Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Portrait of a Lady

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James.

There will be spoilers

Yes, I did it! I read this book.
Yes, it was long. Yes, sometimes it bored me.
But I did not leave it unfinished not only because I never leave a book unfinished, but also because Henry James's writing and style were magnificent. I decided that The Portrait of a Lady will be homework--I may not enjoy doing it, but it will do me much good.
And it did, indeed. It was a beautiful writing, exquisite and stylish.

I understand that the modern reader will not always find this story appealing or captivating, because we may not understand Isabel's tragedy, when we live in a world that is so freer than the one that Isabel lived in. We may not understand why she would tolerate her manipulative and emotionally sadistic husband, when she was the one with money and could leave him instantly and begin a new life. Today, we'd need Osmond and Madame Merle to plot Isabel's murder to get her money, and we may not understand why the discovery of Pansy's birth secret was such a big deal, but this was Europe in 1870, where a woman was not supposed to have her own mind and ideas, and those who tried to go against the society rules, might lose everything.
Isabel tried to be a feminist in a sexist society, where a woman is an accessory, a part of the beautiful portrait, where a woman is only to marry. Every man she met made love to her and proposed her, while the only thing she wished for was to be free.

I know I will never forget this book, and I will keep reading Henry James, for there is so much I can learn from him.

Now, the movie.

It's a difficult task to adapt this book into a movie, as the book has too little action, and is mostly conversations. The movie seemed to me mostly excerpts from the book, and have I not read the book, I would not understand what was going on.
The best thing about the movie was the very beautiful score. I think I watched the ending credits 20 times just for the sake of the music.
Also, the acting was very well, all the actors were good. I did not like Caspar's character, as in the movie he was even a worse stalker than in the book. Pansy was as annoying as I expected her to be, and Mr. Rosier was just as patethic and in love.

I will now start reading "The Turn of the Screw," as I already miss H. James's writing.

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