The Howards End Trifecta

I dove back into my comfort zone this past month: English literature. As you may see from my Goodreads feed in the corner of this blog, I listened to the 2009 Blackstone Audio recording of Howard’s End by E.M. Forster narrated by Nadia May and available on iBooks. I sifted though a few samples before landing on her as my narrator of choice (narrators can make or break an audiobook). This, of course, was after I’d watched the 2017 BBC series based on the novel starring Hayley Atwell and Matthew Macfayden. However, before I decided to compare it with the 1992 feature length film version starring Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins.

I love watching adaptations. I love getting more of something I already love or seeing how ~maybe~ the movie could make it better *cough cough* The Horse Whisperer *cough *cough* or present it exactly the way I’d imagined and more! Books and their movie counterparts can be equally enjoyable, change my mind. I will say, I was a tad surprised that I found the 1992 adaptation lacking. I was bored stiff, and by amazing actors and performances. But I don’t think it was the running length. Obviously the 2017 miniseries had more time to explore the details of the novel – it was the 1992 versions’ screenplay.

The script followed the outline of the novel well enough, but it was devoid of any of those cinematic moments that truly make you feel for the characters you’re watching. And this is coming from a person who has watched the 2005 Pride & Prejudice FAR more than I ever have the beloved 90s miniseries. The film hit all the right plot points, but I wasn’t torn when Margaret was forced to choose between her sister and her husband upon accepting Mr. Wilcox’s proposal nor was I very worried when Helen suddenly broke contact for mysterious reasons. Those small moments that get us close and intimate with a character I think were lost in the film’s attempt to be a faithful adaptation to the text beat by beat.

I guess I just can’t say enough good things about Macfayden’s nuanced performance as Mr. Wilcox either. He’s an amazing actor to watch. You hate him one moment and love him the next, Hopkins seems far too detached to be likable even in the end when the audience is meant to come around to his character. All the characters seem more fully realized in the 2017 miniseries. Except Leonard Bast… I’m still trying to figure out what Joseph Quinn was doing looking mildly constipated the entire time.

So, here’s the order in which I consumed my media:

2017 BBC miniseries
1910 Novel
1992 Film

I recommend all for comparison, but the novel doesn’t exactly need my endorsement. It’s a classic.

(featured image is Hayley Atwell as Margaret Schlegel in the 2017 adaptation available on STARZ)

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