Columbia Pictures | Release Date: September 17, 1993
Generally favorable reviews based on 45 Ratings
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HTI.Feb 1, 2006
This is one of the most heart-wrenching movies I have experienced.
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GiuseppeBOct 10, 2006
Michelle Pfeiffer had to win the Oscar.
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SpangleMar 3, 2017
A gorgeous period piece from director Martin Scorsese, The Age of Innocence may be achingly slow, but it is equally gorgeous. Thoroughly Scorsese, the film is brilliantly captured from the cinematography to the staging with ambitious cameraA gorgeous period piece from director Martin Scorsese, The Age of Innocence may be achingly slow, but it is equally gorgeous. Thoroughly Scorsese, the film is brilliantly captured from the cinematography to the staging with ambitious camera movements, transitions, and techniques utilized throughout. Matching the beautiful camera work, the film's plot is elegant and its dialogue is structured and stiff, perfect for the society portrayed. Set in the 1870s, the film is about a man named Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis). Awaiting marriage to May Welland (Winona Ryder), he becomes infatuated with the Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer), who recently returned to New York society after time in Europe with her now-estranged husband, the Count. Now caught between what he should do and what he wants to do, Newland must make a decision that will have ramifications for centuries. Elegant, engaging, and gorgeous, The Age of Innocence may be too stiff for some, but for those willing to go along with it, it is a brilliant take down of New York society.

With an elegant, romantic, and truly rapturous score accenting the film, The Age of Innocence was always destined to be gorgeous. The score by Elmer Bernstein is tremendous and often takes center stage in this film with so many different highlights. Paired up with the tremendous score is the brilliant production design. Capturing the prim nature of the society, the buildings from the exterior and in the interior are dressed to the nines. Scenes of snow falling in the city only further highlight the beauty of the film's production design and the emotional coldness of its characters and the society in which they live. While the buildings are gorgeously crafted, they are hardly lively and instead represent the same structured and stiff nature of the society itself. The costume design, also beautiful, similarly communicates this rigidity. With corsets and detailed dresses that make statements on their own, this society is one that constantly demands its participants be "on". If a person is unable or unwilling to perform for society's eyes, they will not be accepted into the society. The terrific costume design highlights this with every woman dressed up for a ball throughout and the men all wearing suits that exceed their "Sunday best". Yet, the film is defined in small touches. For example, a windy day where all the men walk the streets and hold their bowler hats as they do so, for fear of it flying off due to the wind. The film is bolstered by small, detailed moments such as this and it it something that is found in the score, the production design, and the costume design.

In terms of the film's camera work, it is wholly unique. Naturally, there are eye candy shots in the cinematography of old New York, the homes of the people, and a gorgeous aerial shot that is quintessential Scorsese during the opening ball sequence. Shots set against the shoreline of Countess Olenska staring at the ocean with everything draped in an orange hue also stands as a true series of highlights, whether it be with the sun setting behind the lighthouse, a boat, or Countess Olenska. Yet, again, the film has some small touches that make its camera work truly stand out. Early in the film, it is marked by a sort of symmetry to the shots. The staging of people, candles, or paintings, highlight this symmetry that is not necessarily continued throughout, but is definitely worth mentioning and eye catching. What makes this camera work unique is Scorsese's usage of lighting and the frame. For example, a sequence with Countess Olenska and Newland at the theatre, already in the throws of subtle courting, Scorsese uses a truly odd technique. For lack of a better term, it is a sort of racking iris. It is a spotlight placed on the two as they converse, highlighting how they are in a world of their own. The sound cuts out except for their conversation, in spite of being in a loud theater. They have eyes only for one another and the spotlight emphasizes this with the two staring longingly at one another. As the scene progresses, an angelic white light begins to appear behind Countess Olenska, further making her enticing and hinting at Newland's impending obsession with her and possessing her love and affection. This technique later returns towards the end of the film when Newland reads a letter to May from Countess Olenska in which she outlines her intentions to leave for Europe and return to her husband. With this iris spotlight exclusively on Newland's eyes as he reads the letter, you can feel the hurt, the pain, and the sense of loss as he must now re-focus his love on May or forever chase Countess Olenska's love, which would only bring shame and scandal upon his and her family. Prior to this scene though, Scorsese has the curtains close on Newland and May. With black edge of the frame closing in slowly on the couple and then appearing to be a stage curtain, the chapter and scene ends.
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