In New York society of the 1870s, lawyer Newland Archer is engaged to a well-bred young lady. But when his fiancée May introduces him to her cousin Ellen, who has separated from her husband, the confident woman becomes the great love of his life. But constrained by both his own scruples and convention, his feelings for her can never really be consummated … Martin Scorsese modelled the look of this opulent portrait of high society on Luchino Visconti’s Il Gattopardo (1963), while Michael Ballhaus took Max Ophül’s Lola Montès (1956) as inspiration for the film’s dolly shots. The film’s sets reconstructed the superficial lustre of high society as authentically as possible – while Ballhaus’ camera took over portraying the protagonists’ inner conflicts. The dissolves hasten the narrative, while colour filters change the mood. His bag of tricks included visual extravaganzas, such as the use of the iris diaphragm to isolate the couple from their surroundings as they secretly make love in a box at the theatre. In another scene with Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer, he deliberately crosses the axis, using the “mistake” to indicate a sudden change in the mood between the characters.
by Martin Scorsese
with Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder, Geraldine Chaplin