Women in Love-1969
Starring-Glenda Jackson, Oliver Reed
Scott’s Review #766
Reviewed June 2, 2018
Women in Love (1969) is a British romantic drama film that is truly one of a kind. The film is quite cerebral and requires a bit of thought which undoubtedly will lead to good conversation with film connoisseurs everywhere following a viewing. The four central characters are complex and flawed and intersect in each other’s lives in dramatic fashion making the film a “thinking mans” feast. The film is adapted from a popular D.H. Lawrence novel of the same name.
In 1920, set in the Midlands section of central England, sisters Ursula (Jennie Linden) and Gudrun (Glenda Jackson) attend the wedding of an acquaintance, Laura Crich. The Crich family are enormously rich and own a good portion of the mining town. During the ceremony, Gudrun and Ursula fantasize about Gerald Crich (Oliver Platt) and Rupert Birkin (Alan Bates), respectively. When the foursome cross paths again at Rupert’s pretentious girlfriend’s party, attractions and conflict arise.
The film being described as “character driven” does not begin to do it justice. Each of the four principle characters are richly written with intelligence and gusto. All of them are either flawed or insecure in some way, while the fact that Gerald and Rupert share sexual attraction for each other is another nuance explored throughout the film. In fact, Rupert is confident and outspoken about his bisexuality- extremely rare for a 1969 film. In this way, Women in Love is ahead of its time.
The major themes in Women in Love are commitment and love and how each character handles these emotions-sometimes either embracing them or running away from them. Clearly, Gudrun and Gerald are in love with each other, while Rupert and Ursula are too, but one couple is unsuccessful at reaching any sort of bliss. The characters possess a bevy of emotions making their happiness almost impossible and the characters feel doomed to failure from the onset. This is an example of the tremendous writing on the part of Larry Kramer and bringing the characters to the big screen in a memorable way.
Jackson’s Gudrun and Bates’s Rupert are my favorite characters because they appear to have slightly more depth to them and feel like the standouts. Gudrun appears to have love/hate feelings toward Gerald and often is downright cruel to him. As they vacation in the Swiss Alps, Gudrun purposely and inexplicably flirts with a gay artist leaving Gerald insanely jealous and resulting in tragedy. Counter-balancing Gudrun’s anger, Rupert showers in fun and zest for life, happily bi-sexual and thinking nothing of it, enjoying his sexually charged affections for both men and women.
The supporting characters, specifically of snobbish Hermione and mentally unstable Christianna Crich are examples of perfect casting. Eleanor Bron plays Hermione as garish, mocking, and teetering on unhinged. As she psychologically bullies poor Ursula when it’s clear Rupert prefers the more innocent woman, Hermione becomes frightful. Actress Catherine Willmer takes Christianna to a new level in creepy. Already appearing psychotic, when her daughter tragically drowns the woman goes over the edge, unleashing vicious dogs on any visitors to her estate. Both actresses give unforgettable performances.
Women in Love contains a scene that may very well be the most homo-erotic scene in film history. As Rupert and Gerald decide to partake in a Japanese style wrestling match one evening, they strip completely naked and grapple in front of a roaring fire. In this lengthy sequence, both front and rear nudity is provided, leaving nothing to the imagination. When Rupert suggests they swear eternal love for each other, Gerald cannot commit to the emotional union. One wonders if this outstanding scene influenced 2007’s Eastern Promises.
1969’s Women in Love is an amazing film with terrific acting all around. Taking romantic drama to an entirely different level and setting a new standard for brilliant complexities in film, the work of art from director Ken Russell is peppered with nuances making it rich with great story telling and character development. The fact that one couple ends in bliss and the other in tragedy is sheer excellence.
Oscar Nominations: Best Director-Ken Russell, Best Actress-Glenda Jackson (won), Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Best Cinematography