Movie Magazine International

The Wings of the Dove

UK - 1997

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

Love and money. It's that combination, or rather the lack thereof, that wreaks so much havoc. Case in point, Kate, the heroine of sorts in "The Wings of the Dove," based on the Henry James novel. Rescued from the clutches of poverty by her socially selective, read that snobby, aunt, she now finds herself in the clutches of auntie's views on what makes a proper marriage, and that doesn't include the love of her life, Merton.

Kate may be ambivalent about walking away from her aunt's fortune, but few people around her are. Enter her new best friend and the answer to her problem - Milly, a sweet, attractive and, most fortuitously, doomed, American heiress who develops a crush on Merton. Kate's plan has Merton marrying Milly, comforting her in her declining months and then, as a widower, inheriting a fortune and marrying Kate. It's intellectually perfect, alas, people are not creatures of pure intellect. As soon as Kate and Merton consummate the plan amid the appropriately lurid masked revelry of Venice's Carnival, they begin to regret their decision. A regret that will be their undoing.

Amid a slew of excellent performances, Helena Bonham Carter as Kate is astounding. Her face has matured in a beautiful, arresting way, and her earlier dependence on tricks, such as twitching and ducking her head, have evaporated, replaced by a deliberate assurance, finely nuanced and steely, as her character wars with her better nature.

The characters in James' novels suffer anguish of such an internal nature that translating it to the screen is a tricky business. Director Iain Softely and writer Hossein Amini have created a textbook example of how it ought to be done. They use sumptuous art direction that creates an ethereal, pre-raphaelite world, and an unexpected but effective economy of dialogue. James' succulent prose is rendered visual, transmuted by the precise, persistent eye of the camera. There's no Hollywood-style dumbing down of these complex, imperfect people, so busy chasing down happiness that they end up overshooting the mark, or of the delicate Jamesian understatement, where the universe comes crashing down with a kind word, or worse, a silence that shouts volumes.

"The Wings of the Dove" is an exquisite vision that will nourish your soul and challenge your mind.

© 1997 Andrea Chase Air Date: 11/05/97

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