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The Remains of the Day (1993)

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A butler who sacrificed body and soul to service in the years leading up to World War II realizes too late how misguided his loyalty was to his lordly employer.

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Writers:

(novel), (screenplay)
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2,748 ( 551)
Nominated for 8 Oscars. Another 15 wins & 24 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
John Haycraft ...
Auctioneer
...
Jack Lewis
...
...
Caroline Hunt ...
Landlady
...
Lord Darlington
...
William Stevens
Paula Jacobs ...
Mrs. Mortimer, the cook
...
Charlie, Head Footman
...
George, Second Footman
...
Housemaid (as Abigail Harrison)
...
Spencer
Peter Cellier ...
Sir Leonard Bax
Peter Halliday ...
Canon Tufnell
...
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Storyline

A rule bound head butler's world of manners and decorum in the household he maintains is tested by the arrival of a housekeeper who falls in love with him in post-WWI Britain. The possibility of romance and his master's cultivation of ties with the Nazi cause challenge his carefully maintained veneer of servitude. Written by Keith Loh <loh@sfu.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for themes | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

|

Language:

| |

Release Date:

19 November 1993 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Lo que queda del día  »

Box Office

Budget:

$11,500,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$22,954,968 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The picture's director James Ivory said of this film: "I first read The Remains of the Day in 1989 while we were shooting Mr. & Mrs. Bridge (1990) in Kansas City. One of our actors gave me the book. I knew at once that I wanted to make it into a film. The story seemed to me to be a sort of classic triangle, with Stevens the butler (Anthony Hopkins) torn between his loyalty to his dubious master, Lord Darlington (James Fox), and his growing and unsuspected feelings for the housekeeper he has hired, Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson), feelings which went both unexpressed and unexamined. The milieu was also interesting for me, as well as the period: a great aristocratic establishment centered in an English country house just before and after the Second World War, but seen from the perspective of the staff, and most particularly, the butler. We had touched slightly on this world in Maurice (1987) pre-1914, and I felt it had a lot to offer. I instructed my agent in England to see if the novel's rights were free, but I soon learned they were not. Harold Pinter had optioned the book and was said to be writing a screenplay for Mike Nichols, who would be making the film for Columbia Pictures. I thought, 'Well, that's that', but I followed the progress of the project anyway, things can always happen, this time through my American agent. And things did happen: Mike Nichols withdrew, his replacement Christopher Menaul also in time withdrew, and Columbia, who already knew I was interested, began looking around to see who might be ready to take up The Remains of the Day (1993). This coincided with the first success of Howards End (1992). The result was that Merchant Ivory ended up forming a partnership with Mike Nichols and John Calley to make the film in the fall of 1992. I felt I needed a different script and Ruth Jhabvala [Ruth Prawer Jhabvala] agreed to supply one. Many of our collaborators from Howards End (1992) were also available: Tony Pierce-Roberts would be the cinematographer; Luciana Arrighi came back as production designer, as did the costume designers Jenny Beavan and John Bright. Andrew Marcus was again to be our editor, and Richard Robbins who has [had at the time] done the musical score for every MIP [Merchant Ivory Productions] film but one since 'The Europeans (1979), came on again as composer. That is probably why the film was made so swiftly". See more »

Goofs

When Mr. Stevens arrives in the market town on his way to Clevedon, a modern "National Westminster Bank" sign is seen on a building in the background as he is getting his case out of the car. See more »

Quotes

Miss Kenton: What's in that book? Come on, let me see!
Stevens: This is my private time. You're invading it.
Miss Kenton: Oh, is that so?
Stevens: Yes.
Miss Kenton: I'm invading your private time, am I?
Stevens: Yes.
See more »


Soundtracks

Blue Moon
Composed by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
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User Reviews

 
The best story of unrequited love in cinema history.
30 July 2003 | by (UK) – See all my reviews

This is, in my opinion, the finest film in the Merchant Ivory canon. And to hail it as such is to grossly undersell it. It is not only that but also the best story of unrequited love in cinema history, and a masterpiece of understated emotion. It also boasts some of the finest performances ever put on film, most notably from the peerless Anthony Hopkins.

Then again, understatement is the key to this film. Writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and Director James Ivory adapt Kazuo Ishiguro's poignant novel with such delicacy that it gets under ones skin in a deeply profound way difficult to express in a few words.

The plot opens in the 1950's as meticulous and emotionally repressed butler Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) reviews a lifetime of service in Darlington Hall. The story flashes back to the 1930's where Stevens formed a close friendship with housekeeper Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson). This relationship grew slowly over several years and ultimately the pair developed romantic feelings for one another, although neither admitted it. Whilst all this was happening, Steven's employer Lord Darlington (Edward Fox) gradually became a misguided Nazi sympathiser in pre-war Europe. Unfortunately, loyalty to his master caused Stevens to reject the delicate advances of Miss Kenton. History took its inevitable course, and Darlington's involvement in appeasement contributed to the outbreak of World War II. Now Stevens realises he made a mistake and wants to make amends.

To describe Anthony Hopkins as brilliant is completely redundant. His turn here goes way beyond mere acting, and it was criminal he was denied the Oscar at the 1994 Academy awards. Stevens absurdly repressed personality gently takes the audience from laughter to tears in the most emotionally devastating finale I have ever seen. Hopkin's mesmerising performance is matched by a career-best turn from Emma Thompson. The supporting cast is uniformly superb, including a pre-Four Weddings Hugh Grant and Christopher Reeve in one of his last roles before the accident that paralysed him.

Needless to say, the cinematography, music, editing and art direction are immaculate. The understated beauty of the English countryside that was so important to the book translates brilliantly to film here.

This is a lovely, melancholic film, which effortlessly embraces complex themes such as misguided loyalty, dignity, pride, wasted lives, and unrequited love. It would be all too much to bear if it weren't for the film's genuine good-humoured understanding of English culture (all the more remarkable for having been initially penned by a Japanese author). In fact, humour is an important element in the film. There are many laugh-out-loud moments, which make the tragic part of the story all the more real and poignant. All in all, The Remains of the Day is a milestone film – an unforgettable tragedy of a man who pays the terrible price of denying his own feelings.


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