Book to Film: A Room with a View by E. M. Forster

In these days when I have been burying myself on modern classics, this book finally got its turn. What more, I watched both film adaptations beforehand and genuinely found it lovely.

A Room with a View tells us about a young English woman traveling to Florence with her cousin guardian. She meets a few of the English tourists in their Italian pension over dinner and what starts as a typical appropriate discussion about "a room with a view" turns into an awakening of a woman's heart and mind to the beauty, to the discoveries of living life.

Forster writes the classic (British) way of exploring a coming of age story, about a girl wrapped in the pleasantries and manners of her own circle that when she finds herself outside the zone of her comfort was made to grasp the threshold of a different view.

If I had not known beforehand the gist of the book, I'd have tired of half the rambling conversations that make no sense to me, that offer nothing to enlighten nor to glean from. Perhaps this is the point of Forster as he displays the "drawing room" talks prevalent in Britain on these times. Only Mr. Emerson, who sees the picture quite clearly, is the most interesting to listen to, really.

At the same time, it is quite amusing, meant to entertain somewhat. It is meant to show the hypocrisy of class civilities, to make us ponder of embracing truth, to live not absent of emotion which makes all the difference in the world.

Now what could surprise me more than seeing Helena Bonham Carter (who also starred in another E.M. Forster's adaptation, Howard's End) in a white frock (obviously I have only seen her in dark, twisty, troubled roles). She played the ingenue Lucy in the 1985 film along with other big names.

You'd think it'd be too crowded but the stellar cast defined each character with brilliant subtlety which deepened one's understanding of Lucy's judgments; George's haunted look and lonely air about him, Cecil's frivolities (ah, DDL, need I say more?), Miss Bartlett's conscientiousness and Miss Lavish's spirit and wit.

The film is quaint and almost poetic. Sets and costumes are too lovely. It displays better that sense of contrast between a life in restraint and in abandon to the vivacity of passion. We see an almost serene Lucy, obviously confused of feelings coming out of nothing. And yet for us, the viewers, it is crystal to whom she must belong to.

Bonham Carter's quiet portrayal made it all the more poignant in the end when she finds her courage. Let me add that, I think, Daniel Day-Lewis made me utterly speechless in his performance.

In 2007, it was again adapted for television, this time written by Andrew Davies. Although it veered away slightly from the original, it explored a different light for the characters.

This Lucy, played by Elaine Cassidy, has that spirit about her, showing sparks now and then as if something is simmering beneath the exterior. It is palpable in her performance as expressed by her demented playing in the piano. It sort of takes into account that particular fact in the book that piano is the only thing Lucy opens herself to with passion.

There is more tension here with silences in between, with a windswept flavor paired with a haunting soundtrack. George's character is rather odd and quirky than melancholic. Miss Lavish is a bit giddy but fun. Cecil seems the brooding sort in the film. Timothy Spall, playing Mr. Emerson, is stealing lots of thunder as usual.

With that unexpected twist in the end, it gives way for that lull (or in music, a coda of sorts) in which a gate opens and sentimentality floods in to hold us in a wistful note. That we will see a Lucy as she grows into a woman with knowing eyes and a mysterious smile playing on her lips as if she held all the secrets.

Book Summary:

A charming young English woman, Lucy Honeychurch, faints into the arms of a fellow Britisher when she witnesses a murder in a Florentine piazza. Attracted to this man, George Emerson, who is entirely unsuitable and whose father just may be a Socialist, Lucy is soon at war with the snobbery of her class and her own conflicting desires. Back in England she is courted by a more acceptable, if stifling, suitor, and soon realizes she must make a startling decision that will decide the course of her future: she is forced to choose between convention and passion.

Title: A Room with View
Author: E. M. Forster
Genre: Classics, Romance, Cultural
Published: 2000
Published: Penguin Classics
Rating: (4 cups - Subtle and permeating, almost a thought provoking book exploring a lot of human philosophy.)

Film Title: A Room with a View
Director: James Ivory
Cast: Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham Carter, Judi Dench, Daniel Day-Lewis
Release Date: 1985
Rating: ♨ 1/2 (4 cups and a half - Quaint and charmingly drowsy bordering on classic. The actors' subdued and seamless acting blended well together.)

Film Title: A Room with a View
Director: Nicholas Renton
Cast: Elaine Cassidy, Laurence Fox, Sinead Cusack, Timothy Spall, Mark Williams
Release Date: 2007
Rating:  (4 cups - Sentimental and nostalgic and yet it exudes a richness of feelings typical of Andrew Davies's work.)

{photos. 1985 // 2007}