``The Wings of the Dove'' is a beautifully photographed if cold-blooded story of two British lovers who plot to obtain the inheritance of a very rich American girl.
Millie, the heiress, is played by a delightful newcomer, (Alison Elliott). Kate, played with flashing eyes and bold imagination by Helena Bonham Carter, is a poor girl with a tenuous foothold in society. Her father is a penniless drunkard, and her mother is dead. She is taken in by her wealthy Aunt Maude (Charlotte Rampling), who wants to marry her off to the best advantage. But Kate loves Merton Densher (Linus Roache), an ill-paid journalist who cheerfully admits he doesn't believe the things he writes. Maude forbids the marriage and even threatens to cut off the weekly shillings she pays Kate's father.
She accompanies Millie to Venice and Merton joins them there. The plan is that Millie will fall in love with Merton, marry him, die and leave him her fortune. Merton will then have the money he needs to marry Kate. This scheme unfolds only gradually in the James novel, emerging from behind leisurely screens of dialogue and implication. It is more clear in the film, especially in a dark, atmospheric scene where Kate and Merton walk down deserted Venetian passages. She tells him she is returning to London and outlines what she expects him to do. Then, to seal the bargain, they have sex standing up against the old stones of Venice.
Merton. of course, falls in love with Millie as she dies. He decides he must renounce Millie's money, and tells Kate he will marry her only if she can accept his poverty. In the silence we know he knows she knows that isn't possible. She proposes a condition to the marriage too: that Merton swear on his honor that he is not in love with Millie's memory.
They win the game, but lose each other.
music / clip from the film
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