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The Portrait of a Lady (1996)

PG-13 | | Drama, Romance | 17 January 1997 (USA)
2:11 | Trailer
An American girl inherits a fortune and falls into a misguided relationship with a gentleman confidence artist whose true nature, including a barbed and covetous disposition, turns her life into a nightmare.



(novel), (screenplay)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Catherine Zago ...
Mother Superior
Alessandra Vanzi ...
Nun #2


Isabel Archer, an American heiress and free thinker travels to Europe to find herself. She tactfully rebuffs the advances of Caspar Goodwood, another American who has followed her to England. Her cousin, Ralph Touchett, wise but sickly becomes a soulmate of sorts for her. She makes an unfortunate alliance with the creepy Madame Merle who leads her to make an even more unfortunate alliance with Gilbert Osmond, a smooth but cold collector of Objets' de art who seduces her with an intense but unattainable sexuality. Isabel marries Osmond only to realize she's just another piece of art for his collection and that Madame Merle and Osmond are lovers who had hatched a diabolical scheme to take Isabel's fortune. Isabel's only comfort is the innocent daughter of Osmond, Pansy, but even that friendship is spoiled when Countess Gemini, Osmond's sister, reveals the child's true parentage. Isabel finally breaks free of Osmond and returns to Ralph's bedside, where, while breathing his last, they ... Written by Teresa B. <O'Donnell@worldnet.att.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for mature sensuality and some brief nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:







Release Date:

17 January 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Retrato de una dama  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

ITL 5,570,319,000 (Italy) (15 November 1996)


$3,684,143 (USA) (21 February 1997)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Daniel Day-Lewis was offered the role of Ralph, but turned it down. See more »


During the ball scene, a full orchestra can be heard while only a chamber orchestra (less than ten people) appears on the screen. See more »


Gilbert Osmond: I know plenty of dingy people. I don't want to know any more.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Jane Campion thanks her family, Colin, Alice and Richard, for their generous support, suggestions and encouragement during the making of this film. See more »


Referenced in Deformed Monsters (1997) See more »


The Skater's Waltz
Composed by Andrew C. Pilmer
Provided by Associated Production Music
See more »

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User Reviews

A cool, enigmatic film, but stylish...
13 September 1998 | by See all my reviews

An interesting film with an undercurrent of sexual repression similar to that in Campion's other films. Nicole Kidman is excellent, given the material, though her transition from likeable, virtuous innocent to a cold and corrupted woman doesn't ring as true as it should--the three years glossed over with a subtitle isn't adequate to show the change. I blame this on the interpretation, direction, and/or editing rather than Kidman's performance, however. Malkovich is not as strong, and one wonders what any woman could see in him as a lover.

The ending is cold and unsettling. Most filmgoers prefer to know that their hero/heroine is "safe" at the end of the story. Here, who knows ?

Production values are good, and the film is quite stylish with interesting use of camera tilt, lighting, and angles. It's quite artsy. I am glad I saw the film, but acknowledge it's not likely to be everyone's cup of tea.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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