Film Review: Wings of the Dove

“She’s come here to live, not to die.
She doesn’t want our pity.”

“What does she want?”

“Your love.”

A wee while ago, I was … challenged … (I suppose),
by a question which went something along the lines of –

despite my detestation of Hollywood and television in general,
there must be SOME ‘movie’ that had resonated with me;
moved me to tears, or empathy: that meant … something ?

Having told the person that I would reply to the question
I must … in the spirit of ‘conversation’ … make an effort.

This is not, actually, a difficult question to address
simply because, for me, where Hollywood is concerned,
there is not a great variety from which I have to choose

I have never happened upon a film from America
which has not centred upon swaggering ‘heroes’,
flag worship, gratuitous violence, or crude vulgarity;
which leaves a very limited selection in films to consider.

The only English language film that I could suggest
in answer to the assertion that
there must be “SOME movie” that I sat through,
would be the 1997 production … “The Wings of the Dove”

In this production, actors Helena Bonham Carter,
Linus Roache, Alison Elliott, and Elizabeth McGovern
feature in a tale set in 1910 London and Venice.

It was, for me, a Morality Play – and, certainly,
for a mature audience that can sit through actual conversation
– rather than profanity, violence, and explosions.

A third of the way into the film,
a revelation is made about ‘Millie’;

from this point, the story is completely concerned with scheming,
greed, and … conscience.

Interestingly enough (for me, anyway) –
I cannot recall (with every willingness to be wrong)
that there was one bit of obscene profanity in the whole thing.
Amazing how they can do it, if they want to.

Now, this is not fit for any child – literal or mental.
There is, towards the end, a graphic scene with nudity
– sexuality, even — which is … PRECISELY the whole point
of the story:

Ill-gotten gain;
treachery towards someone;
and conscience bringing such disgust
that one conspirator could not bear to celebrate … “success”.

As the final scene makes abundantly clear.

Better to live alone
than to commune with “successful” predators.
Not a message which, I suspect, is often conveyed
by Hollywood studios.

Though struggling to detach myself from the nostalgia
of having walked those same Venetian streets
(Piazza San Marco too many times to count)
as a school-teacher in the area,
I cannot see how anyone possessed of feeling
could fail to be stirred by this celluloid story.

Indeed, it would take an heart of stone to
Not be moved at the scene where
a grief-stricken man kneels beside a sofa;

or to find immense satisfaction
in the result of that final ‘bedroom scene’
and aftermath.

“Give me your word of honour
that you are not in love with her memory.”

I never expected Film to arise
as a topic on this site – but then again,
the emotional pain of tender-hearted people
is something to which I can profoundly relate:
And would be the only type of film
that I could possibly watch to its end.

As this British production
(and another from Korea) are the only films
that have ever had any worth or significance to me,
I hope that this summary, and these thoughts,
will pass well enough for my version of a ‘Film Review’.

Thank you for this question.
It certainly made me think.

P Livingstone

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