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E. M. Forster–James Ivory: Howards End

Fades to Black, Slow Motion and Mismatch—Connection and Disconnection in the Editing of James Ivory’s Howards End (1992)

Fondus au noir, ralentis et raccords-regards: la problématique du lien et de la déconnection dans Howards End (James Ivory, 1992)
Christophe Gelly


Produit à l’âge d’or du film en costumes et couronné de nombreux prix, le film de James Ivory est considéré aujourd’hui comme un parangon du cinéma patrimonial. Cependant, ce statut a nourri une lecture réductrice de l’œuvre vue, selon l’expression d’Andrew Higson, comme l’incarnation d’une ‘esthétique de l’ostentation’ centrée sur l’idéalisation et le plaisir visuel nostalgique procuré par la reconstitution historique. Un aspect souvent négligé par la critique réside pourtant dans les innovations que le film de James Ivory apporte à la tradition des films patrimoniaux. L’utilisation des fondus au noir (comme lors de la scène où Henry Wilcox confesse sa relation passée avec Jacky Bast) constitue un exemple parmi d’autres de cette pratique innovante du montage, en opposition avec les conventions formelles du genre. Cet article vise à rendre compte de ces innovations de façon exhaustive afin de les intégrer dans une évaluation de la stratégie narrative du film.

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1James Ivory’s film adaptation of Forster’s novel holds an awkward position both in the filmmaker’s career and in the genre it has come to embody and almost epitomise. Howards End features in Ivory’s filmography at the ending of a glorious decade which included such classic endeavours as The Bostonians (1984) or A Room With a View (1986), and which had more or less definitely ensured the critical and public recognition of his production. It also figures as the paragon of the Heritage film and of the critical celebration of the genre, due to the numerous awards reaped by the film, which were also the consequence of a relevant promotion strategy (Higson 2003, 156 f.). But this film is also at the centre of a misunderstanding for this very reason. Focusing on Howards End as the locus of a comfortable, institutionalised practice of the period drama precludes another consideration which is central to it, i.e. the temporal situation of the film just before another, more devious, rugged practice of Heritage filmmaking, embodied by Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice in 1995, and which Linda Troost has called the ‘muddy hem version’ (86) of the canon adaptation. Staying alert to the transitional position of Ivory’s film in that corpus means also that we should pay attention to the status of this adaptation as the result of a change in Ivory’s so far more ‘sober’ versions of literary classics—especially because the success of the Heritage vein allowed him to explore newer, more daring options. This is what can justify a study of the formal innovations of the film which have not been systematically examined by critics, so as to give a wider view of the director’s strategy. These innovations, which the title of this paper describes summarily, can be considered as so many departures from a more mimetic-realistic visual rendition of the novel, in so far as they assert the specificity of a filmic enunciation beyond or beside the reference to the source text. I suggest these innovations should be examined by putting first an emphasis on their quality as tokens of the reflexivity of filmic enunciation in Howards End, before studying their experimental or avant-garde nature. My aim will be to re-contextualise the adaptation within the global evolution of Heritage filmmaking and to reassess the film as a more innovative piece than it is generally thought to be in terms of its formal features.

Narrative Autonomy and the Image Maker

2The theoretical debate on the filmic medium has repeatedly emphasised the specificity of its enunciation. Albert Laffay’s idea, taken up most famously by Christian Metz, is that of a ‘grand imagier’ or ‘image maker’ responsible for the enunciation of the filmic narrative and roughly equivalent to the narrative voice in novelistic discourse, with this essential difference that it is not embodied as a voice but is perceptible only through the effects of its narration on the story. This specifically filmic enunciation appears in the formal features of the montage and mise en scène, and provides what MacFarlane suggests is a de-personalised (but still potentially biased) enunciation:

Film may lack those literary marks of enunciation such as person and tense, but in the ways in which, for example, shots are angled and framed and related to each other (i.e. in matters relating to mise en scène and montage) the enunciatory processes are inscribed. (20)

3These well-known elements help us to situate Howards End as an adaptation departing from the classically devised adaptations from the literary canon. These adaptations should, according to Andrew Higson’s argument foregrounding an ‘aesthetics of display’ in them (2003, 172), focus their representation on the historical reconstitution of the past, and lead the viewer to forget the signs (if any appear) of a specific enunciation that may divert us from the ‘enjoyment’ of this realistic reconstitution by calling the viewer back to the contingency of the narrative voice. But this is precisely what Howards End will not do—it will not erase signs of its own enunciation but on the contrary will call the viewers’ attention to its own narrative autonomy. A much debated scene on this ground (Higson 2003, 173; Mellet, 209 and Cloarec, 55–56) is the episode where Margaret comes to visit a dying Ruth Wilcox at the hospital [39’03]. This scene purposefully dissociates the characters who are present (Evie and Charles) from the view of the hospital buildings that initiates the sequence—we see these buildings from a point of view which cannot be theirs because they are simply looking in another direction. This dissociation is tantamount to asserting the presence of filmic enunciation as discontinuous from the mimetic-realistic basis of representation, as Nicole Cloarec notes:

This is precisely what makes it interesting as it creates a hiatus, some decentring of perspective that is not related to a specific point of view in the diegesis, but conveys some rupture in the flow of events, some disruption in the order of things. (56)

  • 1 This distinction is upheld by Patricia Waugh and Robert Stam.

4This discontinuity may well be labelled reflexive, in so far as it calls attention to the medium itself, although its metafictional quality is more dubious since it does not elaborate on this to suggest a whole critical discourse on the cinematic medium within the film1. As it stands, though, it goes against the grain of the self-effacing narrative devices that are so often associated to Heritage filmmaking as focused on the transparency of enunciation.

5A similar effect is reached with the use of thematic and formal repetitions that suggest the presence of an autonomous, organising image-maker. This appears most obviously in the recurrence of what I will call the ‘staircase’ scenes, which trigger a specific cinematographic treatment with the use of significant shooting angles. Some of the most determining sequences are indeed shot in staircases: Henry’s proposal to Margaret, Helen’s dialogue with Leonard when he is about to leave Wickham Place in an angry mood, or Margaret’s conversation with Henry when she discovers the beauties of Oniton Grange. The staging of these scenes may be reduced to a realistic explanation but their very repetitiveness also points to a design that is introduced by the narrative strategy of the adaptation. Likewise, the recurrence of scenes in which a character (often Margaret) is watching other characters through a window suggests that the film is building up a discourse of its own on the source text: the film here openly establishes connections between these scenes and thereby flaunts its own re-staging of the novel’s plot. If the closing sequence in which Margaret observes her sister and nephew through a window in Howards End can be traced back to the novel, the parallel with the very first scene that reverses this pattern (with Ruth, Margaret’s alter ego of sorts, looking into the house from the outside) is peculiar to the filmic adaptation. Just as significant is Margaret’s watching the Wilcox family through her window after they settle in Ducie Street [14’47], or Charles and Dolly looking at Jacky through the same window at Oniton Grange during Evie and Percy’s wedding [1’27’18]. These contrasting scenes can hardly be treated as coincidences, because they relate characters—especially in the case of the ending and beginning, they relate Ruth and Margaret, as E. Kim Stone has remarked, calling the final scene ‘a reverse mirror image of the opening scene of the film’ (64). Beyond their semantic purpose, these parallels do also point out a specifically autonomous filmic enunciation. By setting up a network of scenes related by their settings, the adaptation hints at an organising agency that controls and orientates the very nature of filmic representation. It pertains to enunciation in so far as the establishment of these relations constitutes a discourse on the protagonists’ intersubjective connections.

6Lastly, the editing of several scenes positively flaunts a definite bias in the image maker. I will take but a few examples. When Leonard plunges into a dream of walking through a forest while reading a passage from Meredith [24’13], the film actually dissolves to a representation of the character in the countryside, while the voice over goes on in ecstatic tones about the experience. This goes on until the voice asks ‘But hush, could that be a deer?’ and then we fade in again to Leonard and Jacky’s lodgings to see Jacky taking off her underwear in a very ‘un-deer-like’ fashion . . . The ironic editing is of course not only cruel on Jacky—and cruelly taking up the novelistic narrator’s bias against the character—but also explicit about its own statement which contradicts the ideal and the reality in Leonard’s experience. This very explicitness, again, rules out the transparency and objectivity of filmic enunciation. Conversely, after the truth about Henry’s past relation to Jacky is revealed during Evie’s wedding, we see a worn-out, helpless Margaret collapse on the floor of her bedroom [1’32’19] and crying to her heart’s content just before we see Jacky leaving Oniton in the same state of despair. This parallel brought forward by the editing concurs towards a more sympathetic representation of Jacky, as Elise Blankley has argued, in accordance with our contemporary feelings of compassion rather than disgust towards the figure of the ‘fallen woman.’ But this remains an explicit breach of transparency that further autonomises the enunciative devices away from the purely realistic conveyance of the story. If the editing of the film presents us with these oppositions or parallels, it means that they are not solely conveyed by the plot or by the characters’ interactions—they are fleshed out within the narrative by an oriented vision that guides the spectators towards an apprehension of a certain type of similarity between Margaret and Jacky. A realistic perspective would more likely limit itself to a presentation of such parallels, whereas they are here underlined by the montage, which takes an importance in itself as a (somewhat biased) filter with the plot, and which constitutes itself as an enunciative agency that is formally perceptible and autonomous from the characters (none of whom has any part in its representational choices). These devices also purport to vest the spectator with an active role in the interpretation of the filmic discourse, in contrast with the theory of a mere enjoyment of an aesthetics of display.

Delayed Decoding and the Spectator’s Role

7The notion of delayed decoding was first applied by Jakob Lothe to Joseph Conrad’s technique in Heart of Darkness, with reference to the episode where Marlowe discovers Kurtz’s camp and understands only belatedly that what he had mistaken for wooden knobs on poles were in fact human skulls. This type of misreading integrated within the text by Conrad can be understood as staging the difficulty to make sense of the diegetic world Marlowe is faced with. The same device is used by James Ivory in his adaptation, with the important distinction that it does not concern a character within the story, as in Marlowe’s case, but the extra-diegetic spectator. In other words, the film repeatedly organises our flawed reading of some scenes and points to our misreading immediately after these scenes have taken place. This implicit foregrounding of the spectator’s deception by the filmic discourse, which can be decoded only with some difficulty, calls attention to the complexity of the narrative configuration, in contradistinction again with the ideal of narrative transparency in Heritage aesthetics.

8A first example of this delayed decoding occurs at Swanage when we hear Henry’s voice complaining about his tenants at Howards End [1’08’11]. This scene begins with a shot of Tibby reading (as usual) at the sitting room table, and Helen walking behind him with a letter in hand. We hear Henry’s voice over talking about his tenant who is trying to sub-let the house—whereas he has no right to do so—and the immediate deduction the spectator is bound to make is that the voice off is actually a voice over conveying the message which has been sent by Henry and which is being read by Helen, especially because the content of this message is coherent with such an interpretation:

I’ve had a letter too. Not a nice one. I want to talk it over with you. My letter’s about Howards End. The tenants have decamped. And what is worse is that he’s trying to sublet the house my dear.

9Only when the next shot begins do we understand that the voice over was actually a voice off, Henry’s voice off, since Henry is directly talking to Helen and Aunt Juley in the next room, and is now shown to argue pleasantly about the reason for Margaret’s laughing mood—even this realisation is belated since we see Henry only with some delay when he enters the shot, after we first see Aunt Juley playing, it seems, with Margaret’s hands on which she is painting something. We could relate this fleeting misinterpretation of the voice off for a voice over to the ‘world of telegrams and anger,’ the ‘panic and emptiness’ that derive from the confusion modern means of communication trigger in the novel—in fact Helen is not reading Henry’s letter but Leonard’s letter announcing he has left the Porphyrion Company and entered Dempster’s Bank at a ‘reduced’ salary,’ which will be the cause for an argument with Henry. But beyond these connections with story events, the enforcement of misinterpretation by the spectator (and not the characters, again) is for the adaptation the best way of stressing the importance of the viewers’ role and of ruling out the possibility of mere enjoyment of a fetishistic reconstitution of the past. It also reasserts the reflexive potential of the mise en scène by making an explicit statement on the misleading quality of images and the impossibility of their direct, unproblematic interpretation. Heritage aesthetics in Howards End is then definitely not so straightforward and transparent as it appears to be at first sight.

10An apparently contradictory perspective is adopted when Dolly, Henry and Margaret all leave Howards End after Margaret’s first visit there and her meeting with Miss Avery [1’17’32]. The Schlegels’ furniture is going to be left there for storage, and we first see the three characters sitting in the car and commenting on how Miss Avery frightened Margaret, then the scene goes on to describe the settling of furniture in the house while Dolly’s voice over still persists, relating how Miss Avery may react to the changes brought to the house as follows:

She’s so mad about Howards End. Goodness knows what she’ll do when your furniture arrives.  She might fling it all out. Or she might simply adopt it for Howards End.

  • 2 An example which is akin to this use of L cutting occurs at [1’17’32], when Ruth and Margaret go Ch (...)

11Contrary to what Dolly partly suggests on the sound track, the image track shows us that Miss Avery, with the help of a little boy (Tom) takes great care to organise the Schlegels’ furniture at Howards End. The adaptation here runs two contradictory ways: Dolly’s voice goes on from the previous scene in what is known as an L cutting (it is the case where the audio from the preceding scene overlaps the images from the following scene, as Laurent Jullier points out) and conveys the prejudiced vision of the social body on Miss Avery, while the image anticipates on what the story will confirm, i.e. Margaret’s, and more largely the Schlegels’ settling down at Howards End. This contradiction in fact constitutes—like Miss Avery’s discourse in the novel, but with strikingly innovative features for the Heritage style—a reassertion of the discontinuity that characterises the narrative system in the film. This discontinuity points again reflexively to the presence of an organising voice in the filmic enunciation, and to a desire for experimenting with this enunciation.2

Fades to Black and Slow Motion: from Heritage to Experimentation

12The examples which have been examined so far constitute a striking illustration of James Ivory’s ‘signature’ in his own film; they show how he appropriates the enunciative devices to flaunt his own reading of the novel, in sharp contrast with a more ‘illustrative’ conception of adaptation. But these devices still remain in the scope of a rather mainstream practice of continuity. The scenes we have examined do not preclude the implementation of what Kaja Silverman calls ‘suture,’ i.e. the way filmic narrative builds up the illusion of the characters’ consistent and linear vision of the diegetic reality through the process of editing and match cuts. We may very well as spectators pass over the fleeting appreciation of self-conscious enunciative devices such as the L cutting we have discussed, because these devices do not block our reading of the filmic narrative as a linear—and somehow direct or transparent—reconstruction of diegetic reality. This is not the case with the last two devices we are going to concern ourselves with, i.e. fades to black and slow motion.

13Howards End resorts to fades to black repeatedly, but this can be practised in a rather conventional way, to mark out the articulations of the narrative. For instance, at the beginning of the adaptation, after Aunt Juley rushes—quite uselessly—to hug and comfort Helen at Howards End [11’18] after her eventful ride next to Charles Wilcox, the screen dissolves to black and features the following intertitle: ‘A few months later,’ before we find Helen Schlegel again at the conference on ‘Music and Meaning’. This is clearly a classical type of narrative articulation associating temporal ellipsis with visual dissolve, and no breach in the consistency or continuity of the characters’ experience is intended here. Quite different are two other occurrences of fades to black, which have been repeatedly commented on by critics: the dissolves that take place during the lunch scene at Simpsons’ [1’00’07], and during Henry’s confession at Oniton Grange about his past affair with Jacky Bast [1’32’35]. It has to be noted that these two occurrences differ obviously in terms of their relation to the storyline. Whereas we can understand the narrative fragmentation that affects the scene of Henry’s confession as the reflection of the character’s reluctance in owning to his past misconduct, as well as a sign of the temporal ellipsis that is practiced in the relation of this confession, there seems to be no direct narrative motivation for the cuts which are practised in the scene at Simpson’s. A more detailed thematic examination may help us to understand the deeper reason for such surprising formal choices.

14Regarding the lunch at Simpson’s, we find two fades to black—or rather cuts since they are somewhat abrupt—punctuating the conversation between Henry and Margaret and the depiction of the exchange between Evie and Percy Cahill, who keep making hidden comments at Margaret’s talkative character or engaging into foolish conversation about themselves (as for instance about whether or not Evie dislikes cheese). The first cut to black takes place after Henry has authoritatively designated each guest’s seat, and ordered a typically traditional ‘English’ meal for the party [1’00’05]; the second cut to black occurs after Margaret explains how hard it is for her to find a new house, with counter shots on Evie and Percy mocking her in an underhand way, and after Henry tips the carver and comments on it, explaining how he practiced tipping when he lived in the East [1’00’52]; after this cut we return to a medium shot not of Margaret and Henry but of Evie and Percy in a slightly low angle (this is not a counter shot since it is closer to the characters than the previous shot which showed them looking at and mocking Margaret), then we return to Henry who after some joking announces he will act as house agent to Margaret and that he considers this a ‘privilege.’ It is remarkable that Margaret should suggest renting out Howards End from the Wilcoxes [1’01’21], which triggers an awkward silence in Evie and a polite refusal from Henry. The scene unfolds against a continuous sound background which is surprisingly enough a tango composed by Richard Robbins—so, not the ‘thoroughly old English’ music that would fit the place. This brief presentation of the scene suggests that the cuts to black do not convey a feeling of temporal ellipsis, but rather act as a sign of disconnection between the characters. Both cuts are situated in places where they serve best to highlight the separateness in the characters’ experience of what is happening during that lunch—the first cut opens onto the first really personal conversation between Henry and Margaret, where she partly learns about his life in the East, and the second focuses on Evie and Percy as living out the scene in a separate, even opposite way. The use of these cuts can thus be referred to two main purposes: they serve as an expression of the disconnection between characters and they point out to the filmic enunciation as a field where this disconnection is made obvious. In other words, they point out to the image-maker as being critical of this disconnection through an autonomous stylistic discourse. Given the fact that the scene takes place quite early in the relation between Henry and Margaret we can understand this censure of disconnection as logical and narratively justified by what is supposed to redeem it later on, i.e. a better state of relationships between characters if they can ‘only connect.’

15The second scene featuring cuts to black—Henry’s confession to Margaret about Jacky—yet threatens this brighter outlook. The first cut occurs after Henry admits he was Jacky’s lover ten years before and Margaret tells him it is not going to ‘trouble’ them [1’33’22]; then we return to the same drawing-room where Henry is pacing up and down and setting a few trinkets nervously in order about the room, while explaining that Margaret cannot understand a man’s temptations, concluding ‘That’s enough,’ to which Margaret readily agrees [1’33’48]; then we return to a scene in the same setting where Margaret is sitting on a sofa and Henry standing next to the fireplace, and explaining how he met Jacky in Cyprus, before Margaret tells him she has already forgiven him, and then we have another cut to black [1’34’18], opening onto a last development where Henry and Margaret are sitting side by side and Henry kisses Margaret on her forehead, completing their final reconciliation. He will then ask her to write a letter to Helen to make sure the Basts leave the George Hotel as soon as possible to avoid gossip, and to ask Helen to Oniton. The whole of this scene unfolds with no music except during the cuts to black, which are filled with harp sounds; but in each of the sequences between the cuts we distinctly hear the ticking of a clock, probably some clock on the mantelpiece—pointing to the passing of time and to the ellipsis acted out by the cuts. The whole scene conveys the feeling of an instant, almost too quick reconciliation between the characters, and calls attention to Margaret’s weakness which leads her to forgive Henry even before he has given any explanation. The condensation of time made visible by these cuts flaunts the hurried quality of this forgiveness. The change in positions of the characters from one sequence to the other does indicate the flow of time between them but also the artificial quality of this reconciliation which is worked as if by magic—and the harp sounds audible in the breaks seem to point to some supernatural intervention operating this reconciliation. The overall feeling created by this use of cuts to black is not unlike that of chronophotography, a 19th C technique that consisted in capturing movement by taking several frames of print focusing on a subject walking or making any other type of gesture. It was used primarily for the scientific use of movement. Here, it seems that the scene in Howards End is isolating the several steps through which the reconciliation is effected, by taking the same scientific, detached and fragmented perspective. This is a poor promise of the connection that the topic of reconciliation should bear. Similarly, the cuts do not implement a real coming together of the characters (except physically) for two reasons. First of all, Margaret has already forgiven Henry when the scene begins; secondly these cuts act as much as devices slowing down the narrative of reconciliation as making any renewed connection possible between the characters. Eventually, the main feeling produced by the device is that of observing the scene from a distance, from an external point of view commenting on it, precluding any deep, emotional engagement with it. Like the scene at Simpson’s, this scene thus primarily stresses the characters’ disconnection and the stylistic fragmentation of the editing.

16This distance is to be referred to the image-maker’s choices. These cuts bringing doubt within the overall discourse of re-connection are of course not absent from the novel and more recent analyses like the chapter by David Bradshaw in the collection of essays he edited have pointed out how ambivalent this ideal of connection is in Forster’s novel too. But the objectification of filmic enunciation as it appears in the sequences using cuts or fades to black orientates the adaptation not only towards a critical approach of this ideal but also towards a more experimental and reflexive practice of the filmic discourse, in contradiction again with the transparency of filmic enunciation supposed to prevail in the Heritage genre. A similar experimentation occurs when the film has recourse to slow motion in two, significant instances, Leonard’s death and Charles’s arrest after his trial for manslaughter. These two scenes signify not only in themselves—as still lives, or frozen moments which epitomise the fate of the two characters—but also in their relationship. By representing these two characters through the same self-conscious device, filmic enunciation also calls attention to their comparable status in the story as victims, whether of Fate (Leonard) or of a social system that prevents connection (Charles) and condemns them to ‘panic and emptiness.’ Connection is made here on a formal level, but it is a very negative type of connection that is stated by the filmic discourse.

  • 3 See for instance Armstrong, Gillen, Roby, and Vande Vyvere.

17Regarding the style of this adaptation, we hope to have shown that the enunciative devices, such as editing or point of view techniques, situate James Ivory’s film beyond the scope of an aesthetics of display, by foregrounding the role of the image-maker in ways that are similar to the narrative voice in the novel.3 Specific techniques such as fades to black also suggest a link with formal experimentation, peculiarly when they are, as is the case here, disconnected from narrative motivation. This leads to the idea that the adaptation is, far from an implementation of a Heritage style of filmmaking, a pastiche of this style. Andrew Higson developed that idea in relation to the Heritage genre as a whole, when he dealt with the way these films refer to an idealised image of the past, which they nevertheless contribute to refashion along certain lines and to integrate within a commodified perspective that is bound to ‘twist’ the texts in definite directions:

These films share a particularly strong group style, not least because of the degree to which they work as pastiches. . . . In each case, the ‘original’ text is as much on display as the text it seeks to reproduce. The literary source material, of course, functions as an important selling point, playing on the familiarity and prestige of a particular novel or play, but also invoking the pleasures of other quality literary adaptations and the status of a national intellectual tradition. The genre can also invent new texts for the canon by treating otherwise marginal texts or properties to the same modes of representation and marketing. (Higson 1993, 114–15).

18The pastiche dimension in Howards End is not limited to this dimension of marketing and exploiting a canonical text, but it makes the spectator alert to this redefinition of the source material. This appears clearly when the filmic enunciation calls the spectators’ attention to its own re-fashioning of the story line. In this context, the intertitles used in the adaptation such as ‘The following summer’ [2’01’52] or ‘A few months later’ [11’18], designate the narrator’s role—like the novel’s incipit ‘One may as well begin with Helen’s letters to her sister,’ which unobtrusively announces the narrator’s subtle management of the whole narrative perspective. This quality was acknowledged by Higson who nevertheless went on to distinguish the film’s take on the question of nostalgia from that of the novel:

The strength of the pastiche in effect imprisons the qualities of the past, holding them in place as something to be gazed at from a reverential distance, and refusing the possibility of a dialogue or confrontation with the present. . . . On the contrary, Forster argues for a liberal-humanist refashioning of Englishness, rather than a simple assumption of an already formed national identity. (Higson 1993, 119)

19It seems to me that a more balanced view is possible if we take into account the features that in the film express another perspective apart from or alongside with the ‘reverential distance’ from the past that period drama partly induces. Such formal experimentations as those we have examined here argue in favour of an understanding of the filmic discourse in this work that connects with questions bearing on the medium itself and on the possibility to embody the film’s vision of the novel as a separate, justified vision in its own right—i.e. quite contemporary issues. If Ivory’s version is a pastiche of Heritage style, these issues testify to the dialogue the film engages with our present-day concerns about specific cinema aesthetics.

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Blankley, Elise, ‘Merchant-Ivory Tames the Shrew in Howards End,’ Visual Media and the Humanities, ed. Kecia Driver McBride, Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 2004, 315–39.

Bradshaw, David, ‘Howards End,’ The Cambridge Companion to E.M. Forster, ed. David Bradshaw, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007, 151–72.

Cloarec, Nicole, ‘“Only connect . . .” and Disconnect: Pattern and Rhythm in Howards End (Merchant-Ivory, 1992)’, Edward Morgan Forster Howards End and James Ivory’s Howards End, ed. Jean-François Baillon, Paris: Ellipses, 2019, 41–60.

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Higson, Andrew, ‘Representing the National Past: Nostalgia and Pastiche in the Heritage Film,’ Fires Were Started: British Cinema and Thatcherism, ed. Lester Friedman, Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1993, 109–29.

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1 This distinction is upheld by Patricia Waugh and Robert Stam.

2 An example which is akin to this use of L cutting occurs at [1’17’32], when Ruth and Margaret go Christmas shopping together and the sound track anticipates on the dialogue between both characters by showing us London streets from the inside of the cab in which they are travelling before we see them talking together. This is a case where the sound track does not overlap with the image in terms of temporality but rather in terms of space: the scene of the dialogue does unfold at the same time as the views of London streets but the disjunction between the characters talking and the images creates a similar effect of discontinuity. Interestingly, this shot inside the cab does not present Margaret as looking out of the cab window (it is not an eye-line match, then), so that a sense of disconnection between the image-maker’s choices and the characters is made obvious, as in the scene where Margaret comes to the hospital before Ruth’s death.

3 See for instance Armstrong, Gillen, Roby, and Vande Vyvere.

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Christophe Gelly, « Fades to Black, Slow Motion and Mismatch—Connection and Disconnection in the Editing of James Ivory’s Howards End (1992) »Études britanniques contemporaines [En ligne], 58 | 2020, mis en ligne le 01 mars 2020, consulté le 04 février 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Christophe Gelly

Christophe Gelly is Professor of British and American literature and film studies at Université Clermont Auvergne, France. He has worked mainly on film genre, film noir, adaptation and has published two book-length studies on Arthur Conan Doyle (Le Chien des Baskerville: Poétique du roman policier chez Conan Doyle, Lyon, Presses universitaires de Lyon, collection Champ Anglophone, 2005) and Raymond Chandler (Raymond Chandler – Du roman noir au film noir, Paris, Michel Houdiard, 2009), and co-edited a book on reception theories in cinema and literature (Approaches to film and reception theories/Cinéma et théories de la réception — Études et panorama critique, Christophe Gelly et David Roche [eds.], Clermont-Ferrand, Presses universitaires Blaise Pascal, 2012). He also edited the issue of the journal Écrans devoted to French literary realism and film adaptation (Écrans, n° 5, 2016-1, Le Réalisme français du xixe siècle et sa transposition à l’écran) and co-authored a book-length study of Ang Lee’s adaptation of Jane Austen (Sense and Sensibility, Atlande, 2015). He approached comic book and adaptation in a paper dealing with Alan Moore’s adaptation of Lovecraft in Neonomicon (in Lovecraft et l’Illustration, Christophe Gelly and Gilles Ménégaldo [eds.], Le Visage Vert, 2017). He currently orients his research on cinema theory at large.

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