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If it's raining, if it's late, if I'm tired of working, if I'm restless or if I'm in a quandary of sorts, "Howard's End". I put the film on and Emma Thompson - presumably with the help of her accomplices, Ivory, Jhavhala, Hopkins etc - takes me away from whatever mood I'm trying to escape and leads me through her own, brilliantly drawn, gently torturous path. I don't recall when was the last time an actress has had this kind of power over my own psyche. The film is constructed with an Ivory attention to detail worthy of a vintage Visconti. The screenplay has no lapses of any kind and never falls into the usual traps. Loyal to its source material and yet, cinematic in the most revolutionary traditional sense of the word. The Britishness of Anthony Hopkins character is turned upside down giving us a glimpse into a character that's a mass of contradictions. But it is Emma Thompson's film from beginning to end. What a glorious achievement.
The literary period piece is a difficult genre to master, requiring a difficult balancing between restraint and flowing emotion. Few films effectively achieve this as beautifully as Merchant-Ivory's astounding HOWARDS END, making it probably the best period film of the 1990's. The film juxtapositions the intellectual, emotionally unhindered Schlegel sisters against the restrained, imperious Wilcox family, and, for good measure, mixes in the differing attitudes toward class emerging early in the century. What could quite easily have been a dry study in the cultural dynamics of pre-WWI England becomes an enveloping tale, thanks in no small part to the performances by Hopkins, Emma Thompson, and Vanessa Redgrave, whose Ruth Wilcox remains enigmatic after every viewing. The emotions ringing through by film's end - not to mention its astoundingly pointed social criticism - give the film its power, a power missing even from Forster's rambling, distant novel. And this story is nestled amongst some of the most beautiful art direction, music, and cinematography to ever grace the screen. The haunting journey to HOWARDS END is one few other recent films can rival.
...and I must admit that on the first viewing, I didn't get it
I'm one of those relative rarities: a straight male that normally enjoys Merchant-Ivory productions. However, I disliked this movie on first viewing (several years ago). In retrospect, I can see that I was not reacting to the movie, but my intense dislike for Anthony Hopkins' character.
I watched it again the other night and was absolutely blown away by it. What a film! Emma Thompson won Best Actress for her performance, and she did her usual terrific job, but frankly I was more impressed by the performance of Helena Bonham Carter. The style of the film is magnificent.
This is a story (like most of E. M. Forster's) about the injustices of class distinctions. However, with a subtlety that I missed on my first viewing, this film is also about karma (what goes around - comes around) and a story of social progress. This film is set in a time when society is coming out of the Victorian age and into the Edwardian. You see contrasts of the past thinking with the progressive thinking all through the movie. A visual metaphor is repeated over and over: the turning of cranks, whether it be on a new-fangled morse code machine, a vintage car, or the wheels of a mighty locomotive. I believe that this represents both karma and progress, forces which Forster sees as unstoppable as the laws of nature.
This is an incredible story, and an incredible piece of film-making.
Here is another example of what the British are best at in film-making. Based on E.M. Forster's novel `Return to Howards End' this film is more or less a set piece in the strictest period-piece tradition, and thus in style is somewhat akin to that great TV series `Return to Brideshead' and even Robert Altman came up trumps with his splendid `Gosford Park' which most definitely takes its well-earned place alongside such classical pieces of this genre.
Likewise, `Howards End' relies heavily on British actors who have worked their way up through live theatre: it is here that you get the best interpretations, the best performances, admirably shown in so many films made on both sides of the Atlantic. If Vanessa Redgrave has long since been a legend among British actresses, Emma Thompson is no lesser performer, and as to the pedigree of Helena Bonham-Carter there can be no arguing. Anthony Hopkins is at least up to the mark in his always sober readings in these kinds of films.
The Bonham-Carter family were well known in the fashionable circles of 1930's London high-society life, for their extravagant soirées and philanthropic sponsoring of young artists, especially musicians, similarly to the Sitwell family from their Chelsea home. Thus it is hardly surprising that Helena Bonham-Carter finds these kinds of rôles admirably suited to her - A Room with a View, anything Shakespearean, among other select `comedies'. Prunella Scales is a grand old lady of theatre, cinema and television, and I can remember her offerings back in the late fifties-early sixties especially on radio programmes.
Beautifully filmed in mostly Oxfordshire and in several places in London, the film also has a few scenes on the coast, possibly Dorsetshire or more probably the south coast of Devon, surprisingly not included in IMDb's very detailed listing of locations. Richard Robbins' music seemed to be heavily influenced by Philip Glass at times, which seemed a misfit, though it was nice to hear a few snatches by Percy Grainger, as well as a version for four hands on the piano of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, possibly one of those tremendous transcriptions which Franz Liszt carried out.
The dialogues are mostly exquisitely delivered, with that peculiarly British panache and timing, though slightly spoiled in this recent re-viewing as there were some untimely cuts on the copy in question. However, the story holds its line and is faithful to E.M. Forster's original concept. He has long been one of the greatest of British novelists, with such works as `A Passage to India', `Where Angels Fear to Tread' and `A Room with a View' to his credit, for serious readers of real literature.
This film version maintains that seriousness for people interested in real play-acting.
"Howards End" is certainly one of the best films of the last decade. I have
seen this film several times over the past 7 years and each time I find
myself in complete awe. I love how its intricate story gradually unfolds
layer by layer, involving us more and more with the characters. "Howards
End" also boasts breath-taking cinematography by Tony Pierce-Roberts and a
rousing and rueful musical score by Richard Robbins.
The ensemble cast is perhaps the best reason to see this film. Emma Thompson won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance, and deservedly so! This is her best performance and her best film, in my opinion. I loved watching the character development in her portrayal of Margaret Schlegel, as she transforms from an open-minded intellectual to a class-conscious social climber. What's remarkable is that we still feel for her greatly as she is going through this transition. She still remains a sympathetic character up until the very end when she slowly comes back to her senses.
Anthony Hopkins also gives one of his best performances as the cold and hypocritical Henry Wilcox. So many scenes shed different lights onto his character. The scene where he proposes to Margaret stands out in particular. There is plenty of erotic tension, but at the same time it almost feels like he is making some sort of impersonal business venture with her.
Vanessa Redgrave is a presence to behold as the fragile Ruth Wilcox. Her performance may be brief, but it leaves an indelible mark, particularly in later scenes when Margaret visits Howards End. Helena Bonham Carter should have gotten an Oscar nomination for her performance. She really has great depth and passion that is well-suited to her character. The rest of the supporting cast is superb. Even the minor characters like Nicola Duffet's Jackie Bast and Jemma Redgrave's stony-faced Evie Wilcox are noteworthy.
"Howards End" is one of the richest, most nuanced films I have seen. It is beautifully shot, well-acted, and exquisitely directed. It deserves to be considered a classic.
This film is a testimony to the creative novelist E.M. Forster! This early 90's full-length version of the novel is faithful to his 1921 masterpiece and beautifully realized by a team of film makers who know the "right moves." What a great trip back to early 20th Century Britain. The film moves briskly but in some ways we're experiencing some time gaps in a slow, slow manner; the outdoor scenes are great and almost multi-sensory. This highly atmospheric film also includes a great ensemble cast headed by Emma Thompson. The film never underestimates the intelligence of the audience and forces us to confront even our own class discriminations! Well worth a VHS or DVD rental; sorry I can't give any comments on DVD extras as I borrowed this free from our local library. Keep a copy of the book handy and notice the masterful interweaving done by Ruth Prawar Jandhlava. Life when fully realized is about much more than consumerist illusions and brief "ownership" by a selfish few. The novel's Motto is "Only connect" and the hard-thinking viewer of this great film will be enabled to do that as well !!!
Howard's End is not an easy movie to sit through if you do not typically watch period films. The language and euphemisms are very old fashioned (1910). But if you really sit back and watch the story unfold you will become engrossed. The crafting of the story by Merchant Ivory is impeccable. They tell the story so visually that you may not notice how physically alike Margaret Schlegel is to Ruth Wilcox in carriage and deportment, but the light-bulb goes off when the housekeeper of Howard's End mistakes Margaret for Ruth. The story itself is so quiet and brilliant that you don't realize something so very profound has happened until the credits roll. Every performance is amazing, but Emma Thompson (she won the Best Actress Oscar) and Vanessa Redgrave stand out. Their scenes together are so full of nuances that it's hard to take it all in during a first viewing.
Masterful performances make this splendid film adaptation of EM Forster's novel of the clashing of the classes a must-see. Anthony Hopkins, Helena Bonham Carter, Vanessa Redgrave, Samuel West, and Emma Thompson fill the screen with passion and vigor. One of the few good movies that does justice to the great book from which it was taken. Lushly filmed and directed with, though sometimes a heavy touch, great vitality by James Ivory. The setting is beautiful, the period feel is very accurate, and the story has subtle beauty. Watch for Ivory bringing out some interesting psychology between characters, especially of different classes. He captures attitudes of the time to near perfection. A cinematic treat.
For those who want to watch an intelligent, lovely-to-look-at motion picture, it doesn't get much better than this. The film tells the story of two sisters, of limited but respectable means, who collide with the world of the very rich in Edwardian England. One sister benefits from the acquaintance with the wealthy Wilcoxes. The other is all but destroyed by it. Along the way, there are charming scenes of tea parties and music classes, elegant costumes, fantastic settings, and engaging conversations. There is also a sad, secondary storyline of a poor clerk and his wife who, unfortunately, slip into even more abysmal circumstances through no fault of their own. The ending is tinged with despair, even as it offers some hope for both of the sisters' futures. The film should be commended as well for the fine performances of Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Helena Bonham-Carter and others. Any discriminating film enthusiast will not want to miss this movie.
Being a man who appreciates beauty and great visual movies, I have
checked out all the Merchant-Ivory films. I found this to be their
prettiest, just stunning in its beauty.
Story-wise, I preferred "The Remains Of The Day," but this was okay. It just didn't have the appealing characters "Remains" had and it was a little too soap opera for my tastes but the visuals made up for that, ...and the story, to be fair, was solid and involving.
It also had Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, and those two make a great pair. I would never get tired of watching either of these great actors, especially when they are together.
If you like period pieces - this is 1910 Edwardian England - along with fabulous sets and scenery, a solid cast, and an involving story, you'll like this. If you are a fan of melodramas then you'll really, really like this!
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