Wings Of The Dove

7.11 h 41 min1997R
Highly acclaimed as one of the year's most outstanding movies, THE WINGS OF THE DOVE is a provocative tale of passion, temptation, and greed. Helena Bonham Carter (HOWARDS END) delivers a stunning, award-winning performance as Kate, a beautiful young society woman whose desire for a common journalist (Linus Roache) presents her with an impossible decision: leave him, or marry.
Iain Softley
Helena Bonham CarterAlison ElliottLinus Roache
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Bob WeinsteinHarvey Weinstein
R (Restricted)
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4.5 out of 5 stars

370 global ratings

  1. 76% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 8% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 9% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 4% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 3% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

David IrlandReviewed in the United States on July 2, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Will not drive you crazy if you already love the book
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This is a totally legit interpretation, much easier to access than the book while still retaining most of the moral ambiguity. Some changes were made, nothing too jarring. They left out the Great Doctor altogether.. Great casting, the male lead is an amazing actor. H.G. Carter is also very good and it'd nice to see her in her early years doing a relatively dark, serious role. It's a great companion to the novel, and it's wonderful to visit Venice-beautiful photography and settings
16 people found this helpful
music loverReviewed in the United States on November 13, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Bringing Henry James to Life
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One of the handful of good translations of the great Henry James into film. Possibly the best work from the three stars. At the time, it appeared as if Helena Bonham Carter had suddenly grown up. It remains one of her best performances. The story is engrossing and ultimately devastating, and accomplishes the near-impossible in rendering the complex inner evolution of its trio of main characters. The supporting cast is luxurious (Charlotte Rampling, Michael Gambon and Elizabeth McGovern all pitch-perfect) - all this and Venice, too!
4 people found this helpful
K. BoullosaReviewed in the United States on January 29, 2008
5.0 out of 5 stars
The Law of Unintended Consequences, via Henry James
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This exquisite, if not entirely literal, adaptation of Henry James's novel of the same name, examines the relationships among three people, all of whom love each other in one way or another, but whose feelings are rooted in vastly different needs, agendas, and expectations. Through the lens of these relationships, we get a glimpse of the social limitations and values imposed by the class structure of Edwardian-era Britain.

Kate Croy, played by Helena Bonham Carter, in possibly the best performance of her not undistinguished career, is the daughter of a woman from a socially prominent family who married a poor man for love - that is to say, married "beneath" her. The marriage was unhappy, and Kate's mother died young, leaving Kate with a social pedigree on one side, but no money - and Kate's social standing, and the mores of the times, make employment impossible. A wealthy marriage is clearly the resolution to her difficulties, but Kate is desperately in love with a handsome, intelligent, but only modestly employed young journalist (Linus Roache) and he does not qualify as that resolution.

As the film opens, Kate is living with her mother's sister, her wealthy Aunt Maud (Charlotte Rampling). Maud has paid Kate's father off so that Kate can become her legal ward, and she is determined that Kate will not make the same mistake as her mother. Maud intends to steer her beautiful young niece into a brilliant marriage that will safeguard her future. Love does not figure into Maud's cold social calculations - she does not care who Kate takes as a lover once she is well married. Kate obediently allows Maud to take her into society where Kate can be seen by eligible men, but secretly Kate continues to meet her lover, Merton Densher. Merton returns Kate's passion but resents her unwillingness to defy Maud, marry him, and join him in his modest lifestyle. Kate wants to find a solution to their dilemma that will allow her to marry Densher without cutting her off from the comforts Kate has come to appreciate. Exacerbating matters, Maud discovers that Kate has been meeting Merton in secret, and forbids Kate to see him again, stating that otherwise she will wash her hands of Kate and refuse further help.

One evening, Kate meets a very rich, orphaned American heiress, Millie Theale, at a dinner party; Millie is traveling in Europe with a paid companion (Elizabeth McGovern). Millie and Kate take to one another immediately and become friends. As their friendship develops, Millie meets Merton, with whom she instantly falls in love. Kate discovers that Millie is seriously ill - she gets confirmation of the illness, and its terminal nature, via Lord Mark (Alex Jennings), a shallow aristocrat in her aunt's social circle with economic problems of his own. Lord Mark, although greatly attracted to Kate, is pursuing Millie, who he hopes will restore his family's fortunes after marriage - and fairly soon leave him a wealthy widower, free to indulge his wishes where Kate is concerned.

Kate, however, has a better plan: she conceals her own relationship with Merton from Millie, and as the two women's affectionate intimacy progresses, Kate places Merton more and more frequently in Millie's path. It is her hope that Millie's feelings for him, sharpened by her awareness of her own impending death, will prompt Millie to leave her money to Merton, solving Kate's dilemma.

When Millie invites Kate and Merton to join her in Venice, where the three, with Millie's companion, are thrown together on a daily basis, Kate's plans begin to look like succeeding. At first Merton refuses to participate by pretending to return Millie's feelings, but by degrees we see him responding to Millie's spiritual depths, transparent nature, and genuine feeling for both him and Kate. And thus, this being Henry James, the uncontrollability of the emotions begins to change the balance of the relationships among the three, alarming Kate, who has returned home to England to await the outcome of her plans.

The outcome arrives, but not quite as planned. Millie dies soon and leaves a great deal of money to Merton, but Merton will not accept it, and will only marry Kate if she accepts him without the bequest. In a departure from the last pages of the novel, the film suggests that Merton and Kate are permanently parted because Kate cannot bear the knowledge that Merton is in love with Millie's memory. In the novel, it is not clear that Kate and Merton are permanently parted, despite Merton's declaration that he will never take the money.

Thus, in the film, Kate achieves the goal she has connived at, but loses the thing she wants most just at her moment of triumph. The viewer watches as, in an extraordinary five minutes before the camera, Bonham Carter's face shows Kate's dawning knowledge of the price she will pay for her success - her heart breaks before the viewer's eyes.

This complex web is superbly delineated by a matchless cast. Helena Bonham Carter, in this reviewer's opinion, was robbed at the Oscars - the last ten minutes of the film, let alone her subtly shaped portrait of Kate throughout, should have won her the Best Actress award for which she was nominated. It is, bar none, one of the most memorable performances by an actress this reviewer has seen in a long time. Alison Elliott is touching as the dying Millie, wiser than her friends suspected; Linus Roache makes Merton terribly attractive both personally and intellectually, justifying both women's feelings for him; and Charlotte Rampling is wonderfully brittle as the ruthlessly calculating Aunt Maud. The production is perfectly executed.

I have only one fault to find with the script, and that is the reference to the title. In the film, the reference is linked only to the Psalm spoken over Millie's casket, in which the narrator sighs, "Oh that I had wings like the dove, that I could fly away, for the terror of death is sore upon me. . .". In the last pages of the novel, it is Millie herself who figures as the dove, who has stretched out her wings to cover both Kate and Merton with her bequest. The difference is a telling one, and James's usage far more supports the title of the work.

However, that is a minor point, overall. This is no soppy costume drama, but an adult film about motives buried within motives - an illustration of the inherent danger of trying to control others' lives, for unintended consequences are not only possible, but likely.
27 people found this helpful
Jim BklynReviewed in the United States on September 6, 2015
4.0 out of 5 stars
Not dank enough
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A very fine adaptation, but probably too short to do the subject justice. The corrupt "transactional" nature of the sexual relations between the characters doesn't really come through because the script doesn't take the time to explore the financial plight of single women at the time (unlike the recent version of Wharton's "House of Mirth"). It's all just a little too pretty. So much time is spent on the doomed heiress, who floats effortlessly through life on a cloud of money, that we really need to be told outright how conniving and mendacious her "friends" are.
8 people found this helpful
AnonymousReviewed in the United States on January 14, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
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So "good old" Harvey Weinstein managed to have a crack at Helena Bonham Carter too by having her appear (unecessarily) nude in this film. Neither she nor Henry James deserved this, and will remain far above in the end.
3 people found this helpful
E. KutinskyReviewed in the United States on June 9, 2005
5.0 out of 5 stars
A ravishing rewrite of the parlour room drama
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Watching The Wings of the Dove on dvd after years of not seeing it, I felt as though I were watching a completely new movie - the ravishing cinematography of Eduardo Serra makes this a completely new experience from its video transfer that I first saw. The rain-strewn canals of Venice seem to have never looked so vivid, romantic, and - cineastes beware - symmetrical. This becomes so eye-catching because despite amazing Merchant-Ivory productions, the turn-of-the-century class-romance conflict has never been made like it is here. That's because beneath its struggle between desire and social mores is two fully vivid women whose characterizations embody the full depths and aspirations of humanity (not to a mention a deliciously misanthropic turn by Charlotte Rampling as icy Aunt Maude). Alison Elliot never quite got the credit she deserved for matching Milly's rapaciousness towards life with her rapaciousness towards Martin - and Kate. And Helena Bonham Carter gives equal parts sizzle and sympathy to the almost totally sympathy-less Kate, who, at her center, is a fairly vile manipulator. The fact that the movie could have such romantic force despite our very human reservations towards what's going on onscreen is a testament to the full gradations of life Iain Sotley and Hossein Amini bring to Henry James's novel - and it makes this thick British drama a pulsating force.
9 people found this helpful
Bobby UnderwoodReviewed in the United States on June 26, 2005
5.0 out of 5 stars
"What Could the Rain Do to Me?"
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Rarely has a film of such extraordinary visual beauty reached the profound emotional depths of this magnificently acted period film from Iain Softley. Based on the novel by Henry James, cinematographer Eduardo Serra sets a table of beauty and elegance while screenwriter Houssein Amini serves up dishes of love, passion and desire, all arranged in their proper order by director Softley, creating an unforgettable dining experience.

Helena Bonham Carter is Kate, a passionate beauty in love with Martin (Linus Roache), a man without money. Charlotte Rampling is her rich aunt, who may force her to marry well, but not for love. Kate has a fire burning beneath her dark beauty, however, and when fate gives her an opportunity to show Martin how she loves, a dangerous journey down winding currents is begun, and neither she nor Martin will be prepared for what awaits them at the river's end.

Alison Elliot is simply marvelous as Millie, her finest role since "The Spitfire Grill." Millie is a charming American girl of great wealth reaching out to touch life before it passes by. She and Kate will become fast and inseparable friends, but Millie's attraction to Martin and a secret discovered by Kate will set in tenuous motion a plan to solve all their problems. When the maneuvering of lives like chess pieces involves both the human heart and someone as special as Millie, however, unforseen complications can arise.

Helena Bonham Carter may have received all the nominations as the beautiful and passionate Kate, but Alison Elliot's portrayel of the sweet and open Millie, rich but lonely, and desparate for love, deserved an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination as well. Italy is beautifully recreated from the period in a film of both depth and beauty.

This film is a true cinematic masterpiece. A gratuitous scene with Carter near the end of this film seems out of place, but can not detract from its beauty. Fine Italian lace is gently lifted back to reveal an emotionally naked look at the human heart. It is substance with beauty and beauty with substance, and is not to be missed.
18 people found this helpful
Anita YoungReviewed in the United States on April 30, 2014
5.0 out of 5 stars
Sorry I didn't see it when it came out
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Henry James is not my favorite novelist but I did enjoy this movie. How beautiful the main characters are (I'm a Linus Roache junkie) and how well they convey the tragedy of their lives. I live in a city where art-type movies last around 5 days, then they're gone so I missed out on seeing this when it came to town. The acting is great (I think Bonham-Carter was nominated for an Oscar) and it was only because I became interested in Linus Roache's work that I bought the movie. It is a period piece so if you're into the Merchant/Ivory type features you might enjoy it. If you're into Stallone, Schwartzenegger and Seth Rogan, forget it.
4 people found this helpful
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