A Room with a View

Screening on Film
Directed by James Ivory.
With Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands.
UK, 1985, 35mm, color, 117 min.

One of the best works to emerge from the more than three-decade collaboration of producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory, and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is this lively adaptation of E. M. Forster's wry novel about an upper-middle-class English girl (Carter) on holiday in Florence under the care of a spinsterish cousin (Smith). The title alludes to the typical desire of tourists (then as now) to gaze upon scenic splendor from the windows of their hotel rooms—a desire thwarted here by a thoughtless proprietor who has ensconced the women in a room with no view. Two English gentlemen, a father and son, offer their assistance in exchanging accommodations. This encounter sets into motion a seemingly innocuous series of events that subtly shifts the coming-of-age tale into an illuminating, engaging, and thoroughly stylish comedy of manners.

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Treasures from the Harvard Film Archive: Directors E–J