Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder
Tag line: "In a world of tradition. In an age of innocence. They dared to break the rules"
Trivia: Originally to be released in fall of 1992, but was held back by over a year to allow director Martin Scorsese more time to edit
Like a good many movies directed by Martin Scorsese, the setting for The Age of Innocence is New York City. Yet this is not the New York we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in a Scorsese film. Set in the 1870s amidst the city’s upper classes, The Age of Innocence presents a story of sophistication, drama, and, yes, even innocence. It is a motion picture that proudly displays the varying personalities of its maker, featuring the talents of Scorsese the romantic, well supported in this rare public appearance by Scorsese the artist.
The romantic within him takes center stage by way of Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis), a prestigious lawyer and a man deeply engrained in high society. Yet despite his status, Archer loathes the artifice that goes hand-in-hand with being part of New York’s upper crust. He is engaged to be married to May Welland (Winona Ryder), a pretty, if somewhat bland, girl who travels in the same social circles as Archer and his family. But it’s Mary’s cousin, the Countess Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer), who captures his heart. An outcast due to her failed marriage, as well as the subject of much gossip and innuendo, the Countess represents for Archer the freedom from convention he so desires. But will he have the courage to break from his family, his fiancé, and his position to live a life of abandon which, in the end, can only guarantee an uncertain future?
Day-Lewis and Pfeiffer generate real passion in the scenes they share, and together form the backbone of the film. Scorsese the artist takes center stage by way of what he surrounds them with, namely some exquisite imagery, among the most elegant he has ever committed to celluloid. Many of its images; society banquets, dinner parties, even the beauty of the setting sun, are dazzling enough to adorn the walls of a gallery, offering their potential patrons some excellent reproductions of this period in history. And yet they serve a purpose; they do not overpower the narrative, but work in unison with it to weave a tale every bit as engaging as it is striking to behold.
The Age of Innocence is a stunning marriage of art and romance, conceived by a filmmaker who had to travel well outside his comfort zone to create it.