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Bach Movies



The Portrait of a Lady








Film: Aug 1996 (Italy, Venice Film Festival - premiere); Dec 1996 (USA)
DVD: Nov 1997
VHS: Nov 1997
Soundtrack: Dec 1996 (CD, MC)


Jane Campion


Henry James (novel); Laura Jones


Nicole Kidman (Isabel Archer); John Malkovich (Gilbert Osmond); Barbara Hershey (Madame Serena Merle); Mary-Louise Parker (Henrietta Stackpole); Martin Donovan (Ralph Touchett); Shelley Winters (Mrs. Touchett); Richard E. Grant (Lord Warburton); Shelley Duvall (Countess Gemini); Christian Bale (Edward Rosier); Viggo Mortensen (Caspar Goodwood); Valentina Cervi (Pansy Osmond); John Gielgud (Mr. Touchett); Roger Ashton-Griffiths (Bob Bantling); Catherine Zago (Mother Superior); Alessandra Vanzi (Nun #2)


Isabel Archer, an American heiress and free thinker travels to Europe to find herself. She tactfully rebuffs the advances of Caspar Goodwood, another American who has followed her to England. Her cousin, Ralph Touchett, wise but sickly becomes a soulmate of sorts for her. She makes an unfortunate alliance with the creepy Madame Merle who leads her to make an even more unfortunate alliance with Gilbert Osmond, a smooth but cold collector of Objets' de art who seduces her with an intense but unattainable sexuality. Isabel marries Osmond only to realize she's just another piece of art for his collection and that Madame Merle and Osmond are lovers who had hatched a diabolical scheme to take Isabel's fortune. Isabel's only comfort is the innocent daughter of Osmond, Pansy, but even that friendship is spoiled when Countess Gemini, Osmond's sister, reveals the child's true parentage. Isabel finally breaks free of Osmond and returns to Ralph's bedside, where, while breathing his last, they both realize how truly connected they are, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. (Teresa B. &

Leave it to New Zealand director Jane Campion (The Piano, Angel at My Table) to begin an adaptation of Henry James's great novel (set in the late 1800s) with a group of late-20th-century women from Down Under talking about the importance of a kiss. Like any good film adaptation (and it's a very good one, indeed), this exquisitely framed and mounted Portrait of a Lady is at least as much Campion as it is James. The story of strong-willed, independent-minded Isabel Archer (Nicole Kidman, whose skin here is photographed like delicate porcelain) is a tricky one to dramatize, since it's largely about good intentions going awry, roads not taken, misguided decisions made for good reasons. Headstrong American orphan Isabel rejects the proposal of a decent, sensible English suitor, Lord Warburton (Richard E. Grant), because she wants to find her own destiny and identity first. Instead, she is seduced by Gilbert Osmond (John Malkovich), an effete collector of art (and women) whom one character describes as a "sterile dilettante." How Isabel's life, and the lives of those who love her, are affected by this fateful (but irreversible?) decision is what the bulk of the film is about. Portrait of a Lady is lovely, heartbreaking, and at times terrifying--as only coming face-to-face with the consequences of one's own life-changing decisions can be. Gorgeously photographed in anamorphic widescreen format. (Jim Emerson,

Henry James's most celebrated novel (and, in its range of emotional shading, one of his broadest) has become, under the guidance of director Jane Campion and screenwriter Laura Jones, an intense and lengthy monotone. Isabel Archer (Nicole Kidman) arrives in a sombre, repressive England, then travels to an Italy that's not much better; there she marries Gilbert Osmond (John Malkovich), even though anyone in the audience could tell her to steer clear. The film is far more obvious than the book: the longings and hatreds are spelled out for us, writ large in the unyielding gloom of the set designs. Campion seems not to believe in James's excitable moral adventuress; she substitutes a whey-faced victim to whom tragic things are destined to happen, leaving Kidman with no room to breathe. With Martin Donovan as Ralph Touchett, John Gielgud as Ralph's father, and Barbara Hershey, in what is easily the most potent performance in the picture, as the mysterious Madame Merle. (Anthony Lane, Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker)

Jane Campion directed this expressive adaptation of the classic novel by Henry James. Isabel Archer (Nicole Kidman) is a young American woman who, after the death of her parents, has been sent to England to visit relatives. While her family's tragedy has left her penniless, Isabel's beauty has earned her the attentions of a number of eligible men. When Isabel turns down a proposal of marriage from the wealthy Lord Warburton (Richard E. Grant) because she does not love him, her cousin Ralph (Martin Donovan), who is also smitten with her, arranges for his father to leave her a fortune before succumbing to tuberculosis so that she may live as an independent woman. Isabel takes a tour of Europe, where she meets Madame Merle (Barbara Hershey), a jaded sophisticate and matchmaker who introduces her to Gilbert Osmond (John Malkovich), a widowed American artist living abroad. Isabel falls in love with Gilbert and they marry, but his sloth and opportunism soon begin to wear on her, and three years later she is desperate to get out of their relationship. The Portrait of a Lady also stars John Gielgud, Mary-Louise Parker, Christian Bale, and Shelley Winters. (


English, Italian


142 min / 144 min (DVD, VHS) / 138 min (DVD - UK)

J.S. Bach's Music:

Concerto for harpsichord, strings & continuo No. 5 in F minor, BWV 1056 (?)

Concerto for violin, strings & continuo No. 1 in A minor, BWV 1041 (?)


Film: Color, Dolby Digital
DVD: (Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, Letterboxed, Widescreen, NTSC, Region 1) | (PAL, Region 2) | (NTSC, Subtitled, Dolby, Region 1) | (PAL, Widescreen, Dolby, Subtitled, Dubbed, Region 2) | (PAL, Widescreen, Subtitled, Region 2) | (Color, Full Screen, Import, NTSC, All Regions, Chinese)
VHS: (Closed-captioned, Color, HiFi Sound, NTSC) | (Closed-captioned, Color, Letterboxed, Widescreen, NTSC) | (PAL)
Soundtrack: CD; MC


Film: Polygram Filmed Entertainment; Propaganda Films
DVD: Polygram Video; Universal
VHS: Polygram USA Video
Soundtrack: Polygram Records [CD, MC]


Watch selections:

Buy movie at:

DVD: | [Region 2] | | [Region 2] | [Region 2 - UK] | [Region 2] | [Chinese] | [Chinese]
VHS: | | [PAL] |
Soundtrack: [CD] | [MC]

Source/Links: IMDB
Contributor: Aryeh Oron (November 2007)

Bach Movies: Bach's Life & Documentaries: Index by Title | Index by Year
Filmed Performances: Index by Work | Index by Main Performer
Bach's Music in Soundtracks: Index by Title | Index by Year
General: Index by Number | Discussions of Movies on Bach


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Last update: Wednesday, May 31, 2017 09:59