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Drama in the House

Coinciding with the Museum’s exhibition Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House, on view through September 21, a selection of films has been chosen to represent different aspects of the English country house. Each of these directors has set his films in exceptional examples of homes like the one featured in the exhibition, and each film showcases the opulence and elegance from the time period.

Past Films in This Series


The Remains of the Day

Directed by James Ivory
Merchant Ivory’s extravagant production design enhances this adaptation of the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. A butler (Anthony Hopkins) who sacrificed body and soul to service in the years following World War II realizes too late how misguided his loyalty has been. The arrival of a new housekeeper (Emma Thompson) brings into question the possibility of romance and the butler’s employer’s ties with the Nazis, which tests the butler’s steely facade. “A stinging comedy of manners set against a background of political ... more info

The Go-Between

Directed by Joseph Losey
An elderly man recalls his young life as a messenger in pre-World War I England between aristocratic Lady Trimingham (Julie Christie) and groundskeeper Ted Burgess (Alan Bates). The forbidden love story builds to a climax as tragedy befalls everyone when the couple’s relationship is discovered. “The key theme of Losey's film—how the past shapes the present and yet constantly eludes us—is reflected in the oft-quoted line which opens both novel and film, ‘the past is a foreign country: they do ... more info


Directed by Sally Potter
A gender-bending epic from indie filmmaker Sally Potter, Orlando covers four centuries of sexual politics through the eyes of its sex-switching, time-traveling title character. Tilda Swinton plays the androgynous Orlando, who begins the story as a young nobleman in Queen Elizabeth’s court. The cast also features Quentin Crisp and Billy Zane. Based on the 1928 novel by Virginia Woolf. About the house: The exterior of Orlando’s great house is represented by Hatfield House (Hertfordshire); the banquet takes place in the house’s ... more info

Barry Lyndon

Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Ryan O'Neal stars as an 18th-century Irish cad whose lack of integrity leads him down a path of self-destruction. During adolescence, he falls foolishly in love, then must abandon the area after a duel. He absentmindedly enlists in the British Army and ends up deserting from not one, but both sides. Eventually he marries a beautiful and wealthy countess (Marisa Berenson) who learns firsthand what it feels like to lose everything. Based on the William Makepeace Thackeray novel. “Stanley Kubrick’s magisterial Thackeray adaptation now ... more info

Gosford Park

Directed by Robert Altman
The inhabitants—upstairs guests as well as downstairs servants—of an English country house at a 1932 shooting party are profiled against a backdrop of secrets, rumors, and murder. Of the all-star cast including Charles Dance, Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Maggie Smith, Slate magazine asks “is there anyone but Altman who could have pulled off such an effervescent mix of satire, affection, and devastating rebuke? And attracted such an ensemble? And let everyone work at this high level? And kept ... more info

On Approval

Directed by Clive Brook
Enjoy a restored version of this perfectly British comedy that caused a sensation at the recent Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival! Two wealthy Victorian widows are courted tentatively by two impoverished British aristocrats. When one of the dowagers suggests that her beau go away with her for a month to see if they are compatible, the fireworks begin. The director plays a duke wooing an American pickle heiress, who is rejected in favor of his dog-eared companion and ends ... more info