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A loose-living brother and sister visit their puritanical American cousins, in Merchant Ivory's first of three adaptations of novels by Henry James.
The first of three Merchant Ivory adaptations of novels by Henry James, The Europeans takes place in mid-nineteenth-century New England, where the puritanical Wentworth family is visited by their sophisticated European cousins, the beautiful but selfish Baroness Eugenia Muenster (Lee Remick) and her fun-loving younger brother Felix (Tim Woodward). The Wentworths are both fascinated by and fearful of these exotic creatures who do not live by their strict social and moral codes, and watch in alarm as Eugenia — who is in the midst of a very public divorce from a German prince — sets her sights on catching a new husband in the wealthy but reserved bachelor Robert Acton (Robin Ellis), while Felix falls in love with the Wentworths' charming daughter Gertrude (Lisa Eichhorn). Shot against the brilliant colour palette of the New England autumn and the beautifully crafted interiors of pre-Civil War era estates, The Europeans is an incisive portrait of how the New World recreated, and even strengthened, the most rigid and reactionary tendencies of the Old, and of those nascent stirrings of independence, free-thinking and rebellion that arose to challenge its staid restrictions.