirit of her own; but in her bright, sweet, superficial little visage there was no mockery, no irony." That dialogue has to be filled in by the camera without commentary; the commentary/observation must be made by the audience which may or may not (mostly not) fill in. What the author saw as important, and the videographer saw as important, the audience may overlook completely. The omniscient narrator gives voice, while the videographer interprets that interior monologue and records in silence.
So to say the film is 'faithful' to James' text is to speak to a lie and misunderstanding of the author's intent, the author's aesthetic, something that few films can capture without an extensive omniscient narrative voice over.
The movie was worth seeing to revisit James' novella; it was competently produced with competent acting. But as always with any film adaptation of a novel too much subtly is lost, too much reliance on the audience to fill in the blanks, a capacity the audience may lack.
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