Sunday, August 17, 2014

Howards End

Movie Name: Howards End
Year of Release: 1992
Director: James Ivory
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter, Emma Thompson, Samuel West, James Wilby, Prunella Scales, Jemma Redgrave, Nicola Duffett, Susie Lindeman
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 9

"Howards End" was James Ivory's third E. M. Forster adaptation, following the successful diptych that were "A Room with a View" and "Maurice". "Howards End" is from all three, the one that encompasses a larger and more dramatic canvas, one where E.M. Forster addressed issues of class, affairs and children born out of wedlock. The film introduces us to the Schlegel family in England at the turn of 20th century, particularly the older sisters, both of whom are highly educated and progressive women, known for their literary gatherings. After a misunderstood relationship between the younger sister Helen, and a young man of the Wilcox family, both families resume a cordial relationship, when the older sister, Margaret becomes friends with the matriarch of the Wilcox family. This relationship is suddenly broken by the unexpected demise of Lady Wilcox, whom unbeknown to her family, had decided to leave her family home to Margaret Schlegel. This starts a series of events that suddenly puts both families in even closer proximity.
James Ivory has always been a director who allows for characters to come to life in worlds that are built out of detail and order. In these worlds of intricate structure, there are usually characters that attempt to break these barriers - in this case, that is epitomized by both sisters, Margaret and Helen, both of whom in early 20th century represent the evolution of mentalities and feminism. The film successfully anchors itself in the dynamics of class, between these upper class families and the characters on the periphery that change these dynamics (specifically the characters played by Samuel West and Nicola Duffett). "Howards End" is a nearly perfect adaptation of the book, boasting a meticulous attention to the period, fantastic performances from the cast (in particular Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter and Vanessa Redgrave), stunning cinematography from Tony Pierce-Roberts and score from Richard Robbins (the latter two, usual collaborators of James Ivory). A fantastic film always worth revisiting.