Film review flashback: The Wings of a Dove (1997)

July 27, 2019 11:59 pm19 commentsViews: 343

Melodrama can easily be simplistic as it can be entangled and complex. The Wings of a Dove (1997) plays on a trio of characters whom manipulate, love and betray one another. This sordid tale of temptation takes place in the early 1900s in an imbalanced London, where class and wealth is everything. Our heroine is played by Helena Bonham Carter who was often typecast in roles which play on her frail look, yet within this particular costume period role she exhibits both determination and strength.

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The Game of Love

Carter plays Kate Croy, a young woman entangled in British aristocracy whom wishes to be no longer dependent on her Aunt Maude played by the detached Charlotte Rampling. Kate Croy’s family history is tainted by the fact her mother disregarded her privileged life to marry a penniless opium addict and Maude offers Kate a privileged life on the condition she no longer sees her father nor the man she loves, Merton Densher (Linus Roache), an impoverished journalist who can only offer Kate love.

Kate believes prosperity will set her free and sees a way out through the wealth of “the world’s richest orphan” American Millie Theale (Alison Elliot) whom is dying. Merton and Kate taunt one another with flirtatious games and in a desperate attempt to be with Merton, Kate befriends Millie and asks Merton to seduce the innocent Millie and retrieve her fortune in her approaching death.

“Every time she smiles, remember that I love you more.”

Kate Croy (Helena Bonham Carter) to Merton Densher (Linus Roache)

Kate’s plan to be with Merton ultimately fails, she loses her innocence once she uses her sexual power to control and manipulate Merton into an uncontrollable situation. Kate’s desires are somewhat repressed due to her female status, over the course of the film her costume represents her class, her level of meaning. By the conclusion of the film Kate is stripped bare, revealing both she and Merton are the same, pretending to be what they are not.

Jealousy and Betrayal

The true villainous figure in this film isn’t as overt as Kate has more forces against her then mythical ‘bad luck’. It is her social status perhaps that places her in such an act of desperation; it is perhaps Aunt Maude whom wants Kate to be with Lord Mark (Alex Jennings) and reject her ‘true’ love Merton.

If anything is overt it is that Millie is clearly an innocent, even after being betrayed by two individuals she entrusted she declares she “loves them both”. In conclusion Merton returns to Venice, alone and filled with guilt while Kate is humiliated unable to control Merton’s mentally no longer. In Millie’s death it seems she gets her revenge by not allowing either of them to enjoy her wealth or one another.

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