Festivities for ‘Room with a View,’ Ivory’s Great Work

Tea at the British Institute

The beginning of a new week brings the anniversary celebrations of “A Room with a View” to a close, ending the festivities on a tone of prodigious respect and admiration for the 1985 screen adaptation of E. M. Forster’s novel.  A special teatime at the British Institute of Florence’s library closed out the festive ceremonies, but the deep appreciation for the movie continues.

As lead actress Helena Bonham Carter details in this video interview, the movie fosters a growing community among people who seek the same freedom as Lucy Honeychurch, honeymooners as well as expatriates looking to enrich their lives, demonstrating the significant impact of the movie in Florence. Director James Ivory’s devotion to the attraction between Lucy and a free spirited way of life typified by Florence was honored in a gala and separate screening of the movie.

To mark the anniversary, Florence mayor Dario Nardella presented Ivory with the Fiorino d’Oro in Palazzo Vecchio on October 5, 2017. The Golden Florin (a copy of a Renaissance coin) is a high honor, and Ivory received the award because of his commitment to commemorating the love and meaningful bond that Florence inspires in people.

After the ceremony, the Cinema Odeon hosted a gala night where a newly restored version of the movie was screened, with actors Carter and Julian Sands in attendance.  See a photo gallery of the event.

In tribute to the many important meals present in the screen adaptation, the British Institute of Florence held an Edwardian “Tea with a View.” Many participants from the movie comprised a panel which provided a lively discussion with members of the library on October 7, 2017. For the first time during the celebrations, actor Rupert Graves, alongside Ivory, Carter, Sands, casting director Celestia Fox, and staff from the costume department answered questions from the host and audience. They reflected on their experience being in the movie and shared stories from the set.

When asked how the protagonists they played in the film have remained with them through their careers, each had a different explanation. Graves illuminated how the success from “Room with a View” constantly follows and stays with him for each new picture. Sands described how portraying George was not distinct, but rather a continuum, where each role merges into one and remains part of the actor. Carter revealed how playing Lucy and other figures leaves an imprint on the soul.

The personality of the character exists inside the actor, and everyday occurrences constantly provide tokens of particular aspects of the role. Over Imperial Earl Grey and Prince of Wales tea, members of the library were able to converse with the cast, while attendees enjoyed snacks, desserts, and finger sandwiches. It was a jovial late afternoon, venerating the film that inspired many supporters of the library to pursue a life in Florence.

“A Room with a View” was a great success, exceeding expectations at the box office and receiving international critical acclaim for Ivory’s ability to accurately portray the struggle inside the characters. The director intricately created a movie that focuses on an intellectual discussion about emotions and how people need to remain true to themselves, and not be conditioned by the expectations of society or others.

The eight-time Oscar nominated film encourages the audience to analyze feelings and earn a deeper understanding of them rather than simply acting without thought.  Through the eyes of Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) and her cousin, Charlotte Bartlett (Maggie Smith), the viewer visits a pensione (small, family-run hotel) in Florence and meet many other English tourists, specifically George Emerson (Julian Sands) and his father, who are not appreciated within the group. The open-mindedness of the Emerson family and Italy is contrasted against the stiff restrictions of English society, with Lucy trapped between the two worlds.

Rigid constraints of Edwardian society force Lucy to decide if she should pursue a desired relationship with outcast George or listen to the opinions of others. After observation of her feelings, the heroine recognizes that she should not marry Cecil Vyse (Daniel Day-Lewis), a wealthy English snob, solely because he is deemed appropriate.  While the movie is not exclusively a love story between the two characters, Lucy decides to purse a life of independence, and marries George.

Even though the anniversary of “A Room with a View” has come to an end, the movie’s significant influence will always remain a meaningful aspect of Florence’s history. From stimulating the audience to have an intellectual conversation about feelings to presenting how a city can positively alter one’s life, the film continues to touch and inspire audiences. People from a variety of generations and backgrounds constantly look to  “A  Room with a View” for inspiration ensuring that its vision will continue into the future. (shannon duggan)