Ken Russell Ian Leslie Christie - Essay

Ian Leslie Christie

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Women in Love emerges] not so much as an 'adaptation' of Lawrence's monumental novel, but as a kind of critical recreation. From the opening sequence, in which Gudrun and Ursula's half-sophisticated, half-innocent discussion of marriage is deftly punctuated by a passing couple with pram, the film develops as a dialogue between Lawrence's exploration of the freedom and submission of love and Russell's own distinctive vision….

[Birkin has] been 'transposed' … but, more important, [he] has been re-created in terms of the film's own complex visual 'significance'…. Of course the novel has its unique significance and means of signification; it also exists as a cultural fact for both the film's makers and audiences. Merely to simplify and transpose it would be an impertinence. But what Russell and his scriptwriter producer Larry Kramer have made is a film about the novel, rather than of it.

Doubtless it will still offend many Lawrentians; for one strand of the film's response to the novel is to find a number of occasions for broad humour—as in a bemused miner's sudden collision with a hanging carcass in the market while Gudrun taunts him provocatively; or when Loerke, the materialistic sculptor, casually flicks ash on to Ursula's plate. But, more generally, it stands or falls as a structure of sharply individualised sequences exploiting the range of Russell's ability to convey his meaning in purely cinematic terms. (p. 50)

Ian Leslie Christie, "'Women in Love'," in Sight and Sound (copyright © 1970 by The British Film Institute), Vol. 39, No. 1, Winter, 1969–70, pp. 49-50.