Beautiful, Complex, Sad Love Story Set in Venice at Carnival
maskirovka | Alexandria, Virginia | 09/08/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Wings of the Dove" is a gorgeous, lavishly mounted, film adaptation of the Henry James novel about a love triangle and the faustian bargains which the three people making it up strike with each other. It reminds me of the old saying, "Be careful what you wish for because sometimes you might get it."
The plot is fairly straightforward. Kate (played by Helena Bonham-Carter) loves Merton (played by Linus Roache). But they can't get married because he has no prospects and Kate's domineering aunt who is her guardian threatens to disinherit her if she persists in seeing him. Enter Millie, a beautiful American heiress (played by Allison Elliot) who has come to London to see a bit of the world before she dies of some disease that is slowly killing her. It's Millie's wish to have a classic love affair before she dies, and she sets her eyes on Merton.
Kate sees this as an opportunity for her and Merton to achieve their own happiness. She tasks Merton to romance her, marry her, and when she dies, inherit her money.
This would make Kate appear to be a heartless bitch...willing to prostitute the man she loves for the sake of money. But the genius of the story is twofold. First, it is made perfectly clear that Millie knows Kate and Merton's intent. And she's apparently happy to "borrow" Merton for a few fleeting moments of happiness before she dies.
The second wrinkle is where the sting of the story is concealed. Merton actually does fall in love with Millie and is devastated by her death...to the point where he cannot return to Kate's embrace.
The acting by Bonham Carter, Roache, and Elliot is all top notch and they succeed in making us like characters who we might not find so likable if we were reading about their romantic intrigue in a tabloid.
But what really makes the story is the fact that the key parts of it unfold in Venice at Carnival time. The city looks so beautiful and intriguing and is a perfect setting for a story such as this."