It’s safe to say that the 1980’s were not a good time for the LGBT community. With the introduction of section 28 and constant scaremongering from the press around the AIDs crisis, the LGBT community were both isolated and persecuted. Which, in my opinion, is why the value of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory’s film, Maurice, is only just being recognised.
Merchant and Ivory are predominantly known for their adaption of E M Foresters better-known novel, Room with a View. Penned by the same writer, Maurice is Room with a view’s, darker, broodier and much gayer cousin.
The story focuses on Maurice Hall (James Wilby), who enters the prestigious world of Cambridge, where he befriends the wealthy Clive Durham (Hugh Grant). Set in the tense years’ before the first world war, they embark on a chaste, but passionate affair. Eventually, the relationship ends, and Clive meets Anne, but both men struggle to accept who they are.
Throughout the entirety of the film, the combination of gloomy shots, polite hostility and stiff upper lip feels painstakingly English. Performed with quiet conviction and pride, there is a sense of longing that overwhelms every scene.
Obviously, it’s easy to draw comparisons between Maurice, and Ivory’s more recent project Call me by your name, however, unlike Call me, Maurice is a story of equals. Equally panicked by the future, terrified of their own desires and equally aware of the consequences. Maurice is a candid story of both desire and loneliness.
Remastered and rereleased, 30 years’ later, Maurice can finally be recognised for it’s contribution to queer filmmaking, and, more importantly as a great love story.