I watched the film adaptation of Edith Wharton’s ‘The Age of Innocence’ directed by Martin Scorsese a few days back. I love Martin Scorsese’s movies. He is more well known for his gangsterish movies and others closer in theme to them. This is a very different Scorsese movie though because he has adapted a classic, a very unique film in his repertoire.
The basic story is this. The time is 1870s New York. Newland Archer is a young lawyer who is engaged to May Welland. Both of them are happy. And then a third person walks into the scene. It is May’s cousin Ellen. Ellen is married to a count in Europe and so she is Countess Olenska. Ellen has been away for a long time and she is European in thought and manner now. She is independent and liberal and creates a few flutters. She is back because she wants to divorce her husband, the count. Newland ends up handling her case. And before both of them realize, something happens and sparks are flying. What happens between Newland and Ellen? Will Newland’s love for May survive this? Will they get married? Can there be a happy ending to a triangle-love-story? Well, you have to watch the movie to find out.
I haven’t read Edith Wharton’s original novel, though it has been on my ‘To-be-read’ list for ages, and so it is difficult for me to compare, but looking at it independently, I loved this film adaptation. The New York of the 1870s comes alive on the screen, the workings of the high society of New York, the way social power and hierarchy is structured, the said and unsaid social and cultural rules – these are all beautifully depicted. The film won an Oscar for Best Costume Design and we can see why. The casting is mostly perfect. Michelle Pfeiffer is beautiful and perfect and delivers a brilliant performance as Madame Olenska. I think this is my most favourite performance of hers yet and it definitely deserved an Oscar. I can’t believe that the Academy had never awarded an Oscar to Pfeiffer till now. Winona Ryder is wonderful as May Welland. Daniel Day-Lewis is good as Newland – for some reason I am not a big fan of him, though I love his voice. Scorsese’s direction is, of course, perfect.
I have to talk about one more thing. The last scene in the movie. I won’t describe it, because you have to watch it yourself. It was so beautiful, brilliant, poignant and perfect, that I couldn’t stop crying. Then I put that last scene on repeat mode and watched it for an hour. It was a perfect ending to the story like the best endings. After watching it, I took down Wharton’s book from my shelf and read that last scene. It was beautiful, but I have to say this. Though I believe that a book is mostly better than its movie adaptation, I have to still say this. Scorsese takes that beautiful last scene from Wharton’s novel, and improves on it and makes it better. He makes it brilliant. It just shows what a great director he is. What a great master he is.
Now the only thing left for me to do is to read Wharton’s book. I can’t wait to do that.
Have you seen ‘The Age of Innocence’?