E. M. Forster: From the Pages to the Screen

June 07, 2019 3 min read 0 Comments

E. M. Forster: From the Pages to the Screen

Few novelists have written material as thought-provoking as E. M. Forster. Perhaps that's what makes his novels so adaptable. From class division to homosexuality, Forster was not afraid to write about prevalent issues within our society, and for that he has left his mark upon literary history. In many way he was even ahead of his time, going as far as to essentially predict the internet with his short story The Machine Stops, and the negative effects it can have on society.

Due to this level of intuition, all of Forster's novels except for one have been adapted into film format, allowing even those who aren't literature-savvy to enjoy the tales he had to tell. Here is a list of those books and their film counterparts, adapted by Merchant Ivory studios into multiple Academy and BAFTA Award winning motion pictures, so you can experience both the classic literature and their transition to the screen.

 

A Passage to India

Exploring sexism, racism, and imperialism, this 1924 novel is one of Forster's better known novels, and was adapted in 1984 as David Lean's final film to critical acclaim. Ahead of its time, this novel received a great deal of attention upon its release. For example, during the early 1900's native Indians were generally (and, of course, falsely) represented as a savage people in need of domination throughout the media and entertainment. It's this exploration and understanding of other cultures that has largely contributed to Forster's legacy, and made his work still relevant enough for a successful adaptation sixty years later.

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A Room with a View

Like most other E. M. Forster adaptations, A Room with a View was met with critical acclaim upon its release - obviously, in part, due to the exceptional source material it was adapted from. A romantic tale focusing on breaking away from the restrictive culture of Edwardian England, this is a love story that any fan of the genre can find themselves absorbed by - whether you're passionate about literature or emotionally intellectual cinema.

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Maurice

As a gay man himself who only revealed his sexuality to those he was close to, this tale is something that only a talented literary romantic such as Forster could have come up with. Adapted to universal acclaim in 1987 and starring Hugh Grant, the fact that the novel itself was only published after Forster's death (despite being written long before) only adds to its legacy. Due to the societal and legal issues that surrounded homosexuality in the early 1900's, this is yet another example of Forster being ahead of his time - something living as a gay man in a society that was intolerant towards homosexuality surely influenced, and something which clearly resulted in his reluctance to publish the novel whilst he was alive.

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Where Angels Fear to Tread

As Forster's first novel, written at the young age of just twenty-six, this is an impressive work that explores the clash between prejudice and human desires. Though the 1991 adaptation may not have been as well received by critics as other E. M. Forster adaptations, and perhaps as not meant to be enjoyed on the screen as much as it was on the pages, it is still very much a worthwhile piece of literary history - after all, this is the first published novel by one of England's most revered writers.

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Howards End

Considered by some to be Forster's masterpiece, this book about social norms and conventions, relationships, and codes of conduct relevant to England in the early 20th century was also adapted to universal critical acclaim in 1992. Starring Anthony Hopkins and Helena Bonham Carter, and going on to win multiple Academy and BAFTA awards, the film version of Howards End does an unarguably fantastic job at capturing the essence of the novel. Whether films or books are your vice, both editions of this classic tale deserve our respect and attention!

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