Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Wings of the Dove

I cannot talk about The Wings of the Dove without revealing what could be some psychological issues of mine. The Wings of the Dove is based on a novel by the talented Henry James. I prefer the film. Surprisingly actually, because I’m quite fond of Henry James as it is. The eponymous Dove of the title is an American heiress Millie, you’d assume that Kate Croy, ostensibly the lead of the film/novel is the dove – but I suppose she’s closer to a hawk or a vulture. Of course, I don’t think she is, it just seems to be public consensus. I don’t like Kate because Helena Bonham Carter plays her. My love and sympathy for Kate Croy’s character has nothing to do with Helena, but with my thoughts on the entire plot of the story.
Millie is an heiress and she is dying – quickly. Kate befriends Millie who forms an attraction to Merton Kate’s [secret] boyfriend. Kate, ever the thinker, suggests that Merton pretends to love Millie – she’s dying anyway – and then when she dies he’ll be rich and they can get married. There is a thin line that this film must tread on. Kate does not want Merton with money because she is some sociopath money loving woman. Kate is the type of young lady who realises that nothing can come of poverty, and she knows, more than many that without money oftentimes goodness leaves with it. Perhaps she is just a bit too selfish, but she’s not a villain. At least I’d like to think she isn’t. Reading Henry James, I can’t help but feel that he’s not all too fond of Kate, but looking at Helena’s characterisation in Ian Softley’s underrated piece I feel for Kate, palpably more than I can when her story is told through the eyes of Henry James.
I never realised how small Helena Bonham Carter was until The Wings of the Dove. Physically, her figure is so slight, even in A Room With a View she did not look as delicate. Knowing how big a fan I was, Joe said he’d like to here my criticise her. It’s not the greatest performance of all time; but I can’t recall that there’s anything I found obviously inconsistent in her performance. There was a general enigma surrounding the performance, but I figure that the character is a bit of enigma, so Helena was just doing her job.
But Helena is not the only one responsible for the goodness of the film. In such a weak year for supporting women it is a tragedy that Alison Elliot’s delightful performance as Millie could not be recognised [despite love from the SAG]. She’s the perfect antithesis to Helena and with such a resplendently good character she never gnaws at you or makes you annoyed. I suppose in a way that Linus Roache's  Merton is a bit overshadowed, but he shines in the early and final scenes with Bonham Carter. Though I can’t say I care too much for his role his performance is not at fault – or, it shouldn’t be. Michael Gambon has something of a cameo and he, along all the other bit players are good in their roles.
I can always assume that the reason that this film wasn’t as well received as it should have been is because it touched on so many deep issues. Even this age of social consciousness and modernised view &etc, money is still a startlingly taboo topic. But in an age where we can regard the importance of the dollar I think we can understand Kate’s plight a little more. However, I err in making this plea. If you have seen this film there’s no telling what your reaction to Kate is. It really is up to you whether or not you think she is a character worthy of our esteem. What are your thoughts on Kate Croy? Or have you not seen this yet? And if you haven't. You should.


MrJeffery said...

Great review! I really like this film a lot. I need to revisit it. The performances are really nice and the production is handsome.

joe burns said...

I didn't like this movie. I liked Bonham-Carter's performance,but the film had a lot of problems.

Alex in Movieland said...

I fell in love with the story when I first saw the film. Then I read the book and adored it.

I'm not sure the film gets better with multiple viewings, but Henry James was a great storyteller.

PS: I had it in my Top 100 or 150 ever also, back when I used to have one. :)

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

thanks for the words jeffery

joe it probably did have it's problems. but of course i'm biased. curious though. what did you think were the problems?

alex as much as i like it [obvious] you're right. it doesn't get better as you see it again, just the same. but we can't all we be howards end.

joe burns said...

I think that there needed to be more development between the characters while they were in Italy and the movie felt dry and boring at times. But Bonham-Carter,despite being a little bit too stiff in the beginning,won me over. I especially liked the way she expressed her emotions using use her face,especially her eyes!