The Wings of the Dove
Helena Bonham Carter was Oscar nominated for her role in this adaptation of Henry James’ novel. Arguably Bonham Carter’s finest role, she is simultaneously callous and passionate as Kate Croy, who in order to remain with her lower-class lover, devises a plan in which he is to seduce a dying wealthy American Heiress. Kate is aware that the situation that causes her so much pain is entirely of her own devising, and it is her awareness that makes it all the more painful, both for her and the viewer.
Wonderfully involving, terribly tragic and beautifully shot, its scenes in Venice in particular are especially worthy of note.
The Painted Veil
The always flawless Naomi Watts plays Kitty Fane, who after marrying Walter Fane (Edward Norton) to simply escape her critical mother, embarks on an affair. When her affair is discovered, Walter, a bacteriologist, aware that Kitty feels little for him, takes her with him to a remote area in China that is experiencing a cholera epidemic. The film’s beauty lies in the scenes in which Kitty begins to understand and take an interest in the man she married, a man that she has hitherto made little effort to engage with. Heart-rendering in its execution, The Painted Veil wonderfully details the moments after a couple has married: the two protagonists are already deeply familiar with one another, yet, still know little about each other.
Jane Campion’s latest film, after a slew of sub-par efforts, rivals her hitherto finest film, the Oscar winning The Piano. Campion has always been interested in the portrayal of women, and Bright Star seeks to restore the reputation of Fanny Brawne, the young love of John Keats, whose three year relationship lasted until the poet’s early death at the age of 25. Fanny had previously been believed to be flighty; Campion ensures that the viewer witnesses the true depth of her feelings for Keats.
This is a film about creation, that of love, poetry and design. Profoundly moving at times, Bright Star, aside from being a wonderful portrayal of a desperately felt love between its two leads, is also quite simply one of the finest depictions of the act of writing. Keats’ poetry is recited throughout the film, but Campion makes sure that her Keats (Ben Whishaw) is a living breathing person that a viewer can engage with.
Glenn Close and John Malkovich are perfectly cast as the cruel and heartless Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil and the Vicomte Sébastien de Valmont, whose main source of pleasure stems from seducing and corrupting others. Valmont sets himself the ultimate challenge: the seduction and subsequent corruption of the innocent and pure Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer), if he is successful, the Marquise de Merteuil will deign to allow Valmont to have his way with her. Whilst Close and Malkovich play entirely unlikeable characters, the manner in which they undertake these seductions are utterly compelling.
I Capture the Castle
The chronically underrated Romola Garai stars as Cassandra, an introspective young girl, who through her diary details the rather uniquely eccentric nature of her family and her life living in a run-down castle.Garai perfectly captures both the youth and maturity of Cassandra, portraying her growth into an almost world-weary young girl as she experiences her first love and her first heartbreak.