The Portrait of a Lady (1996)
Directed by Jane Campion (‘The Piano’ (1993)), ‘The Portrait of a Lady’ is an adaptation of Henry James’s classic novel of the same name. It tells the story of a beautiful, free-thinking and intelligent young woman, Isabel Archer (Nicole Kidman) who arrives to England from the US with her aunt, Mrs. Touchett, to “see and explore the world”. While on her quest, Miss Archer rejects promising marriage proposals coming from a wealthy American tradesman, Caspar Goodwood (Viggo Mortensen), and an immensely rich heir, Lord Warburton (Richard E. Grant). Miss Archer takes these decisions because she is devoted to the ideals of personal freedom and a ceaseless pursuit of knowledge.Through the help of her faithful, but fragile cousin, Ralph (Martin Donovan), Isabel is made rich, and is then free to pursue her dreams of independence. However, when Isabel strikes up friendship with amiable and cultured Madame Merle (Barbara Hershey), she is far from suspecting that this acquaintance will lead to her unhappy marriage to an elusive, middle-aged art collector, Gilbert Osmond (John Malkovich).
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Oscar and Lucinda (1996)
‘Oscar and Lucinda’ is based on the novel by Peter Carey and tells the story of a young Australian heiress, Lucinda Leplastrier (Cate Blanchett) with the passion for glass and gambling who meets an Anglican priest, Oscar Hopkins (Ralph Fiennes), who has the same obsessions. The two soon strike up a close friendship, because they share the same trait of being quite unfit to live in the society as they know it due to their oddities and gambling compulsions. However, their increasing closeness soon puts to the test their obsession limits. This film directed by Gillian Armstrong (‘Little Women’ (1994)) is almost as odd and unique as its main characters. Rapidly going from comic to romantic, and ending up being tragic, the film covers almost every genre without losing its eccentricity. However, the film’s ‘strangeness’ and unusual style may be attributed to Carey book’s content and style. The book’s narrative is more factual than descriptive, and has many ambiguous paragraphs and references.
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