Screened as part of NZIFF 2001

The House of Mirth 2000

Directed by Terence Davies

UK In English
140 minutes CinemaScope


Production Co

Three Rivers


Olivia Stewart


Terence Davies. Based on the novel by Edith Wharton


Remi Adefarasin


Michael Parker

Production Designer

Don Taylor

Costume Designer

Monica Howe

Hair & Makeup Designer

Jan Harrison Shell


Paul Hamblin

Music Director

Adrian Johnston


Gillian Anderson (Lily Bart)
Eric Stoltz (Lawrence Selden)
Dan Aykroyd (Gus Trenor)
Eleanor Bron (Mrs Peniston)
Terry Kinney (George Dorset)
Anthony LaPaglia (Slim Rosedale)
Laura Linney (Bertha Dorset)
Jodhi May (Grace Stepney)
Elizabeth McGovern (Carry Fisher)


The ladies wear elaborate dresses and terrifyingly large hats. The gentlemen are lacquered and precise. Etiquette is a matter of gravest importance, and the appearance of impropriety, however false the impression, can ruin a reputation and even a life. The novels of Edith Wharton teem with headstrong men and women chafing, adapting, risking, and tripping over the strictures of turn-of-the-century New York society.

But The House of Mirth, Terence Davies’ magnificent adaptation of Wharton’s masterpiece about the folly of one marriageable young woman who pays tragically for her restlessness, burns through all the fussy doilies, precious teacups, and worn-out poses of period costume dramas with such brilliance as to look like a brand new art form. This stunning movie – one of the very best of the year – makes a much read American classic feel new and freshly devastating.

Even more astonishing: Gillian Anderson, sprung from her X Files armor of dark suits and even darker broody stares, gives a career igniting performance as proud, kind, foolish, tragic Lily Bart, whose need to marry rich thwarts her opportunity to marry happy. Indeed, Anderson’s acute understanding of Lily’s self destructive mixture of passion and naïveté, her terrible refusal to take her own desires seriously – watch her delicate voluptuousness as she accepts a cigarette, the way she tilts her heart-shaped face – sets the tone for startlingly good performances all around…

The British born Davies (Distant Voices, Still Lives, The Neon Bible), a filmmaker of rapturous imagery, is partial to moments of beauty out of a Sargent painting. He’s also a music lover who relishes his swoons: why else include that most ravishing of trios from Mozart’s opera Così fan tutte? But, in his surest demonstration of artistry, the director also knows how to sustain stillness. The moments of silence as Lily stands in upholstered rooms, taking stock of her lifelong exhaustion, are as powerful as the showiest scarves of sound knitted by less confident directors who don’t trust moviegoers with profound literary solitude for even an instant. — Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly, 8/12/00