“A Room With A View” is a novel written by Edward Morgan Forster, in 1908. I will be analysing two different versions of the film and I will be comparing the first three establishing shots, as well as the kiss between George Emerson and Lucy Honeychurch, who is the main character. The first adaptation I will be analysing is by Merchant Ivory, who are most famous for their costume dramas. The second adaptation I will be studying is by Andrew Davies, who is famous for his small-screen adaptations of costume dramas and classical dramas. “A Room With A View” was written in 1908.
Forster started planning this novel when he was travelling with his mother and aunt in 1901. At the time, he was 21 years old. When he went travelling, he thought of his future and his country. However, in the novel, he decides to look back to the reign of Queen Victoria- which ended in 1901. Charlotte Bartlett is portrayed as a backward looking character, who prefers the old-fashioned way of doing things. Lucy Honeychurch, however, likes to try out new things, but she does begin to feel slightly insecure. George Emerson, whom Lucy falls in love with, is also a forward looking character.
The screenplay of “A Room With A View” is written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. The film was directed by James Ivory, and produced by Ismail Merchant. When Merchant Ivory had adapted “A Room With A View”, they assumed wide spread distribution. Merchant Ivory had a well-established reputation for costume drama, so they had to live up to their name. This meant that they employed lavish famous actors and actresses, such as Maggie Smith (Charlotte Bartlett), Helena Bonham Carter (Lucy Honeychurch) and Dame Judi Dench (Eleanor McLavish).
The first five minutes of the Merchant Ivory adaptation show quite a lot. The film starts with the credits. The credits are accompanied with the music of the famous Italian opera singer, Puccini. In this particular type of music, a woman is singing. This is called soprano, however, it is also known as soprano aria. Aria means single voice singing, which is always a female voice. The credits are also accompanied with boxes, which have been decorated with Florentine motifs. In each of the boxes, there is a picture of an animal, which depicts a certain character.
George Emerson, for example, is shown as a Ram, which shows he is quite a passionate, forward-looking character. In Merchant Ivory’s adaptation of “A Room With A View”, the first establishing shot that we see is the name of the hotel in which Lucy and Charlotte Bartlett are staying- Pensione Bertolini, in Florence, Italy. At first it may not seem like it, but this anticipates Merchant Ivory’s use of intertitle, which continues throughout the film. Intertitle was first used when films became a form of entertainment- as silent movies.
When films first came into being, as we know they were silent. They used to proceed by a compromise by what was revealed by image and what was revealed by word onscreen. Sometimes the word would tally with the chapter title. Merchant Ivory used this technique in “A Room With A View”, in the whole film. They usually feature Forster’s preference for unusually long chapter titles. The second establishing shot is when Charlotte begins to complain about the room, as she and Lucy specifically asked for a room with a view.
However, they received a room without a view. The shot begins when Lucy’s throws open the shutters, and is quite disappointed with what she sees, as her and Charlotte both expected a view of the River Arno. As Lucy opens the shutters, she looks much more disappointed with the view than Charlotte. This establishing shot also gives us an idea of what the characters are like. The clothes which are being worn by Lucy and Charlotte describe the characters to us. Lucy appears to be wearing a young modern dress, whereas Charlotte is wearing a Victorian-style dress.
Between the second and third establishing shot, there is a tracking shot, which shows Lucy and Charlotte walking down the stairs on the way to the dining room. Merchant Ivory chose to do this, so the audience would become familiar with the hotel in which Lucy and Charlotte are staying. On the way to the dining room, there is a slight obstacle. This may signify the obstacles Lucy and Charlotte may come across, further on in the film. The third establishing shot takes place in the dining room. Lucy and Charlotte take their seats at their table and then a voice is heard.
Dame Judi Dench, who plays Miss Eleanor McLavish, is identified by her voice. There is a panning out shot, which gives an impression of all the residents staying at the Pensione Bertolini. There is a momentary focus on Miss McLavish, who is identified by voice. Eye contact is then made between Lucy and George Emerson, which may be the start of a new romance. George makes a question mark on his plate from his leftovers, which he then shows Lucy. George Emerson is often associated with the question mark. This may show that he is the questioning type.
After Charlotte and Lucy swap rooms with the Emersons, Charlotte spots a question mark, which has been drawn on the back of a picture hanging on the wall. George then walks in, turns the picture the right way round, and then leaves. The question mark which was made from the leftover food is an example of visual shorthand. It may signify him asking Lucy “what are we doing here with all these old people? “. Andrew Davies adapted the same scene as Merchant Ivory, as to where the kiss between George and Lucy took place. The slopes of Fiesole are hills, located just outside of Florence.
The scenes leading up to the kiss, start off when there is embracing between the cab driver and his “sister”. This scene acts as leitmotif, which anticipates the kiss between George and Lucy. When they arrive, the women are separated from the men. Lucy, Charlotte and Miss McLavish find a spot to sit down. Miss McLavish and Charlotte engage in deep conversation, which is the work of the producer. Lucy goes off to find Mr Beebe. As she does so, the romantic music by Puccini starts up again. Lucy goes back to the cab driver and asks him to take her to Mr Beebe.
However, Lucy is not very good at speaking Italian, therefore when speaking to the cab driver, she accidentally asked for “the good men”. The cab driver and Lucy then walk onwards. Because of the slopes, Lucy uses her rolled-up umbrella to help her walk on the hills. Merchant Ivory deliberately focus on the rolled-up umbrella, which functions as a phallic symbol-male potency. Lucy then realises that the cab driver has accidentally taken her to George. She walks over to George to ask him of Mr Beebe’s whereabouts, but he grabs her and kisses her.