Saturday, September 28, 2013

Howards End

I got an early start on my passionate, romantic love for all things Edwardian. I was already an ardent fan of the carrot-topped Anne Of Green Gables (and therefore all things puffed-sleeved and early 1900s) when my mum asked my brother and a 9 year old me if we would like to go for a walk by the River or to go and see a film. If anything, this question says much of our love for walking; but on this occasion, we chose the film. Off we trotted to the city to the bright shiny lights of the George Street cinema complex.
The film we watched that Sunday afternoon was Howards End; the Merchant Ivory film adaptation of the E.M. Forster novel...

That afternoon would go down as a seminal moment in my childhood. This was no Anne-with-an-'e', this was something completely different - this was the murky world of adults; of lies, corruption, beauty, longing and ultimately death. I vividly remember with crushing terror the climactic scene where the bookcase slowly falls on Leonard Bast - the final moments of an already broken man; the gorgeous scene where Leonard walks through the night to see the countryside and finds dawn in a field of bluebells; the fiery shrewish pride of Helen Schlegal (a young Helena Bonham Carter) with her messy, curly pouffe of Gibson Girl hair; the thwarted kindness of her sister Margaret (a radiant Emma Thompson).

I really related to this - walking and walking and walking all for the hope of walking through a field of flowers. I hear you Leonard!
Leonard and Helen making out in a row boat. The epitome of a romantic fantasy!

Margaret as played by Emma Thompson sees Howards End for the first time
Helen reading in the window of Howards End
Time hasn't wearied my love. A few years ago I rediscovered this film and was again awestruck by its beauty, it's delicate pacing and exultant praise for nature. Yet, seeing the film through an adults eyes I found myself more keenly appalled at the wretched desperation of the English class system and the inherent social disabilities that came with being a woman in this era.

I have since re-watched this film many times. The opening sequence that slowly follows the train of Ruth Wilcox's dress moving through the long grass in the inky mauve twilight of midsummer as she walks towards Howards End is one of the most beautiful, quiet and moving scenes I have ever seen.

Vanessa Redgrave as the aging matriarch Ruth Wilcox in the films opening scene.

If you're yet to see this film, it I couldn't reccomend it highly enough.


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