Movie Essays - Jane Campion's Film of Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady

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Jane Campion's Film Version of Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady Jane Campion's film version of Henry James's novel, The Portrait of a Lady, offers the viewer a sexually charged narrative of a young naive American girl in Victorian era Europe.

James's novel focuses on "what an exciting inward life may do for the person leading it even while it [a person's life] remains perfectly normal" (James 54). James could not or would not place into his narrative the sexual thoughts, suggestions, and actions of his characters beyond the first flush of the experience. For example, when Caspar takes Isabel into his arms and kisses her near the close of the novel, Isabel does express sexuality, but that sexuality is short lived: He glared
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Sexuality is not only seen by the viewer as it is felt by the character, but the viewer is allowed to fantasize right along the character when a sexual cord is struck in the character's mind. This expressed sexuality is part of Campion's underlying theme as she stresses the inner sexuality of characters that are otherwise sexually repressed because of the times in which they are presented.
James felt proscribed by the morality of Victorian Europe when he penned Portrait. Edmond
Volpe points out: James is not guilty of the French writers' "sin," the isolation of the sexual passion; he studies the passion in relation to the rest of man's life. But sex - no matter how one studies it - is a physical passion, and James includes in his novels very few physical manifestations of the passion - even the more innocent ones. There are not too many scenes like the one at the end of The Portrait of a Lady in which Caspar Goodwood forcefully kisses Isabel. The omission of such scenes, however, is logical. As the historian of man's inner life, James was not interested in depicting overt actions, unless they revealed the drama of the inner world. Neither the way Caspar kisses Isabel nor the way her lips meet his is of interest to the novelist. (Volpe 113) Kurt Hochenauer, with respect to the sexuality presented to the reader in James's Portrait, adds:
"Judged against the standards and conventions

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