It starts with a seeming anomaly. Martin Scorcese, director of films full of violence (like Raging Bull) decided to bring to the screen a story by Edith Wharton where there is no violence at all.
Here is the grabber
Even in 1993, it seemed surprising that Martin Scorsese should direct an adaptation of The Age of Innocence. Why was the director of bloody and furious classics such as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull taking on this story of decorum and reserve in New York high society? When the film came out, critic Roger Ebert wrote that the pairing had “struck many people as astonishing – as surprising, say, as if Abel Ferrara had announced a film by Henry James”.
And yet, Wharton’s story may have more in common with Scorcese’s mindset than one might think – namely enforced loyalty to group standards.
Wharton’s society, with the formidable Van der Luydens “above all of them”, is as tough as they come. Transgressors against its strict honour code are punished without mercy.
Read on! and check out this wonderful film and novel.
And consider — for all of our early 21st century freedom, how much do we still cling to norms imposed on us by groups we long to belong to? Gone are the norms of the great families of Manhattan. But are the norms imposed by marketing geniuses flogging stuff that we cannot afford any less powerful?
Food for thought! Food? Yes, this was one of Edith Wharton’s obsessions. In her early days, she was convinced that she was too thin. Then in the early 20’s, when women’s fashion ditched the corset, she was obsessed by being too fat.
Why was and is weight so important? Hmmm … yes, there you have it. And if we do binge, what food do we serve to the soul?
If you need further inducement towards Ms Wharton, consider this fun piece about her recollection of a motoring excursion with the rather verbose Henry James. Very funny ending!