Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins star in a gorgeous restoration of the Merchant Ivory period drama
A new 4K restoration to celebrate its 25th anniversary means director-producer duo James Ivory and Ismail Merchant’s 1992 period drama is back on the big screen. Their gorgeous, textured adaption of EM Forster’s 1910 novel is fierce and deeply romantic, political, emotion-led, respectful of music and literature, impeccably dressed and, in one of the characters’ own words, “overexpressive”. A bit like its heroines, then, the Schlegel sisters, Margaret (Emma Thompson) and Helen (Helena Bonham Carter), champagne socialists whose progressive values and philanthropic impulses are tested by their emotional connections to men who sit both above and below them on the socioeconomic ladder. “The poor are poor; one is sorry for them, but there it is,” growls the wealthy Henry Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins), the wealthy owner of Howards End and Margaret’s eventual suitor.
But screenwriter and frequent Merchant Ivory collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala creates the sense that with the advent of suffrage, England’s class structures are becoming more elastic for both women and the working class.