Edith Wharton: The Sense of Harmony

A portrait of a literary genius, cosmopolitan and activist, whose vivid portrayal of society still resonates today.
Elizabeth Lennard
Louis AuchinclossEdith Wharton
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Elizabeth Lennard
France 3 Televisions
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3.8 out of 5 stars

40 global ratings

  1. 46% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 19% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 15% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 9% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 12% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

johnfReviewed in the United States on November 12, 2017
4.0 out of 5 stars
A Wharton biography but not a survey of her novels.
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This documentary has been beautifully put together in the manner of most all documentaries in the last two decades that have escaped the dry lecture mode of the past and amply fill their time with many photos, paintings and in this case even old film footage and tie it together with appropriate music, all of which illuminates the spoken word. This has been greatly aided by computers that can search out tremendous amounts of material and editors who put things together seamlessly. It is also aided by relying not on a single narrator but also having an appropriate person read Wharton's letters in "her" voice.

The result is interesting but I found it a bit too short. Also, this is basically a biography and does not go into the novels very much at all. This made it a bit disappointing to me because I was expecting more about her works, their themes and their portrayal of the milieu in which she lived. Had I not been expecting more and had known this was basically biographical information I would not have been disappointed as it is well done. So enjoy it for what it is.
8 people found this helpful
SolitaireReviewed in the United States on May 18, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Fascinating biography
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First off, this is a FRENCH documentary, albeit in English, therefore the cultural point of view is slightly different, and in my view, explains the emphasis on Wharton's volunteer/refugee work in WW1 France. I found the hour enthralling and wished it had gone on longer. It was interesting hearing first person accounts of her, despite the talking heads being male as someone else complained. The film dates from the 90s, so don't apply today's standards to it, and think of it as an anthropological exploration of a vanished culture (which it really is), and you'll be just fine. Other than her trip to Europe to work on the Italian gardens book (I wish they'd made more of Maxfield Parrish's contribution), I really didn't know much about her outside of her best known novels. Watching the program makes me want to revisit some of those stories, and perhaps the ones I don't know, as well. Lovely way to pass an hour.
2 people found this helpful
waltwhitmanReviewed in the United States on December 9, 2018
1.0 out of 5 stars
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Boring, jumpy (childhood background comes in about half-way through), and with emphasis on works no one reads any more. What of "Ethan Frome," a book which has engaged multiple generations? It gets only a name-drop here--without even a hint of the plot. A number of geezerish British white men provide uninteresting analysis of Wharton and her lesser-known works throughout. I've read (and taught) Wharton, but after this documentary, I have little desire to spend time with her again.
6 people found this helpful
MeanJo in MphsReviewed in the United States on April 22, 2016
4.0 out of 5 stars
...extremely informative hour.
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ok, here goes: WHAT A WOMAN! Edith Wharton packed more into one life time than most of history's great leaders. we all know her professional writing is amazing, but here we learn that even her personal letters, both formal & informal, are pure prose filled with insight & biting humor. I tip my hat to the film maker for all that was packed into this extremely informative hour. however, in fairness to the prospective consumer, I must add that the usual biographical timeline is NOT applied here. in a biography, one expects to follow a sense of order, from point A to point B, in hopes of making sense of the subject's life choices. plus the fact that the film is flat out & straight up SLOW. with all that having been said, you'll visit an age-of-innocence to learn what made this exceptional woman tick. ;)
8 people found this helpful
Amazon CustomerReviewed in the United States on July 31, 2018
2.0 out of 5 stars
Not well done
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I've been a great fan of Edith Wharton's work for many years, and I was pleased to see this documentary about her listed. Unfortunately, it's not well done. The narration is dull and hurried at the same time. The editing is very bad. It rushes to her life in and after the First World War, and then goes back to her childhood and early adult life. I hope a more polished bio-pic on her becomes available because she is a wonderful American writer.
5 people found this helpful
CanyongirlReviewed in the United States on July 21, 2018
4.0 out of 5 stars
A nice overview of Edith Wharton's life.
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Edith Wharton was one of the greatest authors of all time. Of all her books, I have read Ethan Frome again and again for the beautiful clarity of her words. "But hitherto the emotion had remained in him a silent ache, veiling with sadness the beauty that evoked it. He did not even know whether any one else in the world felt as he did, or whether he was the sole victim of this mournful privilege...It seemed to Ethan that the art of definition could go no further, and that words had at last been found to utter his secret soul." Masterful and elegant writing. I enjoyed learning more about her from this documentary.
2 people found this helpful
Always LearningReviewed in the United States on May 7, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
it is wonderful to hear her voice though the selected excerpts of her writing and letters
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This is an unusual documentary. I could not stop watching once I started. There are some extraordinary old films and haunting photographs, but the best part of it is the exquisite reading of her writing that somehow conveys the culture of Wharton's times, and her acute mind, shockingly timeless. It was an odd mixture, and endlessly fascinating throughout the film. The music was uneven, but sometimes it was utterly mysterious.
2 people found this helpful
Josephine MillsReviewed in the United States on February 23, 2016
4.0 out of 5 stars
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Engaging and thorough, considering how much this documentary covers in a short time. I did learn a good deal. Enjoyed hearing Wharton's voice (from her letters) as well as seeing so many historical photos. Also included is information about her connections and correspondence to other artists. I have just begun reading Wharton's novels, and I found this documentary to be quite worthwhile in my getting to know the artist better. Really an interesting woman... I enjoyed watching this documentary and recommend it to anyone interested in Wharton, the Gilded Age, and those interested in American history.
9 people found this helpful
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