a luscious adaptation of the E M Forster classic love story
Largely written between 1913 and 1914 but not published until 1971, a year after his death, this work of homosexual acceptance ranks as a classic Forster love story, just as its adaptation in the assured hands of Merchant Ivory Productions marks a classic of modern cinema.
For with the sound of the drums of World War I becoming ever louder, the story of Maurice is that of the life and times of one Maurice Hall and inparticular his university education that saw him as much in love with Cambridge life, as with fellow undergraduate Clive Durham. Forced to quit university when a requisite apology was not forthcoming and ill-at-ease with his sexuality, Maurice gets a job in the city, only to face the harsh reality of unrequited love from a man intent on cementing his social reputation, family inheritance and political advancement through the institution of marriage.
Rejecting the 'temptation from the devil' counselling of the family doctor, Maurice comes to seek the help of a hypnotist in order to exorcise the gay spirit that lies within, only for a stay on the Durhams' estate to bring him in contact with under gamekeeper Alec Scudder in the most physical way possible. Faced with a stark choice between social conformity or a love that is both illegal and divided by class, Maurice must decide his future before the man he loves takes a one-way ticket to Argentina. It is a decision
that will forever change both their lives.
Complete with an all-star cast of players including the like of Simon Callow, Denholm Elliott, Patrick Godfrey, Ben Kingsley, Judy Parfitt and Billie Whitelaw, this luscious adaptation by Kit Hesketh-Harvey and James Ivory of the E M Forster classic is indicative of the first class storytelling of the man himself. Inparticular Hugh Grant is perfectly cast as Clive Durham, the upright English gentleman of the piece, in a performance that ranks as one of his finest todate. Yet James Wilby as Maurice and Rupert Graves as Scudder give him a run for his money, creating a passionate cinematic relationship that demanded a screen reunion and one that took place some twenty years later in the form of the Channel 4 drama Clapham Junction.
Unlike that tale from the pen of Kevin Elyot, this was a narrative written at a time when it could not be read. That Forster left the ending deliberately open, having later discarded an epilogue that saw a dramatic meeting between Maurice and his sister Kitty take place at a time when Maurice and Alec had become woodcutters, underlines the romanticism that Forster gave this, his most personal work. Only given the class-conscious society of the day, let alone the impending war, the optimistic conclusion on offer here is, like many a work of fiction, a literal improbability. Interestingly and inspite of its considerable running time, the film was somewhat trimmed with confirmation of Lord Risley's suicide, Clive and Maurice's chaste relationship and Maurice's moving 'I'm someone else's now' unabridged farewell speech to Clive notably cast to the cutting room floor.
The end result however remains a story beautifully told, aided by the fine photography of Pierre Lhomme, a lush score from Richard Robbins, together with James Ivory's ever-grand direction. For period dramas, let alone gay ones, do not come much better than this, laced as it is with first class acting and keen attention to period detail, namely the hallmarks that are synonymous with Merchant Ivory Productions. Need more be said?
Gay Visibility - overt.
Nudity - the full monty.
Overall - file under ... 5 stars.
available on DVD as part of the Odyssey-Quest Merchant Ivory collection
starring: James Wilby, Hugh Grant, Rupert Graves, Denholm Elliott, Simon Callow, Billie Whitelaw, Barry Foster,
Judy Parfitt, Phoebe Nicholls, Patrick Godfrey, Mark Tandy, Ben Kingsley, Kitty Aldridge,
Helena Michell, Catherine Rabett, Peter Eyre, Orlando Wells
cameo appearance by Helena Bonham Carter as the Lady at the Cricket Match