D. H. Lawrence: Fifty Years on Film

By Louis K. Greiff | Go to book overview

5
Ken Russell's Women in Love:
Repetition as Revelation

Less than three minutes into Women in Love, one suspects that Ken Russell may have taught Christopher Miles how to open a D. H. Lawrence film. Start off with two sisters, attractive and vital women of the 1920s. Contrast their energy and color to the deadly surroundings of industrial England and to the stale, repressed lives of their parents. Have the sisters immediately discuss their prospects, romantic and otherwise: careers, the pros and cons of being “adored, ” the possibility of marriage or not. As begins The Virgin and the Gypsy in 1971, so precisely began Russell's screen adaptation of Women in Love just two years earlier. 1 Yet Miles's cinematic debt to Russell may only be external. Beneath nearly identical opening settings and situations, many differences remain to keep the two films distinct. Missing from Women in Love, for example, is Miles's celebration of the very young. In comparison to the youthful Lucille, Yvette, and their circle of friends, the principals of Women in Love seem middle-aged, especially as portrayed by Alan Bates, Glenda Jackson, and Oliver Reed. Among the film's major characters, only Jennie Linden's Ursula appears young both in spirit and in years. Also, the more youthful minor figures in Women in Love, like Gerald's younger sister, Laura, and her new bridegroom, Tibby, are not idealized as they might have been in a Miles film but instead presented as trivial and shallow, a self-absorbed and ultimately self-destructive couple.

Russell's Women in Love is similarly distinguishable from The Fox, Mark Rydell's contribution to this late 1960s trilogy of Lawrence films. Gone, along with Miles's cult of youth, is Rydell's self-conscious cataloging and celebrating of human sexuality. Women in Love is hardly a prudish film, yet its several ex

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