Adapted by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala from the novel by E.M. Forster, A Room with a View is a shining example of Merchant-Ivory’s ability to achieve maximum quality and opulence at minimum cost. Set during the Edwardian Era, the film stars Helena Bonham Carter as Lucy Honeychurch, who like all proper young British ladies is compelled to tour Europe in the company of an older chaperone — in this instance, her spinster cousin Charlotte Bartlett (Maggie Smith).
While in Italy, the ladies make the acquaintance of a wide variety of personalities; the most fascinating of their fellow tourists — at least in Lucy’s eyes — is free-spirited George Emerson (Julian Sands). Aware that her cousin is becoming too familiar with Emerson, Charlotte demands that Lucy return to England posthaste. Lucy complacently settles for the tiresomely traditional courtship of nerdish Cecil Vyse (Daniel Day-Lewis) — and then Mr. Emerson moves into the neighborhood.
Lucy now finds herself on the horns of a dilemma: Should she opt for a safe, proper marriage to Cecil, or the bohemian unpredictability of the charismatic Emerson? A winner of three Academy Awards, A Room with a View is not what one could call fast-moving, but fans of the Merchant-Ivory team will enjoy luxuriating in the film’s leisurely pace and stimulating cast of characters.
A Room with a View is a 1985 British romance film, directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant, of E. M. Forster’s 1908 novel of the same name. The film closely follows the novel by use of the chapter titles to section the film into thematic segments. Set in England and Italy, it is about a young woman in the restrictive and repressed culture of Edwardian era England and her developing love for a free-spirited young man.
About the Story
Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham-Carter) is from an English village in Surrey and is on holiday in Italy with her much older cousin and chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett (Maggie Smith). Charlotte is conventionally English, with an extremely restrictive personality, and she tends to get her way by expressing her emotions to manipulate others. Lucy has been brought up in an upper-middle class but loving and easygoing household, and has fewer inhibitions, which creates strong tension between herself and Charlotte. They are contrasted with the more free-thinking and free-spirited backdrop of Italy.
At a small pensione in Florence, Lucy meets such people as the Reverend Mr. Beebe (Simon Callow), the two Miss Alans (Fabia Drake and Joan Henley), the author Eleanor Lavish (Judi Dench), but most importantly, the nonconformist Mr. Emerson (Denholm Elliott) and his handsome, philosophical son, George (Julian Sands), who becomes friends with Lucy. These men, although also English, represent the forward-thinking ideals of the turn-of-the-century, seeking to leave behind the repression and caution that was the norm in Victorian times.
At first, the Emersons seem strange and unfamiliar to Charlotte and Lucy. The men seem sincere but unaware of finer upper-class Victorian manners. Mr. Emerson offers to switch rooms with the women, who desire a room with a view. Charlotte is offended, believing him to be rude and tactless for what she perceives to be indebting them with his offer. As Lucy begins her journey to maturity, she finds herself drawn to George due to his mysterious thinking and readily expressed emotions.
A number of people staying at the pension take a carriage ride in the country. A mischievous Italian driver gets back at Charlotte by misdirecting an unchaperoned Lucy to George in a barley field as he admires the view. George suddenly embraces and passionately kisses Lucy as she approaches him. Charlotte has followed Lucy, witnesses the act, and quickly stops the intimacy. George’s unreserved passion shocks Lucy, but also lights a secret desire and romance in her heart. Charlotte suggests that George kissing her was the act of a rake.
A Room with a View (1986)
Directed by: James Ivory
Starring: Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott, Judi Dench, Simon Callow, Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands, Daniel Day-Lewis, Fabia Drake, Patrick Godfrey, Rupert Graves, Joan Henley, Rosemary Leach
Screenplay by: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Production Design by: Brian Ackland-Snow, Gianni Quaranta
Cinematography by: Tony Pierce-Roberts
Film Editing by: Humphrey Dixon
Costume Design by: Jenny Beavan, John Bright
Art Direction by: Elio Altamura, Brian Savegar
Music by: Richard Robbins
Distributed by: Curzon Film Distributors
Release Date: April 11, 1986