Adventure in the Bookstore

Milly and Kate meet and Shaw’s book shop in Bloomsbury. (I’ve been there, it’s near the British Museum.)  And they scandalize the (male) customers by going over to the “Foreign Language” section and opening a scandalous book.

And having a laugh about it

The subject of the pornographic illustration, though is one man simultaneously pleasuring two women–and of course that is what becomes both more and less than a joke as their relationship with each other and with Merton develops….

Klimt’s Danaë in The Wings of the Dove

In the 1997 Iain Softley adaptation of Henry James’s The Wings of the Dove. Hossein Amini’s screenplay telescopes two scenes in the novel: One is the chance meeting of Milly Theale with Kate Croy and Merton Densher in the National Gallery, where she becomes aware of their prior relationship (about which Kate has to lie); the other is Milly’s recognition of her fate, and her need to do something with her life before she meets that fate, while looking at a Bronzino portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi that Lord Mark shows her at Matcham:

“The lady in question, at all events, with her slightly Michelangelesque squareness, her eyes of other days, her full lips, her long neck, her recorded jewels, her brocaded and wasted reds, was a very great personage–only unaccompanied by a joy. And she was dead, dead, dead. Milly recognised her exactly in words that had nothing to do with her. “I shall never be better than this.”

These two scenes are combined into one, which takes place at what visitors to London will recognize as the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, where Milly–after a visit to the “consultant radiologist” Sir Luke Strett, and observing children playing football in the Park–runs for cover to the Gallery to get in out of a sudden rainstorm.  When she arrives, Milly unexpectedly sees Kate and Merton “looking at pictures.” And the picture they look at longest is Klimt’s Danaë.



The hair of Klimt’s model is like that of Alison Elliott, playing Milly Theale in the film…



And the Klimt functions symbolically on two levels: the legend of Danaë, impregnated by Zeus in the form of a shower of gold, alludes to Milly’s vast wealth,

Furthermore, the compressed posture of the model in the Klimt painting, crammed as it were into the thick wooden box of the frame–see the framed version above– suggests Milly’s oncoming fate, to be enclosed in a coffin.

But Softley does something else with the Danaë image at the very end of the film, when we see Kate (played by Helena Bonham Carter) with her knees drawn up into the same physically folded position as the Danaë:

This image goes along with the sense we are given that the living Kate (whose need for Milly’s gold generated the plot) is now the encoffined Danaë, while the dead Milly is more alive than Kate is, as far as Merton is concerned….


How Far Will People Go For Money?

In The Wings of a Dove, the topic of money and its power over humanity arises time and time again. How far will someone go for money? In the case of The Wings of the Dove we see that people will sell their friends, their boyfriend and even their own daughters to make a buck. I found this quality about Kate extremely disturbing in the book and this made it hard to sympathize with her character; however, the movie helped me to see where Kate was coming from. At 16:20 Kate has recently learned that her Aunt Maud disapproves of the one she loves and she has been forbidden to converse with Lionel. It is at this point in the movie we witness Kate curled up in a fetal position on her bed, releasing meek cries of despair.

It is at this time that we can see how desperately Kate wants to escape her situation, the same way her father and her sister desperately want to escape their own situation and poverty due to the meager amounts allocated to them from their mother’s will. Lionel, Kate and Kate’s father are all in the same boat- they do not have any money, this causes them to act desperately and to look inwardly which forces them to use things and people to make ends. In the book we hardly hear Kate’s father speak about anyone expect himself:

“To put it to your conscience that you’ve an admirable opportunity; and that it’s moreover one for which, after all, damn you, you’ve really to thank ME.”  (James 6)

“It’s just your honour that I appeal to. The only way to play the game IS to play it. There’s

no limit to what your aunt can do for you.” (James 7)

We see that most of the statements that Lionel makes in the book correlate directly with himself. How can he get what he wants? How can he win?

Kate’s father is always using words such as, “what your aunt can do for you,” “you should be thanking me,” he is constantly thinking how he can win at the expense of others, this attitude may have rubbed off on Kate as well. In many books, money is described as the root of all evil –  another book says that the love of money brings a snare to all men. The Wings of a Dove epitomizes those statements as we see Kate’s father sells his daughter to Aunt Maud, and Kate sellsout her best friend Milly, to gain monetary pleasures. Kate could have run away with Lionel at the beginning of the novel, but she did not because of money. Aunt Maud could have blessed the union between Kate and Lionel, but she did not because of money. Money, money, money. Kate could have even asked Milly to sponsor her and Lionel, but she did not and why this is, is open to interpretation. At the beginning of the novel, would Kate have been happy with some of Milly’s money – enough to live comfortably? Or did she want all of it? This novel certainly brings up the sad question: How far will people go for money, and the answer is far indeed.


The Wings of The Dove – The Contrast between Light and Dark

Iain Softley’s film, Wings of a Dove, is such a beautiful, melancholic masterpiece. However, I suppose a lot of movies have this sense of melancholy and bittersweetness to them when they’re adaptations to nineteenth century novels. Softley did a great job directing this movie as he entrances his audience with subtle details. Such as, the differences between Kate and Milly. It’s not hard to miss how they’re different. For example, the colors. Kate is always wearing these dark hues like black, blue, grey, dark blue, while Milly wears colors that are more liv