Hit Me With Your Best Shot!: “A Room with a View”

“Hit Me With Your Best Shot” is a series over at TheFilmExperience, not only a series I love, but a site I adore! The series has had dynamic choices that make you understand the relationship between image and theme, or sometimes just marinates is glorious visuals. I linked some of my favorite entries over in yesterday’s Meanwhile post, and you should check those out and the rest over at TheFilmExperience!

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A Room with a View was the start of our cultural obsession with the Merchant/Ivory brand, setting a stereotype that has allowed many great films to be pushed aside regardless of content. Granted, we have been given so many innocuous, tepid “costume dramas” that the stereotype has felt earned, but it ignores the contribution a film like View has made. Running through themes of individualism, sexual awareness, and public persona, these rivers run deep.

The film is never lacking for gorgeous imagery, with even the most perfunctory medium dialogue shots being frames you want to live inside. The moment above is such a close call from best-in-show for it’s swelling rush of iconic romanticism and divine beauty.

So what is my best shot?

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The frame speaks volumes to character and situation: the frame is filled with to the gills with detail, shadows of light and dark, a whole paint pallet of color but our Lady Honeychurch is literally enclosed in a black box, cut off from a world around her. Indeed, she’s the least interesting thing in the frame, the most out of place. Shot from behind, she’s only equipped with her interpretation of Beethoven to express herself, ending in muted exasperation.

It’s perhaps an incredibly literal interpretation, but for a film glistening with sunlight and lush city (and country) scapes, it’s a surprisingly dark image with loaded suggestion.

Fun side note: I studied Forster’s A Room with a View in college and the professor was a very stately and contained academic herself, very droll and unfeeling when discussing thematically vivid Modernist works. The only instances of cracking her veneer were discussing (and viewing in the film) of the bathing scene. She turned into a giggling schoolgirl when contrasting the naturalism of the body and shock of modesty thereafter, brightening up in a way that we never saw again in the classroom. She smiled like she was sitting on a secret as she warned us about the film scene’s “floppy bits” to an obviously stirred room, a classroom’s worth of ruffled feathers over this woman charmingly delighted by Simon Callow’s birthday suit. As a connoisseur of the socially awkward, it was an odd moment of the narrative intention of the novel and film’s scene being reflected in the students’ prudish response to a natural response to the human body.

A Room with a View is currently streaming on Netflix!

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