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 lively like pastel green, white, even this teal blue which gives her this glow that burns brighter than the rest. Having these two side of side, we can easily see how Milly is truly young and fresh while Kate seems more solemn and old, even. With the whole high class society, Milly seems more alive while others are decaying from their sense of greed and obsession with superficiality. Which is really ironic sense Milly is the one with the terminal illness while Kate dresses like she’s always in mourning. Another difference between them is their caretakers: Aunt Maude and Susy. One actually follows the wishes and the well being of her ward, while the other uses her girl as a doll to be crafted into her ideal image. The casting was amazing as Alison Elliott truly did play a convincing portrayal of a sweet, innocent girl whose living life to the fullest. However, Helena Bonham Carter is much too serious to play as Kate. Yes, only she has this dominant grace that no one can miss when she’s in a crowd of people but she just looks too controlled. Even those scenes of intimacy and secrecy seems to leveled and decent within the scenes that are supposed to portray passion and lust. There’s no sense of vigor or determination from Carter’s character to make the audience seriously hate her or sympathize with her. Every decision she makes, even with the consequences there, makes it seem like ‘oh well’ that it was just by an impulsive whim but that’s not really the case with Helena Carter’s emotionless face. What was really well done was the camera angles being used for Carter’s character, Kate, since it shows this sense of control along with her manipulation. How the camera is always even or that it’s on a slight low angle on her when she’s with characters like Merton or Milly. She’s only at a high angle or at a seemingly vulnerable situation to fit her character, to blend in, as these camera angles help manipulate her role of a powerful woman or a submissive one. Such as, at the beginning scene on the train and when she leaves it. Even though it’s supposed to look like that she’s being followed and that she’s being stalked by some predator of the opposite sex, she’s the one pulling the strings as she’s giving those little cues like a glance from her eyes and Merton follows. He’s always being polite as he removes his hat before performing a sexual advancement. Milly and Kate are perfect characters as they are wonderful contrast of each other, and it’s fun to see how it manifests itself on the screen.

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One thought on “The Wings of The Dove – The Contrast between Light and Dark

  1. People didn’t agree with your assessment of Helena Bonham Carter’s performance: it was nominated for an oscar and for a screen actor’s guild prize. Her face is not emotionless at all: she is clearly holding back from expressing the emotions we know she is feeling.

    The screenplay presents Kate as the worldly wise adult who is always balancing the conflicting demands of her aunt, her father, and her lover, and suddenly (she sees Milly emerging from the consulting office of a radiologist and draws conclusions) seeing a way to marry Merton rather than Lord Mark without impoverishing herself, if Merton can “be nice” to Milly in ways that will ultimately free both Merton and her (Kate) from Aunt Maud’s plans.

    It changes James’s plot in one not too subtle way: it’s clearly shown to be Kate who tells Lord Mark that she is secretly engaged to Merton, and the film also presents a reason why she does so that is not in the novel: Merton’s letters back to Kate suggest that he is actually falling in love with Milly rather than just sorry for her. What I’d say is that the film balances the moral accounts in ways that the book doesn’t: all three characters are in a state of denial in terms of what the shift from a twosome to a threesome is going to cost. If that’s vague, I can expand on it.

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