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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/3/02

The Wings of the Dove
1997 (1999) - Miramax (Buena Vista)

review by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Wings of the Dove Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B-/C-

Specs and Features
101 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1) 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual layered (layer switch at 1:05:13 in Chapter 14), Amaray keep case packaging, Passion & Romance: The Wings of the Dove featurette, theatrical trailer, filmographies, film-themed menus, scene access (15 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

"I don't believe in any of the things that I write about. I fake passion. I fake conviction."

Kate Croy (Helena Bonham Carter) is a woman torn. Having been taken in by her high-society aunt as "charity," she is being trained to be an upstanding member of society in wealth and privilege. Though her aunt forbids her to see him, she continues her romance with Merton Densher (Linus Roache), a newspaper writer whom she loves over everything else. Wanting to no longer live in poverty, but to still be with Merton, Kate looks for a way that she can attain these goals without opposing her aunt.

That way comes in form of Millie Theale (Alison Elliot), a rich American orphan traveling through Europe. While visiting one of Kate's aunt's parties, Millie takes to the sarcastic wit of Kate and the two quickly becomes friends. However, when Kate learns that Millie is receiving radiology treatments, and is slowly dying, she sees this as an opportunity that she can use to her advantage. As Millie has no family, a husband would inherit her money. If only she had a husband...

When Millie and Kate leave for holiday in Venice, Kate invites Merton to join them. Millie is already quite smitten over Merton, and Kate reveals her plan to him in the hopes that Merton and Millie will marry... and that after Millie dies that Kate and Merton can be together in high society. Unfortunately, her plan does work... a little better than she would have liked.

Helena Bonham Carter, previously of A Room With a View and a half-dozen other period dramas, shines here in her Oscar-nominated performance. As Kate, she is a woman who commands power around her, yet she has no actual power herself. She's a woman who would rather fake love to achieve her goals than to truly allow herself to love. Her desire to not live in the gutter of society overshadows her passion for Merton, and ultimately undoes her. At the beginning of the film, she seems so certain that she would leave the protection of her aunt, and the wealth that comes with it, so that she could truly be with Merton. But it soon becomes quite clear that she has chosen the privilege granted to her by her aunt. In fact, she seems to delight in scheming while in Venice more than spending time with Merton, implying that she is beginning to submit to her fate of being a society dame rather willingly. Though so innocent at the beginning, Kate appears to have forgotten what love is, and Merton recognizes this quite clearly.

Presented on what is pretty much a bare bones disc, the DVD edition does include a very nice anamorphic widescreen video transfer. The image is bright and vibrant, and the colors are presented gloriously, without bleed. The black level is also nice and deep, although some of the shadow detailing could have been preserved a bit better. On the whole, the image is a little soft in some scenes, with some other scenes sporting some non-distracting dirt. But the transfer accurately presents the Oscar-nominated cinematography perfectly.

The audio mix is also good. Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, the sound is a bit more enveloping than a flat stereo mix. Dialogue is always understandable, and there seems to be an almost 5.1 quality to the mix in it's numerous party scenes. Guests voices are heard left and right, and it really draws you in, despite the fact that this is only a 2.0 mix. It would have sounded really wonderful in 5.1, but the provided mix is good enough.

Presented in non-anamorphic widescreen are the original theatrical trailer and the featurette Passion & Romance. Billed as a behind-the-scenes featurette, it's nothing more than a pretty uninformative EPK piece.

Nominated for four Academy Awards, The Wings of the Dove is more than just another stuffy costume drama about high-society England. Though set in the early 20th Century, its themes seem to be universal in time and place. And though the film ends sadly, it will reaffirm any belief in love you may have... and may have you thinking twice about what that word truly means.

Graham Greenlee
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