Howards End - The Merchant Ivory Collection

 
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Product Description

Margaret and Helen Schlegel (Oscar? winner Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter) are sisters from a well-educated European family: intelligent, free-spirited, cultured, and highly emancipated by the standards of the time. A series of events brings them into a relationship with the Wilcox family: healthy, conservative, conventional, and very English, headed by the prosperous Henry (Anthony Hopkins) and his priggish son, Charles (James Wilby). Both families also come into contact with Leonard Bast (Samuel West) and his wife, a couple near the lowest tier of the rigid class system. Leonard¡¯s desire for cultural and intellectual status attracts the attention of Helen, who must come to terms with her unexpected feelings toward him. At the same time, Margaret must reconcile her independent spirit with her desire for companionship and a comfortable place in Edwardian society; her moral strength is eventually able to resolve the tangle of opposites. First published in 1910, E.M. Forster¡¯s Howards End remains one of the most important English novels of the twentieth century, and Merchant Ivory Productions¡¯ tour-de-force adaptation was one of the most critically acclaimed films of the 1990s.

Howards End is E.M. Forster's beautifully subtle story of the crisscrossing paths of the privileged and those they disdain--and of a remarkable pair of women who can see beyond class distinctions. Dramatic and tragic, but also surprisingly funny, this James Ivory film focuses on a pair of unmarried sisters (Emma Thompson, who won an Oscar, and Helena Bonham Carter) who befriend a poor young clerk (Sam West) and, without meaning to, ruin his life. Meanwhile, Thompson also makes the acquaintance of a dying neighbor (Vanessa Redgrave), who leaves her a family home in her will--which her husband (Anthony Hopkins) destroys. But, ironically, he meets and falls in love with Thompson, even as their paths once more intersect with the increasingly miserable young clerk. Nuanced acting, gorgeous but muted cinematography, and a beautifully economical script by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, which also won an Oscar. --Marshall Fine

Customer Reviews:

  • an over-rated Merchant-Ivory film
    I have usually found that most of the Merchant-Ivory films tend to be over-stuffed, perfectly dull costume dramas which are usually redemned by a fine cast. This film ,unfortunately, is not the exception like "Room with a View" or "The Remains of the Day" which were at least compelling. Unless you're an Anglophile, there will be little to interest you except for the excellent acting of Emma Thompson in her Oscar winning performance and Anthony Hopkins. In fact there were very few scenes in this Best Picture nominee that resonated in my mind like the Oscar winner that year, another period piece, "Unforgiven". Better to watch "Masterpiece Theatre" than this dull film. ...more info
  • Excellent Picture and Sound Quality on 2005 Release
    I've been waiting for some time for this film to be back in print (I was almost at the point of buying a used copy of the Columbia/Tristar release when I saw it was about to be released by Home Vision Entertainment). The writing, acting, and production of the film are all amazing, have been thoroughly covered by other reviewers, so I'll keep my comments on the picture and audio quality of this DVD set. I've only watched the feature film (and not the second DVD filled with extras), and I'm impressed with the quality of the video and sound transfers on the disc. I can't compare the video transfer of this release directly to the previous release of "Howards End," but I can say that this release looks much better (contrast seems better balanced and the picture seems sharper) than another Merchant/Ivory production released by Columbia/Tristar ("Remains of the Day"). The sound transfer is also very good, although I only listened to the stereo mix. ...more info
  • Love Emma Thompson.
    I originally bought this film because Emma Thompson won an Oscar for it but now it's definitely one of my favorites for many other reasons. It's a relatively clean movie, which is nice to see today, but it's still for adults. The subtleness in the performances and in story line are beautiful to watch. If you like 'Remains of the Day' and other such films, you'll love Howards End. ...more info
  • My favorite film of all time.
    And my second favorite novel. The film, by the way, is VERY true to the book. They did a remarkable job with the screenplay.

    There's nothing I can say that would add to the wonderful remarks on this page, but I simply love every moment of this movie/novel. Emma Thompson brings such a wonderful humanity to her character. And Anthony Hopkins, though lately not my favorite actor, is absolutely perfect as Mr. Wilcox.

    ...more info
  • One of the best british movies of the 90's
    For those patient people who love 'Chariots Of Fire', 'Remains Of The Day' and 'The Golden Bowl', they will surely love 'Howards End', it's a great movie with good acting, an exciting story, enchanting music and idyllic background pictures....more info
  • All Around Great!
    This is a very good movie, with great actors/performances, and a bitter-sweet plot. It is especially delicious for those of us who love British period pieces....more info
  • Excellent Remastering
    Howards End is an excellent movie, probably the best one produced by Merchant Ivory. This remastering has produced excellent visual and audio, probably improving on the original. Great performances, particularly Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins....more info
  • One of the Best Movies Ever Made
    This film is a wonderful fusion of acting, art direction, cinematography and editing. Yes, the plot is low key, but it's about relationships between people of different social classes. This was the theme of the book, and it is captured on film.

    I'm always amazed that I can watch this movie over and over again and be so involved with one subplot that I forget the other even exists until the end when all of the characters' lives come together.

    ...more info
  • Wonderful
    This is a wonderful movie - you appreciate it even more upon a second viewing. I especially love the opening credits with Vanessa Redgrave's dress trailing in the grass - it's straight from the book. All the characters are fabulous - and while the story is very subtly changed from the book, it was really interesting to see that full lines of text were kept in the movie....more info
  • Slow, Dull.. Good?
    This is a very odd film. I'm never quite sure whether I hate it for being slow-paced, a tad boring, a bit wooden - or whether I like it for being intelligent, moving, and rather intriguing. Maybe it's just me..

    The actors are always great, you can't deny that. Anthony Hopkins is complex as the arrogant yet sympathetic upper class man, his children are complete dolts (for some reason), and Emma Thompson is perfect as the wise and fun-loving but rather cowardly young rich woman. Her sister, Helena Bonham Carter, the rebellious and passionate younger sister, has very intersting chemisty with Sam West. His character is above all the best in this film. He's destitute, married to an obnoxious woman he does not love, and being pushed around by these stuffy aristocrats. The fact that under all this he can still recognize sincerity and love in Bonham Carter's character makes him truly fascinating. If for no other reason, watch the film simly to see him.

    The plot often seems buried under the characters - in fact, there is so little plot that one can almost argue that the film's characters ARE it's plot. A woman is left a lovely English cottage by a dying woman (Venessa Redgrave), but the request is in pencil, and her family (Anthony Hopkins and his dim children) throws it away and pretends that their motive is a purely unselfish one, when in fact they just resent a lower class, single woman being left such a valuable peice of property. When the relationship between the two sisters and this family starts to unfold, the plot very nearly sinks amid the subplots and the characters and setting developements. Maybe the filmmakers intended this? Or maybe they didn't.

    The movie struggles to keep afloat, failing at times and yet in other scenes rising above the usual period movie stuffiness to become quite beautiful....more info

  • Wow! One of the best movies I've ever seen
    This movie is pitch perfect in almost all respects. It is beautiful to look at,the parts are all well cast and the acting is brilliant. The happy redeeming ending made me feel good about myself and life though it comes after several tragic events. Some important themes are well examined in the plot and though melodramatic the story is well told and holds the viewer's interest throughout. I had to read the book after seeing the movie and was surprised how very faithful the movie was to it. The book and movie really enhance each other! ...more info
  • Great film, splendid bonus features, poor DVD
    Other reviewers have already stated that this is a great film, so I have nothing to add here.
    Most of the bonus features have been produced in 2005 and give valuable insight information. The double interview with Merchant and Ivory is sometimes funny to watch, both of them constantly interrupting each other - they were both very passionate about there work, even so many years later.
    It says on the DVD cover that the film has been enhanced for widescreen TV sets. Well at least my copy of this 2 disc DVD is definitely NOT enhanced. And it is a sad thing to watch this beautiful film on a widescreen TV set, if it has just been mastered in 1:1,33. Why restore a film but not presenting it in the best possible way.
    The film deserves 5 stars, but due to the poor DVD, I can not rate it higher than 3. ...more info
  • Slice Of Edwardian Life (or Lives)
    I don't mean this to be snarky at all, but I recently decided that I wanted to watch HOWARDS END again--only to discover that I was actually watching it for the FIRST time! I must have been thinking of REMAINS OF THE DAY--or maybe I just wasn't thinking. Does that say more about me than it does about Merchant and Ivory? Is it really true that if you've seen one M&I production, you've seen 'em all? Or am I just having another one of my cinematic senior moments?

    Well, I'll own up to it: these are my problems, not the film's. There are, of course, a number of people who hate Merchant and Ivory productions and just about any other period film. I am not one of them. I found that I did like HOWARDS END very much indeed, and no, I cannot recall actively disliking any M&I effort that I've seen. Yes, the films are veddy British, and for some American viewers that equates to faw-faw-faw stuffiness. They're wrong, of course. A film like HOWARDS END is as more a critique of the stultifying British class system than a Valentine to Britannia. Or maybe it's both.

    HOWARDS END can seem almost as much a set-piece as a period piece in that it offers the viewer a schematic portrait of Edwardian society. You have three families each representing a particular social class (the upper class Wilcoxes, the middle class Schlegels, and the working class Basts). In less careful hands, it could come off as almost too calculated, especially so since it is the middle class family which effectively "mediates" between the others.

    That is to say, the Schlegels mediate between their social betters and inferiors "IN EFFECT," since their attempts to negotiate class distinctions circa 1910 are anything but "EFFECTIVE." Their attempts are in fact disastrous and lead to tragic consequences for all (although--ironically--the brunt of the tragedy is felt by the upper class Wilcoxes and the lower class Basts: while the middle class Schlegels seem to emerge from all the bad business around them, well, if not unscathed, then at least with their principles and humanity--and lives--still intact.

    The film is a surprisingly subtle and effective social critique made all the moreso by its insightful and humane portraits of all its characters. Not surprisingly, these are no mere stick-figure social stereotypes. We see all too well how entrenched class distinctions can be pernicious and debilitating for some--and limiting for all. But even the film's most boorishly snooty character has his endearing traits, and the wealthy clan's pater familias is almost tragic in his isolation and emotionally cramped state.

    All of this complexity requires spot-on acting, and thankfully, the film is perfectly--almost ingeniously--cast. In fact, were it a gaudier spectacle, you might even be tempted to view the casting of political firebrand Vanessa Redgrave as a conservative upper class matron (who is "only too thankful not to have the vote") as a kind of stunt casting. As it is, you have to at least see it as a delicious irony. And it's so nice to see Antony Hopkins play a complex, conflicted (but non-psychotic) character. It has oft been asserted that he and Emma Thompson work brilliantly together--and that's true. It's no wonder that they were set for a re-match in REMAINS OF THE DAY (portraying--interestingly enough--more "upstairs" roles than the decidedly "downstairs" ones they have here: of course, these skilled actors pull off both masterfully).

    Speaking of being a firebrand, I suspect that for many younger viewers, particularly non-Britons, the perceived reservedness of Merchant and Ivory films and their muted social criticism, will not be not enough. HOWARDS END is a deft critique of English class structure, but it's hardly a call to revolution. In the end, it is more of a character study than a tract--which makes its small scale tragedies all the more human (and in the modern sense) all the more tragic. One comes away from the film with the realization that the social order necessary to maintain civilization has also inevitably set up barriers between individual human beings. And therein lies much of the tragic nature of we like to refer to as the human condition....more info
  • Love the actors in this movie!
    THis movie is great except for the ending. I am a hopeless romantic and always wish for a better ending. The beauty of the story makes this movie stand out. I always root for the woman and the main character does me proud! ...more info
  • Superb Independent Film!
    This is likely the best of all the Merchant and Ivory films in terms of its gravity and social statement, which uses the superb cast to great advantage here in telling this tale of social class privileges and prejudices in turn-of-the century British society. Of course, Sir Anthony Hopkins' performance as the overbearing scion of an upper class family who rubs shoulders, ankles, and misfortunes with an upper-middle class family headed by Emma Thompson. The storyline is complex, full of nuances and twists and turns that bear amazingly well on the whole character of the English class system and the way it both benefits the upper classes as well as the ways in which it bedevils and obstructs everyone else.

    For example, just to listen to one of Sir Anthony's tirades about how the misfortune of another was brought on by themselves and therefore deserved is to instantly understand how little compassion, insight, or indulgence the upper class was likely to extend to its less fortunate brothers and sisters. It is a quite intelligent sociological exploration of the nature of the class system and how differences in perception, expectation, and resources create a panoply of emotions, circumstances, and consequences when the classes and the different generations clash. What comes across most clearly is the attitude of entitlement and privilege the upper class brings to each and every social situation. Something about having all that money and power that lends itself to an air of confidence! Some things never change.

    The story is adapted from an E. M Forrester story, so has all the earmarks of authenticity one would expect from such an English author. The acting is uniformly superb, from Hopkins to Thompson to Vanessa Redgrave to Helena Bonham Carter, and the sets are absolutely superb, as well. This is serious drama, taken from the pages of a chronicle of personal lives entwining in such memorable ways and seething with passion, love, courage, betrayal, and tragedy. Yet, as we see it the end, all comes round to a remarkable example of typically English stoicism and endurance. This is a lovely period piece film, and one I am sure you will like. Enjoy!...more info

  • Not Emma's Best
    and not really Anthony's, either. I borrowed the VHS from a friend anticipating a lovely, two-hour or so film with rich, well-developed characters, beautiful scenery, and a riveting storyline. I guess one out of three's not bad.

    Howards End promises a lot but underdelivers. With Emma Thompson, Sir Anthony Hopkins, and Helena Bonham-Carter in the lead roles, one expects a more interesting film or at the very least, an exciting climax. One gets neither. This film plods along for over two hours, much like an overworked carthorse stumbling through the English countryside. By the end, all one wants is some oats and a night's sleep in the barn. What disappointed me most was Bonham-Carter's performance. She is much better at edgy hysteria than what she shows here.

    Even the climax was dull. (In case you still want to see this film, I won't give it away.)

    In this reviewer's opinion, if you want a good Merchant Ivory flick, watch A Room with a View instead. ...more info
  • This movie is GREAT!
    This is one of the best movies I have ever seen!!! Not only is my favorite actor in it(Sir Anthony Hopkins) who gives a brilliant performance as usual but the story is quite strong, also. Normally I don't enjoy period pieces too much but the acting in this film is spectacular! I love the way that Thompson plays a character that is strong, independent and yet so weak when it comes to her husband(Hopkin's). If you have enjoyed Hopkins and Thompson's work before you will not be dissapointed by this great film....more info
  • That's for rich people, to make them feel good after their dinner...
    Love it or hate it, Howards End is without doubt Merchant Ivory's most magnificent production, being the best example of what they could do with very little money. Here, an 8 million dollar budget looks like a 30 million dollar epic which, perversely, is my own personal problem with the film; too little of Forster's fragile plot is spread over too much of Luciana's gorgeous production design, like simple country butter smeared over a current-encrusted scone. But I still enjoy this film, frustrating characters and all, and Emma and Anthony are worth it alone.

    This was the last adaptation of an E. M Forster novel to the screen, but has anyone else noticed the physical elements connecting these adaptations, even if made by different directors and companies? Let me elaborate:

    The heavy blue/green drapes and white sheers in the Schlegel's library room window at the beginning of Howards End are identical to those in Adela Quested's window at the very end of A Passage to India. And the vast, marbled building that is the travel agency at the beginning of Passage is the same location used in Howards End as the bank in which Helen again encounters Leonard Bast.

    The large clock used in Howards End at the train station in London, Charing Cross I believe, is the same that opens Where Angels Fear to Tread. And at the end of Angels, we see the same country train platform that was used in A Room With a View (only in Angels the "Show Your Ticket" sign has been left on the brick wall), which in turn uses the same train as in Angels and Howards End. Oh, and Freddie's obnoxiously striped jacket in A Room With a View also shows up in Maurice.

    And then there are the players: Helena Bonham Carter has been in FOUR Forster adaptations (Room, a cameo in Maurice, Angels and Howards End). Rupert Graves has been three (Room, Maurice, Angels). Judy Davis in two (Angels and A Passage to India). Simon Callow has also been in three (Room, Maurice and a bit part in Howards End). Merchant Ivory has adapted three Forster novels (Room, Maurice, Howards End) bringing with them most of their crew to each.

    Three great directors - David Lean, James Ivory, Charles Sturridge - have brought these novels to life onscreen. Only one remains unadapted, The Longest Journey. It was Forster's favorite of his novels (mine, too) and there is something beguiling about the fact that it hasn't yet been realized in cinema, a medium Forster often never trusted or even liked.

    Back to Howards End; though steady-paced to the point of being slow, and almost apologetically afraid to ruffle feathers as the book does, it is still better than anything a computer can regurgitate these days. Perhaps it's the filmmaking, perhaps it's the characters, or perhaps it's Forster's final word itself, but there is a reason this film is still remembered as a classic. Maybe it's just the scones. ...more info
  • DISCONNECTEDNESS
    I still don't know what to make of this film. In my heart I think it was average, although I am sure that somehow it was better than that. Or maybe because everyone else loved it so much, I am led to believe I should too. Despite the stellar performances of Helena Bonham Carter, Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins, I cannot really say that the plot made me jump for joy. I am not a big fan of these period dramas courtesy of the Merchant-Ivory team, so this may account for my bias. Maybe I should see it again, but in the meantime I can only say that the film went on too long for my liking (or at least seemed like it did) and never quite hit home for me....more info
  • Lush, Romantic Merchant-Ivory Period Film Making
    The filmmaking duo of Merchant-Ivory score yet again with this wonderful rendition of the E. M. Forster novel. There are many ideas that flow smoothly throughout the film: how fate has a way of catching up; how what is meant to be will be; how one can pay for the consequences of one's acts in totally unimagined ways. But beyond being a thought provoking film, this film also succeeds at every level as just a film. The absolute top acting talent is used for every role, with Emma Thompson deservedly winning the Oscar for hers. Anthony Hopkins renders the British capitalist of this time period flawlessly. His best line is, "The poor are poor because they are and there you have it." This is said in dismissing the plight of a young man to whom he gave the wrong advice. The opening scenes with Vanessa Redgrave and Emma Thompson showcase two different generations of English acting powerhouses on stage and screen. They are a delight to watch together. The costumes are out of this world and were obviously well researched and made to conform to every detail of the period. The same is done with the settings both in London and the country so that you feel as if you are back in that era yourself....more info
  • Playable in the U.S.A.???
    I wish I could write a review espousing the merits of this movie which I'm sure it probably deserves due to the subject matter and caliber of the cast... but I can't. Before you order this, you may want do some research to confirm if this latest DVD version is "Region 1" playable. I'm returning the one I've just ordered.

    I've read some of the reviews listed on Amazon written by "U.S. reviewers" dated after the release (February 15, 2005) of this "merchant ivory collection" version of this movie and wonder... are the reviews based upon this dvd or just the movie itself?

    Anyways... if you order it and can't play it (Region 1 DVD player)... you're not alone....more info
  • Well Acted and Beautifully Filmed
    I love Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins in this movie! The plot is simple - three families of different social classes collide, with tragic consequences for one impoverished couple, and with a decidedly more happy outcome for another couple.

    An accurate reflection of British classism and capitalism, this movie was well acted and entertaining without being preachy. A real classic.

    ...more info
  • Pretty Much Perfect
    I saw this in the theater when it came out six times. (Maybe more) I went myself, took a friend, went myself again, etc. It is a gorgeous, atmospheric escape into a compelling thought-provoking story; one of Merchant-Ivory's masterpieces, it's everything a film should be (In my opinion anyway...)

    The ideas posed are: Who will inherit England? and the famous "Only Connect". These are beautifully summed up, and acted by Emma Thompson's Margaret Schlegel, the films heart and core, who connects the characters by small degrees of separation. Thompson's performance is masterful, and earned her an Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and countless other awards. The entire cast is magnificent - not a wrinkle in the fabric. Also outstanding is Vanessa Redgrave, the scenes between her fading Mrs. Wilcox and Emma Thompson's Margaret Schlegl are sublime.

    After Mrs. Wilcox and Margaret Schlegel meet (because Margaret's sister Helen, and Mrs. W's son Paul cannot "connect"), Mrs. Wilcox bequeaths her family home - Howard's End (stand in for England) to Margaret and Helen, whose lease has expired on their own family home. Helen and the poverty stricken Leonard Bast "connect", and in the course of the story Leonard's son inherits Howard's End because his father could not. I could go on, but I'll just say this is a sumptuous feast of a movie. If you like great acting, a thought provoking plot, and authentic period recreation to escape into for a couple hours - chances are you'll love this one.

    Extras are great; scenes from a t.v. adaptation with Glenda Jackson, a "making of" documentary from 1992, and interviews with Jenny Beavan (costume designer), Luciana Arrighi (magnificent set-designer), and of course James Ivory, Ismael Merchant and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala....more info
  • Insightful period drama on class conflicts and human relationships
    I have actually watched 'Howard's End" numerous times, and after watching it again tonight, I felt compelled to write a review. Some of the reviewers have mentioned that each viewing of Howard's End adds a new insight, and I have to agree.

    The story of Howard's End is one of class conflict, the have's and the have nots, and the family that gets caught in between. Emma Thompson plays Margaret Schlegel, the eldest sister in a family of three. Helena Bonham Carter is younger sister Helen, who is rather impulsive, and very strong-willed. Helen becomes briefly engaged to Paul Wilcox, younger son to wealthy Henry Wilcox but the pair break it off within a day, and this inadvertently leads to the Wilcoxes and Schlegels' crossing paths again. When the Wilcoxes take a house close to the Schlegels in London, Margaret decides to visit Ruth Wilcox [Vanessa Redgrave], the matriarch of the clan. Both women form a close rapport but Ruth is ill and soon dies. Later, the Wilcoxes learn that Ruth had written a 'will' bequeathing a beloved family country home, Howard's End to Margaret and Henry destroys it, thinking his wife was not in her right senses. Ironically, Henry later falls in love with Margaret and marries her, despite his objections to the headstrong Helen. In the midst of all this, there is Leonard Bast, a bank clerk who crosses paths earlier on with Helen and is welcomed by the Schlegel's, even after realising his lowly connections, and his marriage to a woman who is far beneath their socio-economic class. The story gets more complicated as these three families find themselves being brought closer through coincidence and circumstance, giving rise to events that are both tragic and comical at the same time.

    I thought the actors were all excellent - Anthony Hopkins plays the snobbish and class conscious Henry Wilcox to the hilt, and shares an incredible on-screen chemistry with Emma Thompson's Margaret Schlegel [the pair were also amazing in "Remains of the Day"]. Helena Bonham Carter plays the spitfire role of Helen quite credibly as does Samuel West as the doomed Leonard Bast.

    Though the drama unfolds slowly, I did not find it boring, in fact quite the opposite - this is a period drama that truly captures the complexities of class relations in Britain and also focuses on human relationships - between siblings, father-son, husband-wife etc. There are many insights to be gleaned here and each viewing brings something new to the table. I highly recommend this to fans of period films and British cinema.

    ...more info
  • Superb adaptation of Forster's masterpiece.
    Most of us connect the notion of "home" or "childhood home" with one particular place, that innocent paradise we have since had to give up and keep searching for forever after. In Ruth Wilcox's world, Howards End is that place; the countryside house where she was born, where her family often returns to spend their vacations, and which, everyone assumes, will pass on to her children when she is dead.

    And it is through Ruth Wilcox (Vanessa Redgrave)'s eyes that we first see Howards End; approaching the house after an evening walk through her beloved meadow, her long dress trailing in the grass, as she goes nearer, we see the open windows letting out warm light from inside, and hear the voices and laughter from the family's dinner table. And while Mrs. Wilcox returns to join her family's company, two others are leaving the house and its serene world: Helen Schlegel (Helena Bonham Carter) and Paul Wilcox, embarking on a passionate romance which is not even to survive the next morning - not before, however, Helen has informed her sister Margaret (Emma Thompson) that she and Paul are "in love," and thus set in motion the first of a series of confusing and controversial meetings between their families.

    While both families belong to the middle class, they are nevertheless separated by several layers of society and politics - the Wilcox, led by pater familias/businessman Henry (Anthony Hopkins), rich, conservative and without any sympathy whatsoever for those less fortunate than themselves ("It's all part of the battle of life ... The poor are poor; one is sorry for them, but there it is," Henry Wilcox once comments); the Schlegels, on the other hand, with just enough income to lead a comfortable life, brought up by their Aunt Juley (Prunella Scales), supporting suffrage (women's right to vote) and surrounding themselves with actors, "blue-stockings" (feminists), intellectuals and other members of the avantgarde. Further complexity is added when Helen brings to the Schlegel home Leonard Bast (Samuel West), a poor but idealistic young clerk who loves music, literature and astronomy - and with him, his working class wife Jacky (Nicola Duffett), the embarrassment of having to interact with her, and the even more embarrassing revelation she has in store for Henry Wilcox; eventually leaving her disillusioned husband to comment that "books aren't real," and that in fact they and music "are for the rich so they don't feel bad after dinner."

    An allegory on the question who will ultimately inherit England - the likes of the Wilcox, the Schlegels, or the Basts - E.M. Forster's novel on which this movie is based is a masterpiece of social study and character study alike: with empathy and a fine eye for detail, Forster brings his protagonists and their environment to life, and James Ivory matches his accomplishment in this screen realization, finding the perfect cast and production design (Luciana Arrighi) to reproduce the novel's Edwardian society; although he superstitiously declined the offer to film at Forster's boyhood home Rooks Nest, the model for the fictional Howards End. The movie brings together many of Britain's best-known actors, all trained in the English school which, as Anthony Hopkins once explained, unlike Lee Strasberg's Method Acting, is primarily based on restraint: there are no outbursts of emotion, self-control reigns supreme, and even a simple word like "yes" is reduced even further to "hmm," leaving it to the actor's intonation alone to convey the word's (or sound's) deeper meaning in a given context. And yet, vocal intonation, looks and little gestures often speak louder than dramatic actions ever could, and they are as essential to the movie's sense of authenticity as are production design, cinematography (Tony Pierce-Roberts), soundtrack (Richard Robbins) and the selection of the movie's non-scored music: excerpts from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, a favorite with the "educated" Edwardian middle class, and pieces by period composers Andre Derain and Percy Grainger.

    The story centers around Margaret (Meg) Schlegel, who is "filled with ... a profound vivacity, a continual and sincere response to all that she encounter[s] in her path through life," as Forster described her, and portrayed to perfection by Emma Thompson. Meg's friendship with Ruth Wilcox brings the families back together after Helen's near-scandalous episode with Paul; and the two women become so close that Ruth eventually decides to give Meg "something worth [her] friendship" - none other than Howards End, a wish that has her panicking family scramble ungentlemanly for every reason in the book to invalidate the codicil setting forth that bestowal, from its lacking date and signature to the testatrix's state of mind, the ambiguity of the writing's content, the question why Meg should want the house in the first place since she already has one, and the fact that the writing is only in pencil, which "never counts," as Dolly, wife of the Wilcox' elder son Charles is quick to point out, only to be reprimanded by her father in law "from out of his fortress" (Forster) not to "interfere with what you do not understand." And so it is that Meg will only see the house (and be instantly mistaken for Ruth because she has "her way of walking around the house," as the housekeeper explains) when she and her siblings have to look for a new home and Henry Wilcox, who has started to court her after Ruth's death, suggests that the Schlegel's furniture be temporarily stored there - a fateful decision. And while Meg and Henry slowly and painfully learn to adjust to each other, the complexity of their families' relations, and their interactions with the Basts, finally come crashing down on them in a dramatic conclusion.

    Howards End deservedly won 1992's Academy Awards for Best Actress (Thompson), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Art Direction; and it was also nominated in the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Redgrave), Best Original Score, Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design categories. Unfortunately, its subtle tones have recently been muted somewhat by the louder sounds now filling movie theaters. I for one, however, will take this sublime movie over any summer action flick anytime.

    Also recommended:
    Great Novels and Short Stories of E. M. Forster
    E. M. Forster: A Life (A Harvest Book)
    The Remains of the Day (Special Edition)
    Shadowlands
    A Room with a View (Two-Disc Special Edition)
    Where Angels Fear to Tread
    The Wings of the Dove
    Brideshead Revisited (25th Anniversary Collector's Edition)
    Gosford Park
    Sense & Sensibility (Special Edition)...more info
  • Well made -- but the movie drags.
    As always, superb acting by Hopkins and Thompson. The story is a good one, however the movie leaves the viewer in wonder of what is realling going on for much too long. I almost gave up after a while, but got back into it about half way. In the end I was rather dissapointed, left with a "that's it?" kind of feeling. Overall a well made movie, but i'd recommend Remains of the Day over this feature....more info
  • Good adaptation

    This is an excellent adaptation by the Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala team of the E.M. Forster novel of the same name. It centers around two sisters: one (Emma Thompson) befriends an older woman (Vanessa Redgrave), owner of the country estate Howards End; the other (Helena Carter) befriends a young clerk (Sam West) who has high aspirations. After Redgrave dies, Thompson ends up marrying her widower (Anthony Hopkins). Carter gets pregnant by West, who is later attacked and killed by Hopkins's son (James Wilby). Class distinctions are explored, especially in terms of culture (as depicted by Thompson and Carter) vs. materialism (Hopkins and Redgrave). But the real theme is the moral and intellectual vapidity of the upper Edwardian class of manners - a way of life already (1910) very much in decay, and that would be utterly wiped out in the trenches of the Marne in a few short years. Faithful to the novel in plot, it avoids some of Forster's symbolic representations as well as his main idea of the need for people to "connect" with one another. The movie won a number of Oscars, and the performances by all the actors are first-rate. Extremely well done all around. ...more info
  • MERCHANT IVORY'S SUBLIME VISUAL BANQUET
    Anthony Hopkins stars as Henry Wilcox, a member of England's ruling class who finds himself slipping into a romance with Margaret Schlegle (Emma Thompson) after his wife has passed away. However, before her death, Ruth Wilcox (Vanessa Redgrave) had stipulated that she wished to leave her family home "Howards End" to both Margaret and her sister, Helen (Helena Bonham-Carter). Of course the Wilcox family, being stuck up and spoiled, did not follow through with her wishes and this becomes the focal point of the plot. Along the way there is adultry, corruption, deception, original sins revisited and even murder - in short, everything one could expect from an impeccibly crafted story turned into a poignant and stirring film experience. Producers, James Ivory and Ismal Merchant have given us one of a handful of truly stirring dramatic/epics, filled with the sort of grand illusion and entertainment value that Hollywood used to provide en masse during the 1930's and 40's. This is definitely a worthwhile excursion.
    Columbia has done a beautiful job on the transfer. There is absolutely nothing to complain about and I defy anyone to be disappointed with the quality of this mastering effort. My one regret, this disc comes with NO EXTRA FEATURES. Apart from this oversight, you must definitely take a road trip to Howards End....more info
  • One will lament the end of Howards End
    This film is remarkable on so many planes, that I find it an imposing task to outline this film and my regard for it - for it is one of the most memorable and achingly gorgeous films that I have ever had the pleasure of viewing.

    Every character is sophisticated in the sense that the depth of their portrayal (from upper crust to crumb!) is so believable and absorbing that you feel as if you are not simply viewing, but participating in many of the sequences.

    I loved this movie from the first moment I saw it, and each repeated viewing solidifies my fondness for it.

    Emma Thompson shines - she brings a vibrance and humor to a character that could have fallen by the way-side if played by a less adept artist - to laud her would be redundant, but I do it all the same... wonderful!

    The opulence of the era is vivdly, yet quietly captured, and the scenes of poverty are not simply glossed over as in other films of this genre - the disparity between the two worlds is balanced and projected very well, I think.

    Jemma Redgrave gives a great performance - the brittle and disdainful character she plays is not simply a joke thrown into scenes to give them impact, but is an essential and insightful medium into the social/class distinctions of the time period - I enjoyed her very much.

    Remarkable in so many ways, and equally difficult to articulate or classify (a comedy, drama, romance - ?)I recommend this film to everyone - you will truly lament the end of "Howards End"....more info

  • "Howards End" Criterion DVD Stands Above Previous Release
    The original DVD release of "Howards End" was the no-frills which probably was fine with everyone who has a tight-budget on DVD collection. However, after watching this version has totally changed my mind about Criterion DVD editions. Now, the picture is crisp and sharper compared to the grainy texture of the original transfer. The scene of Leonard Bast's stroll in the meadows of bluebells was so much more dream-like with the magnificent violet and green colors on the screen. Also, the music seems to surround all around you compared to the original release which seemed almost like watching on the TV with speakers in your face. You really have to appreciate that such a film gets the attention for being placed on Criterion release. Actually, this is released through HVE which is pretty much sister company of Criterion.

    Anyways, the film itself is probably the best production of the Merchant-Ivory team. Its beauty is in its storytelling of the Wilcox and Schlegel families with the best performace from Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins. The supporting cast is equally good with Helena Bonham-Carter and Vanessa Redgrave. You probably will get the most satisfication from viewing the second disc. It has several commentaries from James Ivory and Ishmail Merchant. Also, Helena Bonham-Carter tells her hardships with some scenes such as the row boat with the hidden roaring motor and also the rainy return home from a music recital with some trouble from the umbrella. It was also interesting to listen from the production team about the transformation of London into the Edwardian period with the scenes and clothing/fashion.

    Overall, this Criterion DVD edition is worth every penny if you are a fan of filmmaking. You definitely appreciate the efforts and dedication of Merchant and Ivory to fund and make such a film. I really can't regret this purchase since many times, films don't get the royal treatment of Criterion. Oscar-worthy movies are usually quickly released to the masses rather than being tailored for those with higher standards for the DVD viewing experience....more info
  • A magnificently told tale of sin, forgiveness, and redemption
    A magnificently told tale of sin, forgiveness, redemption, and the settling of accounts

    Though slow-moving throughout (my only complaint against this film, and a minor one at that), HOWARD'S END is many things: a costume drama, a period piece, a film with some of the best acting you could ever hope to find, and at times, a comedy of errors with some very unique and unpredictable plot twists. The story revolves around two families -- the Schlegels and the Wilcoxes -- and a marriage which almost connects them, a close friendship that does, a failed bequest, a sin which comes back to haunt, another marriage, and a murder.

    I must confess I have not read the book, though I now want to. Many years ago, I watched THE REMAINS OF THE DAY, another popular Merchant-Ivory film (also starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson) released only a year after HOWARD'S END. I loved it so much that I did finally read and enjoy every line of the book. After I had finished reading it, I couldn't decided which was better: the book or the movie. I expect the same to be true of HOWARD'S END and I look forward to it....more info
  • Howards End DVD
    An excellent DVD of a classic movie. The second disk with rich information about the making of the movie was fascinating....more info
  • Possibly Merchant-Ivory's Finest Hours
    A better cast could not have been assembled for this faithful adaptation of E. M. Forster's masterpiece, a stinging indictment of a society suffocated by its own class structure. What could have been a tedious social statement glistens with the beauty of Merchant-Ivory's production values and the actors' well-rounded characterizations. This film is so well executed that it sent me back to Forster's book, which is gem. Its motto remains timely, indeed necessary: "Only connect."...more info
  • Stunningly acted, well-made drama, but compare the R2 DVD.
    A marvellous adaptation of E.M Forster's novel. All the performances are first rate, with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson particularly fine. The latter won an Oscar for her role.

    The DVD has a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer which looks superb: the locations throughout England are lavish, and the images on the DVD are excellent, warm and vivid with outstanding natural fleshtones. Pretty close to state of the art, in fact.

    The sound is 5.1 Dolby Digital, which does full justice to the very pleasing soundtrack. No special effects to give your system a workout, of course, but the voices and music come across marvellously. And what voices! Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins and Helena Bonham Carter are a joy to hear.

    Any criticisms? Well, the film is well over two hours (although never boring), and while I am loath to describe it as overlong, perhaps some skilful editing could have brought it closer to 2 hours.

    IMPORTANT POINT: the R2 DVD has the identical anamorphic transfer and sound, but has considerably more extras, so if your machine can play R2 discs, you may want to consider that....more info

  • The new 2005 two-disc set
    I agree with J. Shands (below) that this new 2-disc set is now the definitive edition of this superb movie. This version was prepared with the help of the folks at Criterion (like most of the recent Merchant Ivory Collection DVDs), and the result is an excellent DVD on all counts: image, sound, extras, and packaging. I never owned the earlier DVD of Howards End, but I did rent it. My impression is that this version is superior in every way -- it's well worth the upgrade.

    The extras: (1) The original theatrical trailer (standard issue and welcome); (2) The original 1992 5-minute featurette about the making of the movie (interesting mainly for the interviews of Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins); (3) A new 45-minute documentary about the making of the movie (detailed and informative, with some priceless bickering between director James Ivory and producer Isamail Merchant); (4) A more in-depth look at the costumes and award-winning set design (basically a 9-minute extension of the 45-minute documentary); (5) A 5-minute ad for Cinemax's March 1992 5-film celebration of Merchant Ivory's 30th anniversary (this is an easter egg that can be easily found on the main menu of disc 2); and (6) The 50-minute 1984 documentary The Wandering Company which covers the early history of the Merchant Ivory company (an unusual choice for inclusion in this set since it ends with 1984's The Bostonians, but welcome nonetheless).

    Even if you don't consider Howards End one of the best films of the 1990s, as I do, it's still probably Merchant Ivory's crowning achievement, and this DVD treats it with the respect it deserves. Highest recommendation!...more info
  • A beautiful, truthful, faithful, perfectly rendered work of cinematic art
    This is, in my estimation, the most faithful transfer from a novel I have ever seen. The acting is superb and the cinematography and direction gel into one of the most rewarding movie experiences I have ever had. I own the DVD and find that I constantly come back to it to see not just a good story, but one that is masterfully put together. I suppose Ang Lee is responsible for this. If this genre is to your taste, then "Howard's End" should be at the top of the list. See it and I hope that you come away from it with a similar reaction. Some people just miss the point of it all, and that is a sad commentary on the human race....more info
  • Get it.........NOW!
    What can be said other than: Merchant/Ivory, Hopkins, Thompson, Bonham-Carter, Forster, Robbins?

    If none of that made sense to you, then buy this movie, buy Remains of the Day, buy every Merchant/Ivory film you can find (except Maurice).

    To those of you who are not acquainted with British cinema, particularly classical style cinema, this is where you need to start your journey. Ambiguity, deceit, intense atmosphere, characters that you will not see anywhere else, passion, desire, murder, the music alone will bring you to tears; this film has everything. Just as racy as anything you will find in "modern cinema," only it actually has a point to it--a theme, a lesson, something that you walk away with that you can apply to your own life.
    Even without the thematical implications of the film, it's cinematic value is more than enough to warrant multiple viewings. The cinematography, the art and set direction, the music, the costumes, it all is far more incredible than any other recent film that I can recall.
    Beware, however. To fully enjoy this film you have to do quite a bit of mental work....more info

  • Flawless!
    Great story, gorgeously photographed, with a perfect cast, all adding up to first rate entertainment. Highly recommended!...more info
  • BORING!
    Don't get me wrong. I love period pieces. I loved "Sense and Sensibility", "A Room With a View", "Remains of the Day", etc.... This one, however, escapes me. I keep telling myself I need to see it again because so many out there seem to love it. It almost put me to sleep. I've seen Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Helena Bonham Carter, as well as Vanessa Redgrave better in so many other films. I personally found Thompson's performance rather dull and Bonham Carter, I felt, was close to terrible. Oh well. I'll check it out one more time and if I was wrong I'll change my review. However, if I wasn't, I certainly will add to this pan. See ya....more info
  • 5 Star Escapism
    My wife and I both enjoyed this superbly acted, beautifully filmed period drama. As longtime PBS-TV Masterpiece Theatre fans, we were pre-disposed to enjoy this kind of production, but even so, this film adaptation of a classic E.M. Forster novel was particularly engrossing. Forster reflected his fatalistic take on a class-bound Edwardian society that was already crumbling as he wrote. To American eyes, the hopeless affair of Helen and Leonard and the marriage of social and financial convenience of Margaret and Henry seem both very outdated and very poignant. The romantic visions of Leonard, walking through fields of bluebells in his imagination while slaving away in a dingy London office, would seem laughable in an American setting but are perfectly suited to his time and place. This is essentially escapist fare, but for us is much preferable to the sex-and-violence saturated escapism of contemporary television and films. It's really a welcome escape from our culture's primary forms of escapism. ...more info
  • Best-Looking Of The Merchant-Ivory Films
    Being a man who appreciates beauty and great visual movies, I have checked out all the Merchant-Ivory films. I found this to be their prettiest, just stunning in its beauty.
    Story-wise, I preferred "The Remains Of The Day," but this was okay. It just didn't have the appealing characters "Remains" had and it was a little too soap opera for my tastes but the visuals made up for that, ...and the story, to be fair, was solid and involving.

    It also had Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, and those two make a great pair. I would never get tired of watching either of these great actors, especially when they are together.

    If you like period pieces - this is 1910 Edwardian England - along with fabulous sets and scenery, a solid cast, and an involving story, you'll like this. If you are a fan of melodramas then you'll really, really like this! ...more info
  • Pedestrian and dispiriting
    I found this film really hard going and ultimately dispiriting - perhaps this is more a reflection of my own interior state. None of the characthers seem to have any joy in their lives - they were all kind of drifting along in an aimless way, so it seemed to me. ...more info
  • Merchant Ivory Masterpiece
    I never tire of this film. The acting,the marvelous filming locations, the costumes.... perfection. I can't watch it without wanting to have a cup of tea and a hot scone to accompany the viewing. In fact, I once stopped the video, baked scones, and continued to watch it while munching a freshly baked scone and a cuppa. Try it. I now own the DVD also....more info
  • Classic - Must See!!
    This is one of my favorite films, truly a classic film. Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, and Helena Bonham Carter, and Vanessa Redgrave do an outstanding job, as always. The story is interesting and it makes one think of how this would have indeed been quite a scandal back during this time! I love the costumes....and the houses are amazing, all of them from the townhouses in London to Howards End to the Aunt's house by the sea. If you love period films, this one in one of the best! ...more info
  • Nice to look at is all
    Beautiful scenery, nice costumes, great acting, and handsome people, without a good storyline do not a great movie make....more info
  • Perfection Personified
    This story line is good enough to keep you in suspence and entertained at the same time. Anthony is perfect as usual. The greatest part of this story is the first glimpse into the cottage at "Howards End". Upon entering the house, the most glorious piano begins to play in the background music. The music is so hauntingly beautiful, so perfect for the setting that I found myself in tears throughout its playing. I had to have the movie, just for the piano alone....more info
  • Adaptation of E.M. Forester's classic novel...
    When watching "Remains of the Day," you never really get to see Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins show one another any real affection. In this movie, they actually have great chemistry and while Emma takes on the role of a much more subservient woman, she is much more radiant. If you are a fan of her acting, you will definitely want to see this movie.

    This is a movie which takes some patience to view and the artistic elements are well worth waiting for. The Schlegel sisters get themselves into a few trying situations and the men they love either fail miserably or protect them from the world.

    Margaret (Emma Thompson) is the smarter of the sisters and yet she lacks heart in certain situations. She seems quite happy to let others save her, but is not as willing to sacrifice to save a friend. Her sister falls in love with a young bank clerk and while trying to assist him is seduced and "ruined." She is not following the laws of her society and therefore is rejected at first.

    This is a tangled web involving the cultured and underprivileged. Margaret and Helen are independent and well educated and when they meet Leonard Bast (Samuel West) their lives are changed forever.

    A somewhat somber ending because we are not sure any of the characters really get what they first wanted. I found this movie to be enjoyable, yet felt tense throughout the movie because there is always the thought that the sisters have ruined an innocent. Leonard is really the tragic hero in this story because he took on a responsibility neglected by Mr. Wilcox who has his eye on Margaret.

    All I have to say is..."Don't let anyone steal your umbrella."

    If you enjoy movies that make you think about more than what is happening on screen, this is a good movie that will make you contemplate the fate of others around you in your world. You could hold someone's destiny in your hands, even if it is not as dramatic as the story in this movie.

    ~The Rebecca Review ...more info
  • howard's end dvd
    I enjoyed the dvd very much,actor's were superb.I would suggest not reading the long reviews,I enjoy this period piece more and more,each time i view it. please don't print my review---but you have agatha christie as the author ,on my page---it is e.m.forster...more info
  • Howards End as a Recurring Character
    Well-loved story and exquiste settings and surroundings make for a multi-layered drama.
    The lush countryside makes the different seasons Howards End progresses through set moods
    that range from cozy to dark and stormy. Beautiful movie to look at but definitely more of
    a "womens' movie" that one most men would sit through....more info
  • Umbrellas and Fate
    A story that follows the lives of two unconventional sisters in England in the early 1900's (?), where class determined a great deal about the type of life a person would live.

    Generally, the movie follows the lives of the two open-minded sisters, particularly the eldest, played by Thompson, and how their lives twist and turn after meeting and attempting to assist a lower-class, but seemingly promising ordinary guy. The sisters paths also cross at several turns with the family presided over by Hopkins and Redgrave. As fate would have it, the lower-class bloke, the Hopkins/Redgrave clan and Thompson's family are all interconnected through various happenings in the past. All this is woven together artfully, and is not as contrived as it may sound in writing.

    A lush and visually pleasing movie, with a once in a lifetime cast of actors (and the trite question I must pose, have and will Bonham-Carter and Emma ever work together again, after the Branaugh affair?)including the formidable Anthony Hopkins and the even more formidable Redgrave.

    A thinking person's movie, about fate and life, teamed with fine actors, a great dramatic story line and excellent period costumes and settings....more info

 

 
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