Lady Chatterley

September 27th, 2007 Film, Film Reviews, Moviehole, Xpress

Not many people know there are three versions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Rather than edit his manuscript to publish one definitive version, author D H Lawrence rewrote his iconic tale of sexual awakening across class divides from scratch three times and published all three.

You could say there’s an animal, a vegetable and a mineral version. The animal version was about how lust has no regard for the classes imposed in industrial-era England. The mineral version was about how the impending machine age would make us all sexless automatons.

Pascale Ferran’s film seems most concerned with the vegetable version, where the affair between Lady Chatterley and the groundskeeper Parkin was a parable for our disconnection from the earthy, sensual delights of nature.

Ferran is in love with the sweeping, lush French countryside, the changing seasons a parallel of Constance’s awakening to the pleasures of her and her lover’s body.

The films’ three hour running time feels interminable in a cinema, although tighter editing for a shorter film would have resulted in a less languid feel.

It’s not a movie to necessarily enjoy and it isn’t for the mainstream. In fact, although the sex scenes are in no way explicit, it’s not an ideal film for the cinema screen. Besides the numbness you’ll get from sitting there that long, it’s not really suited to the shared experience. The scene where Constance and Parkin dress each other’s naked bodies in flowers is a turning point in the story – that where they realise the pleasure of the connection to nature — but in the cinema it only elicits tittering from an embarrassed audience.

The truly bizarre thing about Lady Chatterley is that it’s in French despite being set in England in Lawrence’s actual locations.

Setting the film in France (where infidelity is part of the national character and they don’t feel nearly the guilt and shame about sensual or sexual pleasure we do in English speaking countries ) would have been even stranger, however. Lawrence had to go to Italy to get the novel printed himself because no publisher in England would touch the subject matter.

The picture is pretty but oddly flat because of the digital production, looking more like a painting with no depth or perspective at times. There’s also a little of the indulgent navel gazing and ruminative dialogue that goes with most continental European films but as a comment on equality and our relationship to the world it’s as relevant as ever.

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