Lady Chatterley, whose husband was paralyzed in a war, is faced with the prospect of living the rest of life completely unfulfilled sexually, emotionally and maternally. She then meets Mellors, the family gameskeeper, with whom she begins an affair. D.H. Lawrence's novels, from which the movie was adapted, addressed some very touchy subjects of the 1920's English culture: sexuality and the dichotomy of the social classes. The movie, filmed for TV in four segments, does an excellent job of portraying the lives of Lawrence's characters and the lifestyles and fashion of that era. While the movie seems to get somewhat slow in places, the story would somehow be less complete without them. Part of the controversy surrounding Lawrence's was the great detail with which he described the sexual encounters between Lady Chatterley and Mellors. The books, though banned for many years in England, were nevertheless quite popular and became an instrument of social change. Many movies that attempt to depict sexual intimacy somehow fail to capture the atmosphere or feeling of the moment quite as well as director Ken Russell did in this movie. The scenes were quite convincing and should be required viewing for anyone who wishes to avoid movies where the sex scenes were added solely for the sake of the box office. The actors Joely Richardson and Sean Bean did a superb job at presenting to the audience the sexual intimacy and how they were affected by the social ramifications of their relationship. Despite the rather long playing time of the movie, they manage to maintain the quality of their roles as people in a complex social predicament. While the movie contains some nudity, it is important to note that the only scene that depicts full-frontal nudity is one that is void of any sexuality; the couple, overwhelmed at having found true joy in their lives, run and frolic naked through the woods. A good lesson for future moviemakers and censors: nudity in movies need not - nor should it always be - associated with sex. The bottom line: Lady Chatterley is a good quality love story that includes all the social politics, the old-world class distictinctions, and the many other elements that make up the relationship of the couple involved. If you liked the books, you will most likely enjoy this movie as well.
Irreverent and Sensual Adaptation of an Irreverent and Sensual Classic
This BBC miniseries has a well earned reputation as being much looser and freer with its literary souce (here the source material is not just one work but several works of DH Lawrence)than most literary adaptations for English television. Also, while most BBC productions of literary masterpieces are studies in social conservatism this one obviously identifies with and invites us to identify with its most irreverent and forward-thinking characters: in this case the sultry and sophisticated, and somewhat libertine (in a 1920's kind of way), Lady Chatterly & the earthy and irreverent and smoldering (smoldering both with class resentment and with lust for a lady from the oppressive class) Oliver Mellors. Both of these factors can be attributed to director Ken Russell who has had a long and illustrious career writing and directing some of the BBC's best programs (many of them about musical composers). Russell is nothing if not unconventional and freethinking. Of course most of us in the states know Ken Russell as the director of a handful of cult classics such as TOMMY (1975), ALTERED STATES (1979),and, GOTHIC (1986); all of which feature lurid dream sequences and, some would say, gratuitously lewd situations. But Ken Russell is actually a director with many facets, and Russell's interest in DH Lawrence goes back to at least 1969 when he made what is still the best DH Lawrence adaptation on film, WOMEN IN LOVE (starring Glenda Jackson, Oliver Reed & Alan Bates). He then followed that up twenties years later with THE RAINBOW (starring Amanda Donohoe, and Sammie Davis). Both of these adaptations are known for being restrained and fairly true to their sources even though Russell did add some scenes in both which were not in the original books; his additions, however, were tasteful and even added clarity to the material.
What is interesting about this new DH Lawrence adaptation is that Ken Russell seems to have remained interested in DH Lawrence for so many years and for many of the same reasons. DH Lawrence more than any other author in the English language, or any language for that matter, stands for the power of the body and the bodies experience over the power of reason. This was the main theme of his earlier DH Lawrence adaptations and this is the main theme of his latest. But this one is by far the most sensual of the three and that is largely due to the fact that Joely Richardson seems to be the very embodiment of sensual awakening; the actress seems as willing as her character to simply follow the dictates of the body regardless of social norms. Its always a big deal when a high profile actress (especially one with the lineage of Joely Richardson) sheds her clothes on screen, but to do so on British televison for all to see takes more than a little boldness. The nudity is well done and adds to the allure of this BBC classic; no question about that. The greatest scene in the entire 4 hour miniseries is not the nudity, however, but, the vision Joely has before she ever ventures out to that hut in the woods. One night after hearing her blowhard husband, Lord Clifford (who cares more for his family estate "Wragby" and his "class" than he does about any individual), read from Socrates about the white horse of reason and the black horse of desire, she dreams she is riding through a Greek temple full of nude men who seem to be growing like vines out of the stone. This is not something that DH Lawrence ever wrote, this is pure Ken Russell and yet its the most exciting thing in the whole miniseries; plus its the best way to deliver Lady Chatterly's state of mind (or body) to us. DH Lawrence is actually very wordy for one who claims to be interested in the body more than in the mind but Ken Russell has found a visual shorthand for delivering those Lawrentian themes with nice visuals. I only wish there were more moments like this. The most sensual acting is done by Joely Richarson when in her private chambers. And Russell seems to be keenly aware that it is Lady Chatterly's imagination that fires her body. After the horse dream Connie drapes a veil over her head and walks nude through the house down to Lord Clifford's first-floor room. This scene is more imaginatively and erotically charged than any of the actual love scenes that will follow.
The actual affair between Lady Chatterly and Oliver Mellors is a little odd; in fact its very awkward. At first they just agree (sort of) to use each other for sex. But of course that never works and soon they are intimates thoroughly engaged with each other, body and mind, and running naked through the rainy glades and meadows; then sitting nake dbefore a fire and pretending to be Lady Jane and John Thomas. Their "understanding" involves a mutual appreciation of nature, and a mutual loathing of Lord Clifford and the upper-class privileges that he defends as birthrights. Russell gets a lot of mileage out of the Racine and Proust reading and piano and chess playing Lord Clifford and his antagonisms toward all those that he perceives to be lower than himself (pretty much everyone in the coal mining community that he owns; this actor really has fun with this role and Russell obviously enjoys his rants because he gives him so many). Lord Clifford is actually a pretty forward-thinking guy, in his own way, as he does give his wife permission to take a lover, but, arguably, its for selfish reasons: he merely wants an heir. We certainly pity this WWI vet who must cart himself around in various malfunctioning contraptions (metaphors for the mind and its futile tinkerings perhaps; what people are reduced to when they no longer have a functioning body) but he just won't allow anyone to actually like him except his live-in nurse who finds him curiously attractive (a plot thread that Russell leaves undeveloped). He even vents about the lower classes "knowing their place" in the "natural" scheme of things right in front of his house servants. Russell lingers on the face of one table servant as he does so (another striking Russell touch). No mistaking whose side this film maker is on. So this affair of the body between Lady Chatterly and Mellors is actually informed by a social awareness and a mutual understanding and empathy (which one could argue is as much about reason as it is about the body). In any event we eventually come to accept that these two opposties are drawn to one another for a variety of social and sexual reasons: the one perhaps fueling the other.
Lady Chatterly's own father and sister are free-living bohemians; so why exactly she was attracted to the repressed snob Lord Clifford Chatterly is a bit of a mystery. Both her father and sister encourage Connie to find lovers but her sister anyway is as much as a snob as Lord Clifford. We're not certain and we never hear what her father thinks of her affair with the gamekeeper Mellors so we never know if the affair has had social repercussions for Lady Chatterly herself.
The ending is a bit ...well I don't want to give it away. Suffice it to say that it's different than the book and it doesn't quite resolve those class issues that it raised. The answer seems to be: leave England. Perhaps the ending is based on one of Lawrence's short stories. In any event Ken Russell's creative attitude toward the "classics" is perhaps the most attractive thing about this adaptation. I hope his attitude is contagious and will inspire more loose and free treatments of the classics. This cultural freedom is refreshing and liberating (for mind and body).
I didn't expect to be so moved by this film.The well-crafted script draws upon the Lady Chatterley.I found the drama unfolding on the screen interesting to watch, especially in the capable hands of Sean Bean and Joely Richardson.The photography of the wood was perfect and echoed the out-of-this- world love story, so that the scenes in the village and forge were memorable.The sex scenes are much good and really convincing.
Well-done adaptation- a period piece such as we seldom see
Too often, the characters in period pieces seem stuffy or sexless, when we know good and well they were getting it on quite as much back in the day. After all, we're here, aren't we?
"Lady Chatterly" is quite a good yarn, with boobs-a-plenty. Also, the actress knows how to act, an unexpected bonus. Despite being about thirty or so, she has what can be objectively judged a "perfect" body. -not skeletal like today's modulls. The gameskeeper is excellent in his role as well and is a first-rate hunk, no doubt about it.
The missing fifth star is just because... well, it's a simple yarn that can be explained in about thirty seconds... stretched out over several hours. Not much food for thought. And mostly, it's just about sexual attraction. That said, it's quite enjoyable, pleasant, scenic, and a feast for the eyes on many levels.