Ken Russell Robert F. Knoll - Essay

Robert F. Knoll

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Ken Russell's film version of D. H. Lawrence's Women in Love is a love's labor's lost: much attention is paid to the letter and spirit of the original, yet the film accentuates the novel's weaknesses and doesn't suggest many of its (admittedly linear) riches and strengths. This film is a serious attempt at "art," for no exchange of dialogue is free from the burden of love, death, sex, or interpersonal relationships….

Women in Love, as a film, achieves a gritty documentary-like authenticity when it explores the social milieu of the lower classes. The envious glances of bedraggled coalgathers at the clothing of the Brangwen sisters; the grimy-faced occupants of the street car, who form a silent defeated backdrop to the dialogue capture in sheerly plastic terms Lawrence's quality of felt life. (p. 1)

The wealth of Lawrencian natural symbols, which serves more than anything else to vivify theme in the novel, is treated ambiguously by Russell and Larry Kramer, his producer and scenarist. The sexual content of the conversations about figs and catkins are blatantly illustrated in biology textbook fashion, while the use of chalice-like cups to stress the sacramental quality of nature in Birkin's concepts is handled almost unobtrusively.

The animal imagery employed indicates better the seemingly random selection of symbols from the novel. Gerald comes thundering up to a railroad crossing on horseback and lashes his beast repeatedly as it rears up against a bypassing train. The Brangwen sisters are...

(The entire section is 644 words.)