Washington Square Washington Square is the second film adapted from a novel by Henry James having the same name. The story basically revolves around Catherine Sloper who is the only child of the rich Dr Austin Sloper…
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To avoid this relationship to go any further he takes his daughter to Europe but Catherine persists. Consequently her father threatens to disinherit her if she opposes his will and marries him. In spite of this Catherine ends up with Townsend when he proposes her. Prose and film differ in their narration and each has their own strengths and weaknesses. Though Washington Square, novel and film, both have the same story the writer Henry James and director Agnieszka Holland have unfolded it differently from each other, giving varied impressions to the reader and viewer, respectively. “James undertakes the difficult art of making the undemonstrative, psychic unfolding of his heroine arresting and interesting” (Gargano 357). Holland had to consider Catherine’s psyche properly. Still, while the book has to give the readers a clear insight into the conscience and consciousness of the protagonist, the film has its own job of presenting with gestures, expressions and mise-en-scene that would allow the viewers to calculate hints regarding the protagonist’s psychic unfolding. Although Holland is an extremely refined master of film art, there are times in this film where those hints turn out to be quite exaggerated resulting in the story having more spices than required. Still, it is such differences that make up such a dialogue which results in the story gaining some kind of a variation and texture to it. Considering the concept of the story, both of these medium are similar in the aspect that the narrations are removed from their locations. The novel was placed around half century before the actual time and therefore James ended up being able to write a quasi-historical novel. The director of the film of this novel tried to be consistent with the time period and thus his scenes were more like a costume drama of the respective period. The film ended up having exotic mise-en-scene and this was more the case when the scenes were set in a more ancient time period. Actually Holland could have updated the story and brought change in this respect. However, she gave reasons for choosing the same time period and said “I prefer to do the story in the period because it is visually more fascinating, also it gives a bigger freedom” (Crnkovic 4). The film begins with a shot that actually helps the viewer deduce that they are watching a historical drama. The title-square is traversed trough a long take and then the viewer gets to see the house. With that comes creepiness and eeriness, together with the cries and hustle bustle, and the bed on which are stains of blood. This opening scene has majorly highlighted the Gothic element that was hardly to be noticed in the original novel by James. The exaggerated Gothic element added to the film was most likely because it complimented and supported the other such elements of the story, such as Catherine’s clumsy behavior. Probably it allowed for more sensational twists to the narration. In the novel there is no such scene of parting between Catherine and Morris; however, Holland has actually filmed it and brought out the sensationalism in it. Holland has tried to tone down James at certain places; example, where Sloper is taking his daughter to Europe and Morris is not doing his best to encourage her. It is at this moment where the drama is heightened to its peak. Sloper is shown to be a scientific and rational man but he seems to use his wealth in bullying the
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