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Based on one of Henry James' lesser-known novels, this third effort from British director Ian Softley (Backbeat, and Hackers in 1993 and 1995 respectively) begins in turn-of-the-century London, a tale of clashing social classes in a changing world. It centres on independent-minded Kate (Helena Bonham Carter), a lovely aristocrat who lives with her widowed father (Michael Gambon), a rather amoral fellow with a penchant for opium. Appalled at Kate's living arrangements, her socially ambitious Aunt Maud (Charlotte Rampling) takes Kate and introduces her to high-ranking socialites in hopes of finding her niece a wealthy husband. There's only one problem - Kate is in love with struggling journalist Merton Densher (Linus Roach), clearly not of the right class. Though she outwardly complies with her aunt's wishes, Kate constantly sneaks out to tryst with Merton. Opportunity knocks for Kate when the dazzling Millie arrives from America. Filthy rich yet humble, charming and beautiful, she becomes friends with Kate. She eventually meets Merton and rather fancies him. Kate then discovers that Millie has a terminal illness. When the three go to Venice, Kate proves herself as ruthlessly opportunistic as she is outwardly sweetly romantic.

"Achingly beautiful with an undercurrent of intense passion, Wings of the Dove is a feast for the eyes, as it explores 19th century morals with 20th century passions. At a time when discretion and appearances are everything, Iain Softley’s film aptly portrays characters that interest, move and haunt us. Helena Bonham Carter is magnificent as Kate, combining harsh English reserve with unbridled passion under the surface. Her exquisite features are photographed to perfection, while she exudes an intensity that is magnified by a passion-filled music score. She is ably supported by the understated Linus Roache and free-spirited warmth of Alison Elliott as Millie; my only criticism is the lack of chemistry and sizzle between Kate and Merton in establishing their illicit, passionate love affair. The strength of the relationships? It’s what we don’t see that’s intriguing; it’s what is not said that tantalises; the stifled and subdued emotions that fascinate. Softley has achieved what Jane Campion did not in Portrait of a Lady - a film with sublime beauty, tempestuous undertones and a sense of engagement that endears us to the characters. The imagery is opulent, while the images of Venice are totally intoxicating: unforgettable gondolas on a moon-lit canal, San Marco Square in the rain and decadent restaurants of gourmet delights."
Louise Keller

"In full agreement with both Louise (above) and David (below), I can only emphasise how important the cinematography and the music are to this film. Both serve the director’s vision well, Serra’s superbly enhanced natural light working magic on the faces. And that’s the critical element in most novel adaptations, and with Henry James more than most. The faces are the places where we find all that internal, emotional world swirling with the intensity of our own imaginations – when we read. To match that, the filmmaker has to have the best actors, lighting, camera and music to orchestrate anything remotely as powerful. Softley has done a great job – as has his team - making us care for these three people more than they probably deserve."
Andrew L. Urban

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CAST: Helena Bonham Carter, Linus Roache, Alison Elliott, Elizabeth McGovern, Charlotte Rampling, Alex Jennings, Michael Gambon

DIRECTOR: Iain Softley

PRODUCER: David Parfitt, Stephen Evans

SCRIPT: Hossein Amini (based on the novel by Henry James)


EDITOR: Tariq Anwar

MUSIC: Gabriel Yared


RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes



AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 19, 1997


Nomination Best Actress - Helena Bonham Carter
Golden Globes and for
Academy Awards

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