When I saw this TV adaptation I enjoyed it in its own right, not having read the novel, but having now read it I must say the additions in Andrew Davies' script, which hadn't offended me in themselves as they did some other viewers, now seem to me to be rather silly and to contravene Forster without improving on him. For one thing, Davies insists on the class distinction between the lovers, but Forster makes it clear that this is not so great: Lucy's family is unaristocratic and has only been admitted to better society by a geographical accident. Then, Davies insists on the homosexual inclination of two characters, which is not only to read between the lines but to go beyond what Forster wrote. He might or might not have seen that as a part of their make-up; it wouldn't matter to the story either way; but I think it's safe to say Forster's Rev. Beebe would never have gone looking for "action" in Italy as Davies' does (or as Davies himself does through the character), and in any case this is irrelevant to the aspect the character presents in the novel; and to use the descriptions Beebe and Forster's other characters give of Cecil Vyse as hints toward his sexual tendency is to misread them; Forster has a different and more interesting view of his nature, and leaves him in, one might say, a world all his own. Finally, the epilogue, which is derived from Forster's speculation on what might happen to the characters "after" the novel, is irrelevant for just that reason: it lies outside the scope of the novel, which is complete in itself.
I do think, however, that this adaptation has a couple of things in its favor, but perhaps not greatly in its favor, over the theatrical film. The novel is a comic novel--a comedy of manners, if the term may be applied to a novel--that reads lightly and trippingly, although it deals with the serious subjects of love and self-knowledge. Its happy idea is something like this: even a fleeting kiss can reveal essential truth and by its light expose all competing falsehoods. The first film was rather too grand for its source, like a vellum-bound gold-tipped limited edition; this version is more to scale. However, it too veers away from the comic, dropping much of the (apparently) trivial chatter while not only retaining but expanding on most of the (seemingly) more serious exchanges. Here Lucy, the character who receives wisdom, seems more accurately cast, being of more indeterminate class (and affections), younger, and more unworldly, though still not quite young enough and not quite the Lucy of the novel, since the script doesn't put her through all the paces Forster does. However, most of the secondary characters are miscast: Sinead Cusack might profitably have traded roles with Elizabeth McGovern, and Timothy West with Timothy Spall, and brought greater weight, as in the novel, to the roles of the mother and the spiritual mentor, making Lucy's changes of direction more credible. I think now that this adaptation, while enjoyable in itself, shared Lucy's condition: it needed a little spiritual guidance too.
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