A Room with a View
Adapted from E. M. Forster’s novel by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and directed by James Ivory, a young woman with a chaperon in Florence meets a free-spirited young man and his father. In England she becomes engaged to an intellectual who loves art and books, but her path crosses again with the passionate young man.
Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) opens a window, and her chaperon Charlotte Bartlett (Maggie Smith) says this is not what they wanted. They were not given a view.
Charlotte and Lucy go downstairs to the dining-room and sit at a large round table with Eleanor Lavish (Judi Dench), Mr. Emerson (Denholm Elliott), George Emerson (Julian Sands), and others. Ladies discuss flowers. Charlotte tells Lucy she will get her a room with a view. Mr. Emerson says he has a view as does his son George. He offers to exchange their rooms, but Charlotte says they could not impose on them. Mr. Emerson says men don’t care about a view, but women do. He argues for making the change and goes into a philosophical dissertation about how real happiness is found within. Charlotte gets up and has Lucy leave the table with her. Mr. Emerson tells George to go after them. On a nearby couch Lucy says he meant to be kind, but Charlotte says they will change pensione. They see Reverend Mr. Beebe (Simon Callow) and go over to him and remind him where they met. He stands up and shakes hands with Lucy. The elderly Miss Catharine Alan (Fabia Drake) and Miss Teresa Alan (Joan Henley) come to them and says that Mr. Emerson was tacky. Charlotte as Lucy’s chaperone says she could not put them under obligation to people they don’t know at all. Beebe says he does not think much harm could result from accepting, and Lucy agrees with him. He offers to talk to Emerson, and Lucy helps persuade Charlotte to accept the offer.
George is packing in the room, and Charlotte and Lucy come in. Charlotte wants to thank Mr. Emerson, but George says he is in his bath. Charlotte tells Lucy that she did not give the larger room to Lucy because it was the young man’s, and she knows where things can lead. Charlotte sees a large question mark framed on the wall and wonders what it means. George walks in and turns it around so that the picture is facing out, and then he walks back into his room. Charlotte follows him, but he closes the door.
Lucy gets out of her large bed in the morning, opens the window, and looks at the good view of Florence. Charlotte tells her to get dressed.
Lucy is playing a piano.
The two old ladies walk up the stairs and go into their room to see Mr. Emerson and George putting violet corn-flowers on the bed frame and in their hair.
Lucy finishes the Beethoven piece, and Beebe claps and says he wishes she would live as she plays. He asks her to play more, and she says she is going out. She says she won’t go far.
Eleanor and Charlotte walk in the plaza and admire an equestrian statue.
Lucy goes into the spacious Santa Croce church and looks at the Dante memorial. A man speaks Italian to her, and she asks him to go away. Reverend Mr. Eager (Patrick Godfrey) for a group of tourists is talking about the paintings of Giotto. He says how the church was built by faith, but Mr. Emerson says that only means the workers were not paid properly. Eager tells Emerson his party will leave his. Lucy walks with Emerson, and they see George kneel in prayer to avoid the Italian. Lucy says she has to go. Emerson says he does not expect her to fall in love with his son, but he would like her to help him get over his brooding. He does not believe in the world of sorrow, and she agrees with him. He hopes his son will get from why to yes. She asks if his son has a pleasant hobby. He says she is a poor girl, but she says she is very happy and walks away.
Eleanor takes Charlotte down a dark alley and says they are lost in an adventure. Eleanor hopes that Lucy will be open to physical sensation. Charlotte asks if she sees Lucy as a character in her novel. Eleanor says a young English girl may be transfigured in Italy because it happened to the Goths.
In the plaza Lucy sees two Italian men get into a fight, and a crowd gathers and sees that one man is bleeding. George sees Lucy and catches her as she faints and carries her to a bench. Several men take the bleeding man to a fountain. George asks Lucy how she is, and she says she is well. He suggests they go home. She says he is kind and realizes she dropped her photographs in the square. He goes to get them, and she starts to leave. He calls to her and tells her she is not fit to walk home alone, and she was heading toward a wall. He tells her to wait while he gets the photos. He looks at the bleeding man who is carried to a carriage pulled by two men wearing black hoods. George washes the blood off his hands.
Lucy tells George it is extraordinary that Italians are so talented and kind and yet so violent. She is ashamed, and he says he nearly fainted too. She apologizes and asks him for a favor. She says ladies tend to gossip, and she asks him not to mention it to anyone. He throws something in the river, and she says those were her photographs. He says he did not know what to do with them because they were covered in blood. He says something tremendous has happened, and she thanks him again. She says accidents happen, and then one returns to the old life. He says something has happened to him and to her.
Italians drive Beebe, Eager, Emerson, George, Eleanor, Charlotte, and Lucy in carriages to see the country. Eager tries to object to the Italian driver who has his arm around an Italian woman, but Lucy and Eleanor say it is okay. Eager asks Lucy if she is traveling to study art, and she says no. Eleanor says she may be a student of human nature like her, but Lucy says she is there as a tourist. Eager says that as a resident he pities the tourists. Eleanor says she abhors Baedeker. Eager points out a villa of his friend and another place where an American lives.
In the other carriage Charlotte asks George if his father is a journalist, and George says he was. George is on the railways.
Eager sees the girl kiss the driver and tells him to stop. He talks to them in Italian. The young woman gets out of the carriage, and they go on.
The Italian leads as they walk in the country. George climbs into an olive tree and shouts, “Beauty, Truth, Love.” Emerson says he is declaring eternal truths. Eleanor puts down cloths, and Charlotte has Lucy sit on the garment while she sits in the grass. Charlotte tells Lucy not to worry about her coughing. Lucy gets up to explore and goes to the carriage and talks with the driver in Italian.
Eleanor tells Charlotte while they are eating that something in the Italian landscape inclines people to romance. Charlotte says it reminds her of Shropshire.
The Italian and Lucy walk in the orchard and in the grass. She sees George there. Charlotte is trying to catch up. George sees Lucy and walks to her and kisses her. Charlotte sees this and calls to Lucy who comes toward her.
Charlotte, Lucy, and Eager get in the carriage, and the Italian drives them. Emerson, Eleanor and Beebe are in the other carriage, and Emerson asks George if he is coming with them. George says he will walk and goes with an old Italian lady. George runs down the hill, and it starts to rain.
The carriages keep the rain off them.
In their rooms Charlotte is combing Lucy’s hair, and she asks how she will handle George. She says they seldom keep their exploits to themselves. Lucy says she will speak to him. She goes to the window during the rain and says he should have been there an hour ago. Charlotte warns her that she does not know what men can be. She asks what would have happened if she had not appeared. Charlotte admits she is too old and too dull for her. She says she has failed in her duty to her mother. Lucy asks why her mother should hear of it. Lucy admits she usually does tell her mother most things. Lucy says she will never speak of it to anyone, and Charlotte agrees to be silent also.
Charlotte tells a woman that she only wants to pay for half a week. George rings the bell and is let in. Lucy is happy to see him, but Charlotte tells her they must pack immediately. Charlotte tells George she must talk to him privately in another room.
At home in England on a fine estate Lucy is being courted in the yard by Cecil Vyse (Daniel Day-Lewis).
Inside Mrs. Honeychurch (Rosemary Leach) looks out the window at them, and her son Freddy Honeychurch (Rupert Graves) tells her not to peep at them. She says he will ask her permission, and Freddy says he asked his permission too; but he said no because of the way he phrased it. She calls him conceited. Cecil comes in and tells them that she has accepted him. She is glad, and Freddy shakes his hand. Mrs. Honeychurch and Freddy go out to see Lucy, and Cecil lights a cigarette. Rev. Beebe comes in and asks for tea. He notices a bone on a table, and Cecil says that is Freddy’s. Beebe says she plays Beethoven passionately but lives very quietly. He suspects they will eventually merge. Cecil says that day may be at hand because she has just promised to marry him.
Beebe and Cecil go outside, and Beebe congratulates the couple.
At a garden party Lucy asks Sir Harry Otway (Peter Cellier) if he would help out spinsters she met in Italy who are in England now. Cecil says he has no profession and does what he likes. Otway says he is fortunate.
Lucy and Cecil are walking on a street and talk about their engagement. He considers it a private matter. Cecil considers Beebe above the average. She tells Beebe outside his church that Harry has agreed to rent his villa to Catharine. Cecil says that Harry deserves a tenant as vulgar as himself. Beebe says he is nice, but Cecil criticizes his sham esthetics. Lucy says she will write to them and asks Beebe to also. He agrees and says they are a good addition to their little community. Lucy and Cecil walk on the street, and she comments how coarse he is. They walk in a park, and he quotes an Italian proverb. She says this is a sacred lake, but he calls it a puddle. She says she used to bathe there until she was found out. He stands up and asks her if he may kiss her for the first time. She says of course and says she could not initiate it. She removes her veil, and he attempts to kiss her and holds his glasses. She says she is sorry. She agrees with her mother that the people at the pensione were extraordinary, and she remembers how George kissed her passionately.
Lucy is writing a letter to Catharine and Teresa to tell them about their opportunity.
Lucy is playing the piano for people at the Vyse home in London. Cecil smiles at his mother Mrs. Vyse (Maria Britneva).
Later people are leaving with umbrellas in the rain. Inside Mrs. Vyse tells Cecil that Lucy is becoming one of them, and she is being purged of her Honeychurch taint. She tells him to marry her next January. He says Schubert was right for this evening. He talks how they will raise their children and send them to Italy for subtlety.
Later in the hall Lucy smiles at Cecil, and he kisses her before she goes into her room.
In the yard Lucy and Freddy and a little girl are playing with tennis rackets with a tethered ball. Freddy tackles Lucy on to the ground. Beebe asks if they want to know what Miss Alan had to say. Freddy tells how he met them and makes fun of them. Mrs. Honeychurch says she knew there would be another muddle. Freddy says the other people are named Emerson, and he says they are friends of Cecil’s. Lucy is surprised and says Emerson is a common name. She tells Freddy he overdoes it when he plays. Beebe says the Emersons are remarkable and full of possibilities. Cecil from a window calls Lucy a Leonardo, and she asks him about Sir Harry’s new tenants. He says he found him new tenants and won a great victory for the comic muse. She says she took a lot of trouble over the Alans, but she prefers to have friends of his. He laughs and says they are strangers he happened to meet in the National Gallery. They said they wanted a country cottage they could call their own and asked if he knew of one.
In front of a large painting Mr. Emerson with George is telling Cecil about the kind of place they would like. Emerson admits he needs help from the outside, and Cecil says he knows of a villa they could rent. George writes down the address on Summer Street, and Emerson says he dreamed of that street.
In the house on the stairway Lucy tells Cecil he does not know what democracy means. She blames him for interfering with the plans she made for Miss Alan. She says he was disloyal, and he asks her not to have a temper.
Beebe and Freddy enter an open door, and Beebe looks at books he says he has never heard of. George comes down and invites them in. Beebe introduces Freddy as a neighbor. Freddy suggests they come and have a bathe. George says he likes that, and Beebe laughs. Mr. Emerson comes in and tells Freddy that he heard that his sister is getting married. He says Vyse was helpful. They decide to go bathe, and Mr. Emerson tells them to bring milk and honey and cakes.
Beebe, George, and Freddy walk in the woods. George says it is fate that they are there now, but Beebe says they are drawn to Italian things. They arrive at the lake, and Freddy takes off his clothes and jumps in. George and Beebe also take off their clothes and jump in. They splash each other in the water and play. Freddy gets out, and George chases him. Beebe gets out and runs with them around the lake. They play with clothes.
Nearby Lucy is walking with Cecil and Mrs. Honeychurch, and suddenly they see the naked men in front of them. Freddy tries to hide his private parts, but George jumps up and shouts in front of them. Cecil turns aside and blazes a trail through the ferns. They see Beebe who goes back in the water.
Lucy and Freddy are playing piano while Cecil looks at a book. Mrs. Honeychurch is reading a letter from Charlotte and pitying her. She suggests they invite her for a holiday while the plumbers are working on her place; but Lucy says no because Freddy’s friend and Beebe are coming. Her mother says Lucy does not like Charlotte, and Lucy admits she gets on her nerves. She asks her not to have her come, and Cecil adds his vote for that. Mrs. Honeychurch says they have each other, but poor Charlotte has her plumbing turned off. Freddy plays piano and sings a funny song.
Mrs. Honeychurch is putting on a dress while she complains that Cecil sneered at Freddy’s comic song. Lucy says that Cecil does not mean to be uncivil. He says ugly things upset him. She tells Lucy to go and dress.
In the hall Freddy tells Lucy that he wants to invite George up for tennis, and he dances with her. Their mother hears the noise and tells them to stop dancing. Lucy asks her mother if they need to have Charlotte. Her mother says no. Lucy says Freddy wants to invite the Emersons, and her mother says he need not. Lucy says her mother wants Charlotte to come.
Charlotte is riding on a train. The train stops, and she gets off and calls the porter to carry her luggage. The station man sees her ticket and says her stop was the one before. She sees George who explains that his father lives there. He asks if she is all right and rides away on his bicycle.
Charlotte is riding in a carriage and sees George being welcomed by his father. When she arrives, she tells Lucy that she met him at the station. In the garden she tells Mrs. Honeychurch of her stupid blunder. She meets Cecil, Mr. Floyd (Freddy Korner), and Minnie Beebe (Mia Fothergill). She insists on paying for her cab, and Freddy pays him. She finds out how it much it is and asks for change. They discuss how to give her change, and finally Lucy goes in the house to get some from the maid.
Inside Charlotte asks Lucy if she told Cecil about George, and she says no; she promised that she would not tell anyone. Lucy gives her the change. They discuss the Emersons, and Lucy says that she has not spoken to George, though she saw him once.
Lucy’s mother from a window tells her to pick up the book on the ground, and Lucy says it is only a library book Cecil has been reading.
Mrs. Honeychurch, Charlotte, Lucy, and Minnie come out of the house and get into a carriage. Cecil says goodbye and be good, and the carriage drives off.
George and Freddy are playing tennis against Lucy and Floyd while Cecil reads aloud from the novel. They take a break, and Lucy and George sit on the grass by Cecil. George asks if she minded losing, and she says no; but she did not think he was such a good player. She says the light was in her eyes, and he says he was. She asks what the book is and learns that it is by Eleanor Lavish. George says he remembers her. Lucy asks what they think of their view, and George says that his father believes the only perfect view is the sky over their heads. George lies on his back, and Cecil stands up and says his father has been reading Dante. Lucy asks Cecil to read aloud. He asks her to find chapter two, and she looks at the book. Cecil reads about the plains of Florence where two lovers met and embraced. Lucy suggests they go in for tea, and George goes with her and kisses her passionately without Cecil noticing.
Inside Lucy asks to talk to Charlotte and asks if she knows about Eleanor’s novel and that scene. Lucy cannot believe it is a coincidence and asks if she told Eleanor about her encounter. Charlotte says that Eleanor will no longer be her friend. Lucy concludes she did tell her and asks why when she couldn’t even tell her mother. Lucy says that George insulted her again behind Cecil’s back. Charlotte says she will never forgive herself. Lucy sees through a window that George is playing with a racket and ball, and she tells Charlotte to call him. She says she will deal with him herself. Lucy sits down, and Charlotte comes in with George. Lucy tells Charlotte to stay and tells George to leave the house and never come back. He says he can’t, and she wants no discussion. She tells him to go and says she does not want to call in Mr. Vyse. He asks if she is going to marry that man, and she says he is being ridiculous. He says he would have held back if Cecil had been different; but he is the kind of person who cannot know anyone intimately especially a woman. He says Cecil wants to possess her like a painting and to display her. He doesn’t want her to be real, and he doesn’t love her. George says he wants her to have her own thoughts and feelings even while he holds her in his arms. He tells Charlotte that she would not stop them this time because it is their last chance. He asks Lucy if she realizes what a blessing it is when people find what is right for them. She says she loves Cecil and will soon be his wife, and she asks if that is a detail of no importance. He says a tremendous thing has happened between them, and nothing must hinder them ever again. He says she has to understand that, but she says she does not know what he is talking about. She says it was wrong of her to listen to him, but he takes her hand and says she has not been listening. If she had, she would know. She withdraws her hand and tells him to leave at once. He continues to appeal to her, and she covers her ears and says she will not listen to another word. She asks if he has done enough and tells him not to interfere again. George and Lucy tell Charlotte to let him go. Charlotte steps aside, and he goes out. Charlotte says she will never forgive herself. Lucy says she always says that, and she always forgives herself. Lucy goes out.
Outside Lucy tells Freddy that George had to go. Freddy asks Cecil to play because it is Floyd’s last day, but Cecil admits that he is no good for anything but books.
Inside Cecil tells Lucy that he never plays tennis, and she tells him to forget the tennis. She says it is the last straw and that she cannot marry him. One day he will thank her for telling him. She says he is different. He says he loves her, and he thought she loved him. She says she did not, though she thought she did at first. She apologizes, and she says that he does not really love her. She says he treats her like a painting, a Leonardo. She wants to be herself. She says they should not go on because she will say things that will make her unhappy afterwards, and she walks out of the room. He follows her to the library and closes the door. He says it is evident that she does not love him. He says it would hurt less if he knew why, and she says it is because he cannot know anyone intimately especially a woman. She does not mean exactly that. He wraps himself up in art and books, and he wants to wrap her up. That is why she is breaking off the engagement. He says it is true. He says she is so different tonight, like a new person speaking with a new voice. She asks what he means and says if he thinks she is in love with someone else, he is mistaken. He says there is a force in her that he had not known before. She says if a girl breaks off her engagement, she has someone else or hopes to get someone else. She feels that is disgusting and brutal. He asks her to forgive him if he says stupid things. She says she has to go to bed and walks out. In the hall he lights the lamp for her and thanks her for what she has done, for showing him what he really is. He admires her courage, and he asks her to shake hands. They shake, and she says she is sorry. She thanks him for taking it so well and goes upstairs. He sits down and puts on his shoes.
Catharine Alan is writing a letter and says she and her sister would like to move to a warmer climate.
Beebe is riding a tricycle and meets Cecil and Freddy. He tells them he has a letter from Miss Alan that he is taking to share with Lucy. He takes out the letter and starts reading it. He says they are going to Athens. He asks if they met them, and Cecil says no. Cecil says Greece is not for them and says goodbye. Freddy runs back and tells Beebe that Lucy won’t marry Cecil.
Beebe finds Minnie in the garden and invites Charlotte to go with them to a tavern, but she declines.
Lucy is playing piano, and Beebe brings the letter from the Alans and reads it to her. He says her brother told him. She mentions the people who know now. She asks if Freddy is coming straight back because she does not want him gossiping. Charlotte comes in, and Lucy says the Alans are going to Constantinople. Lucy declines to go with Beebe, and he leaves with Minnie. Lucy tells Charlotte she must help her persuade mother. Lucy says she wants to go away somewhere before the end of her engagement is known. She says he must not get any ideas. Lucy says she could go to Greece, and Charlotte asks if she is sure. Lucy tells her not to argue and to tell her mother. Charlotte goes out as Freddy is coming in. Freddy asks why Charlotte looks that way and make a funny face. Lucy sings, and he says the words are rotten.
In the garden it is windy, and Charlotte tells Mrs. Honeychurch that Lucy wants to go with the Alans to Athens.
George brings pictures downstairs, and his father says he can take those. George says it is an ugly house, and they never liked it. George says he must catch his train and that the movers will do the rest. He keeps his father from straining his back. George says there is no point for him to come on the weekend.
George rides his bicycle in the rain.
Lucy is having tea with the Alan sisters, and they say that it is nice of Mr. Vyse to spare her. Lucy and her mother say goodbye to them and go out.
Lucy and her mother walk on the street and get in a cab to go to Victoria Station.
Catharine tells Teresa that Lucy did not look like a bride to be because she lacked radiance.
Charlotte sees men loading furniture on to a truck. She calls on Beebe and asks about his neighbors. He says the Emersons are moving out. Charlotte asks if she can wait for Mrs. Honeychurch there, and he lets her in. Inside she tells Mr. Emerson she is sorry that the house brought on his rheumatism, but he says it is his boy. He says George is sorry. She asks if he never told him what happened in Italy, and he says not one word. He says he was only told on Sunday, and she asks what he was told. He says it was that he loves her. He persuades her to sit down. He says everyone has been lying except George. He says Lucy is marrying Cecil in January, but Charlotte says she broke off the engagement with great tact. She says it is to be kept quiet, but he says there is a time for being quiet and a time for speaking out. He stands up and tells her to be comfortable. He is excited.
In a carriage her mother asks Lucy why she has to run off to the ends of the Earth. Lucy says she might want to go to London more and maybe share a flat with another girl. She says she comes into her money next year. Lucy says she may have spoken hastily, and her mother says she reminds her of Charlotte. Lucy says they are not at all alike, and her mother says they never used to be. They ask for the carriage to be opened up, and Lucy sees that the Emersons are moving. Her mother says it is a pity and that Freddy will be sorry. The carriage goes on, and they stop in town. Her mother tells Lucy to go see if Charlotte is at Mr. Beebe’s.
Lucy walks in and sees Charlotte sitting with Mr. Emerson. Charlotte gets up and tells Lucy that Mr. Emerson said it was all his fault. Emerson says he told George to trust in love. Charlotte says her mother is waiting for her and goes out.
Mrs. Honeychurch tells Charlotte to get in the carriage.
Lucy looks at a book and says she does not want to discuss his son because he behaved abominably. Emerson says he only tried, and she agrees. She says it is no good discussing it. He says that George is coming to take him up to London. He can’t bear to be there, and Emerson says he must be where he is. She asks him not to go because she is going to Greece. He asks why she is going to Greece. She does not answer, and he says she is in a muddle. He knows she broke off her engagement and says the reason she is going to Greece is because she loves George. She sits down and cries. He says all the light has gone out of her face and out of George’s too. He asks her to forgive him for making her cry. She says she has to go to Greece because the ticket has been bought. She says it is impossible, but he says the only impossible thing is to love and to part. She stands up, and he says that she loves George body and soul. While crying she says that of course she does. What did they think? She walks to the door and says she has to go to her mother. She says they trust her. He asks why they should when she has deceived everyone including herself. She turns back to him.
Charlotte gets into the carriage. Lucy comes out of the house and run after the carriage. Charlotte says the plans for Greece may be changed because she thinks Lucy has something to tell them. Lucy catches up to the carriage and smiles happily.
Charlotte in bed reads a letter from Lucy.
Lucy and George are dining at a large table. A young woman asks if on one’s first visit to Florence one must have a room with a view. George says they have a view, and he takes Lucy’s hand.
Charlotte turns out her lamp.
George is kissing Lucy by their window in Florence, and she says she is trying to read her letter from Freddy. He is kissing her and asks what he says. She says he thinks he is being dignified. She says everybody knew they were going away in the spring. He keeps kissing her.
This romantic drama set in the early 20th century portrays an era when well-to-do people behaved with self-restraint and had chaperons to prevent premature intimacy. A young woman thus has difficulty discovering her true feelings. In contrast the Emersons seem to follow the transcendental philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson and are thus self-reliant, inner directed, and guided by spiritual ideas.