Monday, 27 March 2017

''Howards End'' (1992 film)- Review

Directed by: James Ivory
Released: 1992
Country: United Kingdom

Genre: Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5


The house called Howards End is deeply cherished by Ruth Wilcox, a supporting character in the film ''Howards End''. The character, played by Vanessa Redgrave, shows her love, her longing for the house that she has inherited when she talks about it, and in her eyes we can clearly see the love that she retains for the house. Although a minor supporting character having comparatively less screen presence, her love for Howards End has a long-lasting impact in the film.

The film, based on the novel by E. M. Forster, has a screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Set in the Edwardian era, the film centers on the Schlegel sisters, Margaret (Emma Thompson) and Helen (Helena Bonham Carter). The Schlegel sisters belong to the enlightened, well-informed, intellectual upper-middle class. The film focuses on their encounter with two different social classes that bring an impact to their lives and the lives of those around. They meet the Wilcox family, an wealthy family headed by Henry Wilcox (played by Anthony Hopkins). The sisters- especially Margaret- are in friendly terms with the Wilcoxes, and at the same time, they come into contact with Leonard Bast (Samuel West), a financially insolvent clerk. The Schlegel sisters want to do their best to help Mr Bast, but over the course of time, their interaction with the two different classes- and the clashes and conflicts, misunderstandings and old revelations caused by it- impacts their relationships and their lives deeply. 

I loved the way the story develops over the course of time, helping us to get more familiar with the characters. At the end of the day, ''Howards End'' reflects human nature. Henry Wilcox, while definitely not an evil person, reflects to an extent the upper class hypocrisy, causing much of the conflicts in the story. We can also understand Margaret, levelheaded and sensible, and the way she is eventually stuck between the lifestyle followed by the Wilcoxes and the humanistic principles she has grown up with and has always followed. And then there is Helen, who is more passionate and will do anything to help the Basts.

How many other films give us the opportunity to see Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter in the same frame? All of them deliver excellent performances in ''Howards End'', making the characters they play real and human. Vanessa Redgrave is extremely memorable too in her brief but memorable and important role. Samuel West is great as Leonard and Nicola Duffett, as Leonard's wife, arises sympathy for the character with her acting as we get to know more about her background and what she has endured.

This is an excellently-directed film. The film starts showing Ruth Wilcox walking through the gardens of Howards End. Although seemingly insignificant at first, I eventually thought that this part was iconic, reflecting Ruth's deep love for the house. Then again there is another scene, much later in the film, when Margaret comes to Howards End for the first time. She walks around the exterior, walking through the gardens, amazed at the beauty. She has, of course, been told all about the house by Ruth, whom she had befriended- the scenic beauty of this scene is excellent.

Class conflict in the society and the impact it brings in human life, how each social class reacts to it and is affected by it- this is presented with depth in this film. At the same time, the characters are strong and well-developed, helping us to live the story with them. ''Howards End'' reflects filmmaking at its finest. Besides having an excellent screenplay and performances, it has a calm atmosphere, but this calmness has a plethora of emotions in it which develops over the course of the film. 

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