British actress Helena Bonham Carter is widely celebrated for her incredible talent, perfectionism and versatility. Wildly successful and critically acclaimed, Bonham Carter is more popularly known to Potterheads as the psychotic and evil Bellatrix Lestrange who has an affinity for torturing Muggles while sporting a foul mouth and a blood-curdling cackle. However, Bonham Carter’s extensive filmography extends way beyond this character of hers.
She received her first TV role in 1983 before bagging her first feature debut in James Ivory’s 1985 film A Room with a View, Due to her early appearance in aristocratic dramas, clad in eclectic clothing, she earned the name of “English rose” and “corset queen”, the latter being a name she went on to despise.
After being typecast as a “prim Edwardian”, she had to struggle a lot to break free from the image. “I have to struggle to change people’s perceptions of me,” she once said. “I grew very frustrated with the perception that I’m this shy, retiring, inhibited aristocratic creature when I’m absolutely not like that at all. I think I’m much more outgoing and exuberant than my image,” she added.
Arguing that she drinks booze, smokes, gets “hooked on caffeine”, swears, belches and will “even raise [my] voice when provoked” the actor decries she is not “physically repressed”. Carter, incredibly versatile, with several accolades to her name, is known and celebrated for maintaining her dark, quirky aesthetic in her characters; from playing demure characters, she went on to star in wildly independent and often psychotic roles.
Bonham Carter’s luminous career has seen her star in a variety of brilliant films, namely A Room With A View, Harry Potter franchise, The King’s Speech, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Enola Holmes, Howard’s End etc., some of which are now streaming on Netflix.
Directed by James Ivory, the 1992 film Howard’s End is perhaps one of the best of Bonham Carter’s works. Set in the twentieth century, the film is based on E.M. Forster’s eponymous novel and sees a classic collision of the social classes among the Victorian aristocratic capitalist Wilcoxes, the intellectual bourgeois Schlegels who believe in philanthropy and humanism as well as the working-class in form of the Basts.
The Schlegel sisters want to help the Basts by violently protesting against the Wilcox sneers and prejudices yet find themselves failing to achieve what they want as women in an oppressive period where patriarchy reigns supreme.
With beautiful sets indicating the grandeur of Edwardian England, the film is a fascinating and emotional journey that sees a constant evolution of the characters till the very end, at the climax.
Starring amidst a talented cast comprising Sir Anthony Hopkins, Dame Emma Thompson and others, Helena Bonham Carter’s role as the kind yet anguished Helen Schlegel received critical acclaim. She even received an Oscar nomination for her incredible performance.