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United Kingdom 1969
Directed by
Ken Russell
129 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Women In Love

Ken Russell's adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s 'Women in Love' has much of the director’s familiar preoccupation with sex, both heterosexual and homosexual, but here it is couched not in his trademark excessively camp style but in the relatively restrained (the notorious nude wrestling scene between Reed and Bates is very tastefully handled) format of the backward-looking period film.

Set in post-WW1 Yorkshire Women in Love tells the story of the Brangwen sisters, Ursula (Jennie Linden) and Gudrun (Glenda Jackson)), a sprightly pair of “new” independent young women emerging after the Great War and their relationship with, respectively Rupert (Alan Bates), a free-thinker of independent means, and his macho friend, Gerald (Oliver Reed), heir to a local coal-mining fortune.

Surprisingly for Russell, Women In Love works as a period film. On the one hand it variously evokes the stupendous wealth of Britain’s captains of industry of the time, the grimy lives of the poor from whose labour they made their fortune, and the simple pleasures of Nature that lay unappreciated by both. On the other, and in a way that resonated so well with the spirit of the 1960s, it explores the burgeoning bohemian morality and its search for honesty and genuine meaning in relationships.

Although uneven in places, particularly in handling the relationship between Gudrun and Gerald, Women In Love is a classic of British film of the period. Russell regular Glenda Jackson won an Oscar for her performance although the most compelling performance is in many ways that of Oliver Reed as the uptight bastion of propriety trying to defend the old order against the rising tide of libertarianism. 




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