Movies Based on E.M. Forster Books

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If you are a fan of E.M. Forster’s books, you may want to watch one of the many great movies based on his books. Forster wrote many classics that later became very popular and highly acclaimed movies.

The following is a list of movies based on E.M. Forster’s books:

Where Angels Fear to Tread

Originally airing on British television on October 29, 1963, this tv movie is directed by Glen Byam Shaw and is an adaptation of E.M. Forster’s 1905 book Where Angels Fear to Tread.

Starring Michael Denison and Dulcie Gray, the movie is about an unhappy widow who marries a much younger Italian man, which her in-laws find scandalous.

The tv movie is a televised stage production of a play, written by Elizabeth Hart, that is based on the book and was performed and filmed at the St. Martin’s Theater in London, England.

A Passage to India

Released in 1984, this movie is directed by David Lean and is an adaptation of E.M. Forster’s 1924 novel A Passage to India.

Starring Judy Davis, Peggy Ashcroft, Victor Banerjee and James Fox, the movie is about how a friendship between an Indian doctor and an English educator is tested by false accusations and racial tensions in colonial India in the 1920s.

The movie received positive reviews when it was released. The New York Times described it as “provocative” and “moving”:

“[Lean’s] best work since The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia and perhaps his most humane and moving film since Brief Encounter. Though vast in physical scale and set against a tumultuous Indian background, it is also intimate, funny and moving in the manner of a film maker completely in control of his material … Though [Lean] has made A Passage to India both less mysterious and more cryptic than the book, the film remains a wonderfully provocative tale, full of vivid characters, all played to near perfection.”

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times praised the film, stating:

“Forster’s novel is one of the literary landmarks of this century, and now David Lean has made it into one of the greatest screen adaptations I have ever seen” while Variety magazine called it “impeccably faithful, beautifully played and occasionally languorous…”

The movie was nominated for five Golden Globes, nine British Academy Film Awards and 11 Academy Awards, among others.

Maurice

Released in 1987, this movie is directed by James Ivory and is adapted from E.M. Forster’s posthumously published 1971 novel Maurice.

Starring James Whilby, Hugh Grant and Rupert Graves, the movie is a gay love story set in repressive Edwardian England. The plot is about a young gay man struggling to fit into society who meets and falls in love with a man.

The movie received positive reviews in the U.S. when it was released but mixed reviews in England where many reviewers criticized it for its homosexual subject matter.

The Boston Globe described the movie as “stunning”:

“The team of producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory has created another classy film of a classic novel with their stunning adaptation of E. M. Forster’s Maurice.”

Sight & Sound described it as “intelligent” and “moving”:

“subtle, intelligent, moving and absorbing […] extraordinary in the way it mixes fear and pleasure, horror and love, it’s a stunning success for a team who seems to have mastered all the problems of making literary films”

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times praised the film for its acting and great production:

“Merchant and Ivory tell this story in a film so handsome to look at and so intelligently acted that it is worth seeing just to regard the production. Scene after scene is perfectly created…”

The Washington Post described it as “subtle” and “sensitive”:

“Subtle, sensitive and every bit as swoony as a Barbara Cartland bodice-ripper… It’s woozy, unadulterated romance, an intoxicating tuxedo-ripper set against the elegant priggishness of England’s post-Edwardian gentry.”

The movie won three awards at the Venice Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.

A Room With a View

Released in 1985, this movie is directed by James Ivory and is adapted from E.M. Forster’s 1908 novel A Room With A View.

Starring Maggie Smith, Helen Bonham Carter and Denholm Elliott, the movie is a love story about a young woman who falls in love with a man while on a trip to Italy.

The movie received positive reviews when it was released. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times described it as “intellectual”:

“It is an intellectual film, but intellectual about emotions: It encourages us to think about how we feel, instead of simply acting on our feelings.”

The New York Times praised the director and producer for creating an “exceptionally faithful, ebullient screen equivalent to a literary work that lesser talents would embalm.”

The movie was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards, eight Academy Awards and 12 British Academy Film Awards, among others.

In 2010, The Guardian ranked it number 9 on its list of the 25 best romantic films of all time.

Where Angels Fear to Tread

Released in 1991, this movie is directed by Charles Sturridge and is adapted from E.M. Forster’s 1905 novel Where Angels Fear to Tread.

Starring Helena Bonham Carter, Judy Davis and Rupert Graves, the movie is about a rich widow who impulsively marries a poor Italian man and dies in childbirth, after which her English in-laws try to gain custody of the child.

The movie received mixed reviews when it was released. The New York Times described it as “unimaginatively directed” and criticized the film’s “flat, uninflected style…”

Roger Ebert criticized both the film and the source material, stating it is “rather unconvincing as a story and a movie” and also disapproved of the casting and the storyline which he said makes the movie seem “written, not lived.”

The Washington Post noted that it felt as if the director “merely translates the story from page to screen” without adding anything unique to the film.

Variety had something positive to say about the film when it declared that the film is “a far more rewarding dip into the E.M. Forster tub than some of its predecessors” and stated it was better than Merchant Ivory’s A Room With a View and David Lean’s A Passage to India.

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone Magazine also had positive things to say about the movie, declaring that “director and co-writer Charles Sturridge (TV’s Brideshead Revisited) has caught the spirit of the novel; it’s a stinging comedy of manners…” before adding “the film isn’t as adept at delineating the clash of cultures as Merchant-Ivory’s Room With a View, but it’s rich and provocative nonetheless.”

Howards End

Released in 1992, this movie is directed by James Ivory and is adapted from E.M. Forster’s 1910 novel Howards End.

Starring Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter and Emma Thompson, the movie is about a business man who stops his wife’s bequest of an estate to another woman.

The movie received positive reviews when it was released. The Times of London said it was “The high watermark of Merchant Ivory film-making” while Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune praised its storytelling:

“Testament to the richness of the story is that even these supporting characters have more depth than the average leading characters in an American film.”

Time Magazine also had positive things to say when it described the movie as “powerful”:

“Elegant and powerful, accommodating collisions of class and temperament with the grace of a perfect Edwardian hostess, Howards End is the work to which all Merchant Ivory’s other films have pointed and aspired.”

The movie was nominated for four Golden Globes, nine Academy Awards and 11 British Academy Film Awards, among others.

A Room With a View

Released in 2007, this movie is directed by Andrew Davies and is adapted from E.M. Forster’s 1908 novel A Room With a View.

Starring Elaine Cassidy and Rafe Spall, the movie is about a young English woman who visits Italy where she falls for a socially unsuitable young Italian man.

The movie received mixed reviews when it was released and many critics took issue with the fact that Davies strayed from the original story by changing the ending of the movie.

Hollywood Reporter said the movie “lacks verve, and its location shots are tired” while The Guardian stated that although it “is not a chocolate box drama, it’s much more realistic and stays true to Forster’s values.”

Entertainment Weekly praised the new ending, stating:

“Davies has tacked on a shocking new afterthought of an ending – I’d call it unnecessary, but inventive.”

If you would like to watch more movies based on books, check out this article on movies based on Virginia Woolf novels.

Sources:
Travers, Peter. “Where Angels Fear to Tread.” Rolling Stone, 28 Feb. 1992, rollingstone.com/tv-movies/tv-movie-reviews/where-angels-fear-to-tread-104953/
Ebert, Roger. “Where Angels Fear to Tread.” RogerEbert.com, 20 March. 1992, rogerebert.com/reviews/where-angels-fear-to-tread-1992
Kempley, Rita. “Where Angels Fear to Tread.” The Washington Post, 20 March. 1992, washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/whereangelsfeartotreadpg13kempley_a0a2aa.htm
Maslin, Janet. “Review/Film; E.M. Forster’s First Novel, Played Out in Tuscany.” New York Times, 28 Feb. 1992, nytimes.com/1992/02/28/movies/review-film-em-forster-s-first-novel-played-out-in-tuscany.html
Canby, Vincent. “The Screen: ‘Room With a View.’” The New York Times, 7 March. 1986, nytimes.com/1986/03/07/movies/the-screen-room-with-a-view.html
Shoard, Catherine. “A Room With a View: No 9 best romantic film of all time.” The Guardian, 16 Oct. 2010, theguardian.com/film/2010/oct/16/room-with-view-romance
Ebert, Roger. “A Room With a View.” RogerEbert.com, 4 April. 1986, rogerebert.com/reviews/a-room-with-a-view-1986
Clarke, Donald. “Maurice: A gay love story way ahead of it’s time.” The Irish Times, 26 July. 2018, irishtimes.com/culture/film/maurice-a-gay-love-story-way-ahead-of-it-s-time-1.3575053
Kempley, Rita. “Maurice.” The Washington Post, 2 Oct. 1987, washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/mauricerkempley_a0ca53.htm
Maurice.” RobertEbert.com, 9 Oct. 1987, rogerebert.com/reviews/maurice-1987
Canby, Vincent. “The Screen: ‘Passage To India’ By David Lean.” New York Times, 14 Dec. 1984, nytimes.com/1984/12/14/movies/the-screen-passage-to-india-by-david-lean.html
Ebert, Roger. “A Passage to India.” RogerEbert.com, 1 Jan. 1984, rogerebert.com/reviews/a-passage-to-india-1984
Where Angels Fear to Tread. [Excerpt].” British Universities Film & Video Council, bufvc.ac.uk/screenplays/index.php/prog/2839
E.M. Forster.” IMDB, imdb.com/name/nm0286950/?ref_=nmbio_bio_nm

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