Based on DH Lawrence’s second version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, “John
Thomas and Lady Jane”
Directed by Pascale Ferran
Winner 5 Cesar Awards for Best Film, Best Actress, Best Adaptation, Best
Cinematography and Best Costumes
Release date: September 6, 2007
Running time: 168 minutes
Screenplay PASCALE FERRAN
Dialogue PASCALE FERRAN
Original music BEATRICE THIRIET
Casting RICHARD ROUSSEAU
Director PASCALE FERRAN
Director of Photography JULIEN HIRSCH
Set designer FRANCOIS-RENAUD LABARTHE
Set photographer NATHALIE ENO
Executive producer GILLES SANDOZ
Production MAIA Films
Constance MARINA HANDS
Parkin JEAN - LOUIS COULLOC’H
Clifford HIPPOLYTE GIRARDOT
Mrs Bolton HELENE ALEXANDRIDIS
Hilda HELENE FILLIERES
Le Pere de Constance BERNARD VERLEY
Tommy Dukes SAVA LOLOV
Harry Winterslo JEAN- BAPTISTE MONTAGUT
Marshall MICHEL VINCENT
Kate CHRISTELLE HES
Field, The Chauffeur JOEL VANDAEL
The Doctor JACQUES DE BOCK
Emma Flint NINON BRETECHER
The Haberdasher ANNE BENOIT
Duncan Forbes JEAN - BAPTISTE DE LAUBIER
October 1921: Constance, Lady Chatterley, and her husband Clifford have
been living at Wragby Hall on the Chatterley estate in the heart of England’s
mining country for a year or two.
Four years earlier, and just a few months after they married, Clifford, who
was serving as a lieutenant in the British Army, returned from Flanders
permanently paralysed from the waist down.
Winter has descended on everything. Constance whiles away
monotonous days, trapped by her marriage to Clifford and her sense of duty. Sad
and indifferent to everything, she feels her vital energy gradually ebbing out of
Her sister Hilda rushes to her aid. She demands that Clifford employ a
nurse to look after him, taking the burden off Constance. Mrs Bolton moves into
Wragby Hall, and Constance’s new life begins.
Spring time soon comes around. Outside, nature awakens, accompanying
Constance on her first walks in the forest. But the forest is also the domain of
Parkin, the gamekeeper of the estate.
Parkin leads a life of self-imposed solitude in his house in the heart of the
forest. The film is the story of his relationship with Constance.
It traces the profound impact he has on Constance’s life; their first
awkward encounters and their subsequent discovery of each other; her slow
sensual awakening, and his lengthy journey back to life.
Following their initial meeting, the road towards true love and fulfilment is
a long one, during which, through their relationship, they will reinvent their entire
DH Lawrence and the three versions of Lady Chatterley's
“I always work towards the same thing: representing the sexual
relationship as authentic and precious instead of shameful. And I’ve gone the
furthest in this novel. To me, it is beautiful, tender and fragile like the naked self.”
- Letter from DH Lawrence to Nancy Pearn, 12 April 1927
“I think that art should reveal the heartbeat of the moment.” - Letter from
DH Lawrence to Aldous Huxley, 28 October 1928
DH Lawrence wrote three versions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
He considered the third and final one the definitive version, and personally
supervised the March 1928 edition which was published shortly before his death.
The fact that there are three different versions is not in itself unusual; it is the
creative process Lawrence used to produce them that is unique in the history of
After writing each manuscript, Lawrence would leave it for several months
before returning to the project. Then, instead of making changes to the existing
version, he would rewrite an entirely new one. As a result, although all three
versions share a common plot line and certain key episodes, no passage or
piece of dialogue is identical. Even the four central characters - Lady Chatterley,
her husband Clifford, the gamekeeper (whose name changes in the different
versions) and Mrs Bolton, Clifford’s nurse - alter considerably in each draft. We
thus have three completely autonomous versions of the novel, which are totally
coherent from the first to the last page.
I only discovered Lady Chatterley’s Lover relatively recently. While some
elements of the book intrigued me, I thought it was essentially unadaptable, or
else the adaptation would have to be so free that I couldn’t dare attempt it. The
third version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover is quite verbose, and on that level it feels
quite dated. It’s almost as if Lawrence, anticipating the controversy his book
would cause, had felt the need to have his characters expound the central theory
of his novel: a love which crosses social barriers.
Then I found out that there were two earlier versions of the book, and that
the second one had been published in France by Gallimard with the title Lady
Chatterley et l’homme des bois (entitled John Thomas and Lady Jane in the
English version published by Penguin).
The second version is simpler, less convoluted and more direct. The book
focuses more intently on the relationship between Constance and Parkin, the
gamekeeper, and the two characters are also quite different from those in the
other versions. For example, Parkin is a simple man who should by rights have
become a miner, but chose to be a gamekeeper for the solitary lifestyle. (In Lady
Chatterley’s Lover - the third version - the analogous character Mellors is an
ex-British Army officer who served in India before opting to live alone in the
forest. But his culture and background make his relationship with Lady Chatterley
less scandalous. Intellectually they are almost from the same world, which is why
they are both able to analyse what happens to them).
In Lady Chatterley et l’homme des bois, they do not analyse what
happens to them; they experience it.
Nature literally invades the second version even more so than the final
one. The natural world not only acts as a metaphor for the vital life force that
brings the two protagonists together, it accompanies them constantly during their
For me, this is the most beautiful aspect of Lady Chatterley et l’homme
des bois: it is the story of a love which binds two people as they transform
Director Pascale Ferran
What made you decide to adapt Lady Chatterley for the screen? Can
you describe how you tackled what might at first appear to be a “difficult”
Paradoxically, the project didn’t seem difficult to me at the outset. It came
as a direct contrast to another project I had been involved with, which I had found
very challenging: a film called Paratonnerre, a wonderful love story which
required a lot of different set designs and special effects. That was tough, too
tough in the end - well, certainly too expensive - and after several months of
pre-production we had to stop everything, which is always really hard to do.
I had read Lady Chatterley’s Lover about six months or so earlier, and in
the period following the end of Paratonnerre I discovered the second version of
the book, Lady Chatterley et l’homme des bois (entitled John Thomas and Lady
Jane in the English version). I immediately became obsessed with it. I should
mention that between making L’âge des possibles (1996) and Paratonnerre, I
had worked for a few months with Pierre Trividic on a screenplay which touched
on a number of similar issues to those found in Lady Chatterley. It was about a
relationship between a man and a woman, a love affair which transformed both
The entire action of the film was to take place indoors: the outside world
only existed in the sense that the couple brought their moods and experiences in
from there, but you never actually saw it; one of the key themes of the film was
sexual intimacy. We never wrote it and the project was abandoned, but when I
stumbled on Lady Chatterley et l’homme des bois it felt almost as if I had
rediscovered this old project. It was a lucky find, as Lawrence succeeds brilliantly
where we had failed - particularly in the scenes of sexual intimacy which he
manages to depict with an astonishing realism. In the end, there was enough
distance between Lawrence’s book and my old screenplay project (and also my
own life experience) for me to have a clear, objective insight into what was going
on between the two characters.
Did you always intend to make two versions of the film, one for
television and the other for the big screen?
Yes - in fact the first thing I did was to go to Pierre Chevalier [head of the
small French television channel ARTE’s fiction unit]. I needed to find someone
who understood completely why I wanted to adapt this book. After all, it’s a
masterpiece and also a work of erotic literature, which makes it very daunting,
and you have to ask yourself whether you’re going to be up to it. So I went to see
Pierre Chevalier and told him about the project, and he welcomed it with open
arms. That was the decisive point from which everything else followed. His
support was like an instant confirmation to me that I was doing the right thing,
and he also allowed me the creative freedom necessary to make the film without
any intervention, even in the casting process. ARTE became the project’s first
After that, Gilles Sandoz (the executive producer) and I quickly decided
that we wanted to make two separate versions, a long one - in two parts - for
television and a shorter feature-length film for the cinema. It was impossible to
finance the whole project with one sole backer (ARTE), both in terms of the
actual production costs and for creative reasons relating to the cinematic
medium. The film is about a transformation: it’s a story told in intimate detail of
the experiences and emotional states of mind Constance goes through, which
lead to this transformation. The feature-length film format offered me the
opportunity of tracking this transformation in real time - pure magic.
How did you cast the actors who play the two lovers?
I had to work within certain boundaries, that is, the characters’ physical
appearances. For me, it was essential that the bodies of the actors reflected their
characters’ different social class.
I’d been aware of Marina Hands for quite some time, and knew she was
an exceptional young talent, one of a handful of actresses who came to mind
every now and then during the writing process. When I finally met her, something
very rare happened, kind of like a thunder bolt. She immediately clicked with me
and with the project. It was absolutely imperative that the actress whom I chose
to play Constance was able to connect on a deep level with the idea of the film
we were about to make. It is an exhausting role which demands total immersion
for months on end, and this is impossible unless the actress shares the same
desire to tell the story as the director, and unless the two have complete mutual
trust in one another.
We did a few screen tests and I soon realised that it could only be Marina.
She has an incredible romantic quality about her, and at the same time, a
boldness, a bravura, and an amazing appetite for hard work.
For Parkin I was looking for an unknown actor, because I wanted him to
make the same dramatic impact on screen as he made on Constance’s life. He
needed to have an old-fashioned, down-to-earth physique, a body which
demonstrated the character’s primal relationship with nature. It was Sarah Teper
(one of the two casting directors) who first told me about Jean-Louis Coulloc’h,
whom she’d seen in various theatrical productions. With him, things took a bit
longer. He had come to acting relatively late and had very little experience of
filming, and this is an extremely difficult role if you’re inexperienced. But we
worked intensively together to prepare the part, and as we were shooting the film
within a real time frame, he opened up more and more during the course of
filming, just like Parkin himself in fact, which was fantastic to see.
Your adaptation seems quite different from the scandalous,
controversial image the novel conjures up for those who haven’t read it.
Yes, but I should point out straight away that the novel’s colourful
reputation belies its content.
When Lawrence wrote it eighty years ago, he was going against his time:
this was England in the 1920s, and in opposition to the prudish mores of society,
he wanted to put sexuality back where he believed it belonged, that is as an
integral part of a loving relationship and not something to be ashamed of,
something which couldn’t be discussed and had to remain hidden. But his
intimate love scenes were accused of obscenity. Nowadays, this is the still the
first thing that comes to mind when we think of Lady Chatterley - the controversy
which surrounded it.
This is the 21st century though. Sexuality is well and truly out in the open,
in fact it’s a commodity which is on sale pretty much everywhere. Ironically,
probably one of the least controversial things you could do with this novel today
is make a porn movie about an aristocrat and her gamekeeper.
What’s interesting is that when I first decided to adapt the novel, I also got
the feeling that I was going against my time, producing something in direct
opposition to the two “accepted” ways of representing sex in the movies: in the
first (which now seems old-fashioned, almost obsolete), as soon as the two
lovers jump into bed, the film changes tack abruptly, you get music, soft focus
and it suddenly cuts to the next scene; while in the second, more “modern”
approach, everything happens with cold detachment, there is no insight into the
characters’ thoughts or emotions, and sex is portrayed as a base animalistic
instinct, where only the bodies “speak” and human desire becomes a form of
expression cut off from everything else.
But lust does play a big part at the start of the affair between Constance
and Parkin. When she first sets eyes on him, it’s his body she notices. There’s an
incredibly strong sexual chemistry between them.
Of course, but let’s be clear about this, I’ve got nothing against lust, in fact
I think lust makes the world go round. However, I’m not interested in showing
pure sexual desire devoid of any emotion, because for me, it’s a fallacy.
In Lawrence’s work, even when sexual desire (apparently) finds its
simplest form of expression, there is always something else going on underneath
it all, something more complex. In this first scene, where Constance sees Parkin
washing himself half-naked, it’s not just about lust or even aesthetics for
Constance. It’s also about the shock of discovering that there is still a place for
sensuality in a world - her world - which has been all but stripped of it, and the
urge for her body to be like Parkin’s, revelling in his solitude at the heart of the
forest. Desire can thus never be reduced to a pure sexual impulse.
The beauty of Lawrence’s book, and its profound modernity, lies in the
way it considers the body above all else; the body is set in contrast to the social
codes and identity which constrain it. But he doesn’t represent the body in
isolation from the characters and their emotions. When, later on, Parkin watches
Constance as she sleeps on the cabin floor, he doesn’t merely see his mistress
and employer, nor an object of desire, but a young women who is alone, like him.
Lady Chatterley is also the simple tale of two lonely people who come together,
two people trapped in the identities which have been imposed on them and which
weigh heavily on both of them: she is the wife of an aristocrat, he is a man of his
time, a servant. Their love affair liberates them from these identities and they find
common ground in which to reinvent themselves; they thus regain their freedom,
their ability to act independently and their happiness: three elements which,
according to Spinoza, combine as one.
The concept of discovering and “mastering” each other, learning
about each other, even teaching each other, is key in the film. Watching
Constance and Parkin, you always get the sense that you are witnessing
them in the here and now.
Yes, it’s disconcerting. You never know what’s going to happen between
them because they don’t even know themselves. It’s tied to the reality of their
situation: the difference in their social class makes it impossible for them to see
what’s coming next, because their relationship is already unthinkable. So the only
place the relationship can exist in is the present. At the same time, each new
encounter changes their horizons: both when they are together, and subject to
powerful emotional experiences which instantly transform them, and afterwards,
since even when they are apart the memory of their last time together continues
to exert an effect on them.
One of the results of this is that for a while in the film, you can get the
impression that their relationship consists of nothing but a string of moments
lived in the present tense. The affair is truly balanced on a knife edge: each time
they meet, they have to get to know each other again, to convince themselves
once more that there is a good reason for being together. And a single sentence,
gesture or mood could bring everything crashing down. This is what produces the
effect of their “present tense” existence.
On a class level, she is superior to him, yet sexually, he is the
There is clearly a crossover here: both characters dominate in one area
and are dominated in another. In the book, this aspect comes across very purely,
since their relationship is almost like a laboratory experiment. Then again, this
only touches on one of the story’s two main themes: that of the social divide
between them, which scandalised Lawrence’s contemporaries. Nowadays, the
element of controversy has largely disappeared, and in a certain sense,
Lawrence has been vindicated.
In terms of producing a screen adaptation, the book instantly opens up
two very distinct axes. The first method of approach would be to take the theme
of love across the social divide as the sole focal point. In this case, however, you
would need to transpose the entire story for it to pack the same punch as it did
back in the day - for example, by giving it a similar treatment to Todd Haynes’ Far
The other approach, and my own point of departure, is to consider the
birth of the characters’ relationship as the focal point, and to explore how the love
affair develops: it is a learning curve, a meeting of different minds and viewpoints
leading to the formulation of a common language of trust, acceptance, and total
abandonment to each other.
That is not to say that the issue of social class is eliminated, but it is
If you look at the book from this angle, something very surprising happens:
you start to see the whole class issue as an apt metaphor for modern-day
male/female relationships. Our own age is characterised by the growing sense of
impotence men have in relation to women; they feel weaker, or else that they
don’t quite measure up to our expectations.
There are six sex scenes in the film. Were you ever afraid of
No, although I was scared of failing, of course. But if you set out with the
belief that each one of those scenes is integral to the narrative and helps
construct the story - since each new sexual encounter is a new experience for
Constance - there is no reason to feel that you are repeating yourself. Each
episode is very different, and therefore so is their dramatic treatment. The first
and third sex scenes take place in real time, exactly like the characters’ other
scenes together, so as to make them more visceral and immediate. I wanted to
give the impression that the scene was happening right now, in the moment,
before our very eyes, to best show how the sexual encounters transform them,
For the last three sex scenes, I moved away from an integral real-time
approach and focused on a single facet of the experience. In each case, it’s an
aspect which is particularly pertinent to that encounter, and in each case, it’s very
The sex scenes punctuate the film, and slowly but surely lead the two
characters towards freedom, both in a general sense and also in particular from
the alienation they are suffering from at the start of the film.
What was your directorial approach to shooting these scenes?
I think I turned the question around in my head: my aim was to ensure that
the actors were absolutely ready to play the scenes when the camera started
turning, and for my part, that I was absolutely ready to film them. Jean-Louis and
I worked very hard with Marina for months before filming to deconstruct the
scenes. It was extremely important for both actors to gain a perfect
understanding of their characters’ journey, so that once on set, they only had to
think about being in the moment, living and acting the scene out in the present
tense without stopping for even a split second to analyse it.
We devised a working method which allowed them to discover each
other’s body, to find a common language which they could express physically.
Sex scenes are always intimidating when you come to shoot them, so it was
important for all three of us to “demythologise” them beforehand: you need to be
able to leave your inhibitions behind and give yourself over to the heat of the
moment and the physicality of the scene.
As regards my actual directorial style, I decided to adopt a
quasi-documentary technique. I filmed each scene from a precise angle, but as
far as the placing of the camera goes, that was only determined at the very last
minute by Julien Hirsch (the Director of Photography) and me. We just looked for
the place which seemed to best capture what we were trying to show.
In the wrong hands, the charming scene in which the two lovers decorate
their naked bodies with flowers could have verged on the ridiculous. How did you
manage to avoid this?
Let me say first of all that I think charm is never too far away from ridicule.
I am absolutely convinced that this scene represented a decisive moment
for Lawrence. Personally, every time I read it I think it’s sublime. But I almost
drove myself mad trying to film it - bodies and flowers... In a sense, the whole
challenge I set myself when I decided to adapt the book is distilled in that scene.
At first sight, it looks very simple, yet if you study it long enough it becomes
obvious that it is loaded with different meanings, one more fascinating than the
next. To begin with, there’s the situation itself: at a certain point, forming a
relationship means trusting someone enough to mess around with them at the
risk of looking stupid. Then there’s the question of the inversion between the
background setting and the characters, the way their bodies are absorbed into
the landscape and conversely, the way the flowers take over their bodies. It also
marks the moment when Constance, having previously abandoned her sexually
passive role, willingly takes it up again, but this time (paradoxically) in an active
way, in the sense that it is her choice. Up until this point, you sometimes get the
impression that she is reinventing Parkin as the man of her dreams, while here,
at this exact moment, it is Parkin who is reinventing her, shaping her body with
the flowers like a sculpture or painting. There you have it: two bodies, a camera,
a few flowers, and the essence of the whole film.
Nature and the seasons mirror Constance’s sensual awakening.
Does the natural environment affect Constance’s emotional landscape or
the other way around?
I love the way that the narrative and the seasons relate to each other in
the book. It’s a simple, direct relationship: autumn represents sadness, winter
represents depression, spring represents the awakening of the senses and
summer, their complete sexual fulfilment. So the first thing you could say about
the role of nature in the film is that it transforms itself as Constance does. The
seasons come and go, changing the appearance of the landscape, and nature’s
life cycle blossoms before our eyes, in almost perfect symbiosis with Constance’s
own interior landscape.
At the outset, nature appears to lead the way, quite obviously impacting
on Constance’s mood. But little by little, as she gradually appropriates the forest
for herself, the relationship becomes less obvious. Perhaps the natural world is
only the reflection of Constance’s internal emotional state? Soon it becomes
impossible to tell, and this indeterminacy is thrilling - exactly as in a loving
relationship, when two people become so wrapped up in each other that it is
impossible to unravel them.
Your last film was called “L’âge des possibles” (“The age of
possibilities”). In this film, the possibilities also seem endless...
In Lady Chatterley, the question of what is possible and the idea of
reinventing your life amount to one and the same thing. Nowadays, everyone
feels that they are powerless in the face of ever-advancing technology. But this is
only partly true. I think that it’s well worth reminding ourselves that we can still
reinvent, intervene, and change things, starting on a personal level. Because
when we change, the world changes with us - we can single-handedly reinvent
ourselves and, in a certain sense, a new world.
I am still very struck by a quote from Deleuze which goes “The system
wants us to be unhappy and we must therefore try to be happy if we are to stand
up to it.” Nowadays, the political system wants us to be unhappy and afraid, so
that our capacity for resistance is worn down. Sadness and resignation destroy
us, inhibit us and rob us of our ability to act.
The film is also a response to this, albeit a modest one. You can create a
new life for yourself by entering into a relationship with another person - and it’s
worth the effort, not just because you really can change the world, but simply
because it will make you happier, and give you more strength to stand up to the
2006 LADY CHATTERLEY (Feature film)
LADY CHATTERLEY ET L’HOMME DES BOIS (Two-part mini series for ARTE)
2000 SAM RIVERS/TONY HYMAS - QUATRE JOURS A OCOEE (Documentary)
1999 Edited the French version of EYES WIDE SHUT by Stanley Kubrick
1996 L'AGE DES POSSIBLES - Grand Prix - Belfort Film Festival 1995; 7 d'Or Best TV Film
and Best Director 1997
1994 PETITS ARRAN EMENTS A EC LES MORTS - Cam ra d'Or - Cannes Film Festival
1994; Grand Prix - Namur Film Festival 1994
2005 NE LE DIS A PERSONNE (Guillaume Canet)
LADY CHATTERLEY (Pascale Ferran)
2004 LE TEMPS D’UN RE ARD (Ilan Flammer)
LES AMES GRISES (Yves Angelo)
2002 THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS (Denys Arcand)
2001 SUR LE BOUT DES DOIGTS (Yves Angelo)
1999 LA FIDELITE (Andrzej Zulawski)
Member of the COMÉDIE FRANÇAISE acting company since January 2006
2006 TETE D’OR by P Claudel, directed by Anne Delb e
2004 RICHARD II by William Shakespeare, directed by Thierry de Peretti
2003 PHEDRE by J Racine, directed by Patrice Ch reau - Nominated for Most Promising
Newcomer and Best Supporting Role - Molière Awards 2003
2001 CYRANO DE BERGERAC by E Rostand, directed by Jacques Weber
1999 LE BEL AIR DE LONDRES by D Boucicaut, directed by Adrian Brine
MADEMOISELLE ELSE by A Schnitzler, directed by Didier Long
1998 LES LEGENDES DE LA FORET VIENNOISE by O Von Horväth, directed by John
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE by William Shakespeare, directed by Penny Cherns
LES GEANTS DE LA MONTAGNE by Luigi Pirandello, directed by Klaus Michaël
1996 ERTRUD by H S derberg, directed by rard Desarthe and François Marthouret
2000 UN PIQUE-NIQUE CHEZ OSIRIS by Nina Companeez - Best Actress - Luchon
Festival and Monte Carlo Festival
Coulloc’h trained as a chef from the age of fifteen, and after several years
in the restaurant business he moved on to a range of different jobs (including
stretcher-bearer, dispatch rider, paper cutter, salesman and theatre technician)
before becoming an actor.
2006 LE TAS (Pierre Meunier) Featurette
2005 LADY CHATTERLEY (Pascale Ferran)
2003 FORET NOIR (Jos phine Flasseur) Featurette
1999 SOIN ET BEAUTE (Alexandra Rojo) Featurette
LE TAS by P Meunier, directed by Pierre Meunier
1999 MELANCOLIA by J Fosse, directed by Claude R gy
1995 LA BATAILLE DU TALIAGMENT by François Tanguy, directed by François Tanguy
1988 PLATANOV by Anton Chekhov, directed by Jean-Claude Fall
2006 OU AVAIS-JE LA TETE? (Nathalie Donnini)
JE PENSE A VOUS (Pascal Bonitzer)
L'INVITE (Laurent Bouhnik)
2005 LADY CHATTERLEY (Pascale Ferran)
INCONTROLABLE (Raffy Shart)
LE PRESSENTIMENT (Jean-Pierre Darroussin)
2003 TROIS COUPLES EN QUETE D'ORAGES (Jacques Otmezguine)
MODIGLIANI (Mick Davis)
ROIS ET REINE (Arnaud Desplechin) - Prix Louis Delluc
2002 LE TANGO RASHEVSKI (Samuel Garbarski)
LEO EN JOUANT “DANS LA COMPA NIE DES HOMMES”
1997 JUMP TOMORROW (Joël Hopkins)
VIVE LA REPUBLIQUE (Eric Rochant)
1993 LES PATRIOTES (Eric Rochant)
QUAND J'AVAIS CINQ ANS JE M'AI TUE (Jean-Claude Sussfeld)
LE PARFUM D'YVONNE (Patrice Leconte)
1992 LA FILLE DE L'AIR (Maroun Bagdadi)
1991 CONFESSIONS D'UN BARJOT (Jerôme Boivin)
APRES L'AMOUR (Diane Kurys)
1990 HORS LA VIE (Maroun Bagdadi) - Jury Prize - Cannes Film Festival/Special Jury
Prize - Latin American Film Festival, Lima
1988 UN MONDE SANS PITIE (Eric Rochant) - Prix Louis Delluc
1986 MANON DES SOURCES (Claude Berri)
L'AMANT MAGNIFIQUE (Aline Isserman)
1984 FORT SAGANNE (Alain Corneau)
1983 PRENOM CARMEN (Jean-Luc Godard)
LE BON PLAISIR (Francis Girod)
1982 LE DESTIN DE JULIETTE (Aline Isserman) - Prix Georges Sadoul
“Life is so sweet and calm, and yet she is out of our grasp. She will never
allow herself to be captured. Try and possess her and she will disappear; try and
grab her, and she will turn to dust; try and master her and you will see your own
reflection laugh at you like an idiot.
If you wish to seize life you must approach her softly; just as you would a
deer or a fawn nestling at the foot of a tree. Make a gesture that’s too sudden,
assert yourself too wilfully and brusquely, and life will escape before your eyes:
you must set off to find her once more. And you should approach her sweetly and
lightly, with an overflowing heart that is rid of all egotism, then you can finally
make contact with her. When life is a flower, everything you crush violently will
vanish forever from your life. Approach a man with greed and egotism and you
will only seize a demon covered in poisonous thorns which will wound you.
But by being gentle and renouncing our sense of self, we can come closer
to another human being and thus experience the best and most delicate thing life
can offer: contact. The contact of our feet with the ground, our fingers with a tree,
with a living being. The contact of hands with breasts. The contact of one whole
body with another body; the mutual penetration of passionate love. That is life.
And it is through contact that we all live, as long as we exist.”
DH Lawrence, “John Thomas and Lady Jane”
"Lady Chatterley" Director Pascale Ferran by Erica Abeel
(20 June 2007)
It used to be a rite of passage for American tourists to smuggle "Lady
Chatterley's Lover" past Customs, feeling terribly hip. Then Roth vs United States
pried DH. Lawrence loose from the heavy-breathing censors, and through the
60s and 70s, he rose high in the college canon. Today, after a pounding by
feminist critics, the apostle of sensual joy has somewhat fallen off the radar.
Enter Pascale Ferran, a brilliant French filmmaker, to shake the dust off
Lawrence's most notorious novel. "Lady Chatterley," as Ferran titles her
rapturous film, is the story, famously, of noblewoman Constance Chatterley's
passion for the gamekeeper of her disabled husband. Adapted from "John
Thomas and Lady Jane," Lawrence's second version of the novel (Stateside we
read the wordier third), "Lady Chatterley" has become something of a cinematic
event. It marks the return not only of Constance and the gamekeeper cavorting
naked in the rain, but also of Pascale Ferran, a filmmaker admired in France, but
little known here.
After an eleven year hiatus, following "Coming to Terms with the Dead"
(awarded the Cannes Camera d'Or in 1994), and "The Age of Possibility" in
1995, Ferran has made good on the abundant promise of her earlier work.
"Chatterley" has collected no fewer than five Cesar awards (French Oscar
Ferran has pulled off the daunting task of adapting a tale about sexual
fulfilment with minimal plot, built around love-making scenes, which in
themselves mark plot points. Since the chasm of class fails to scandalize today
as it did when the book was published in 1928, Ferran chose to foreground the
theme of "love as an opportunity to access intimate truths."
The Franco-German arts channel ARTE, which embraced her project from
the start, gave Ferran the freedom to cast an ensemble of actors who bring to the
story an immediacy and truthful ring that never falter. Marina Hands' Constance,
her life ebbing away at Clifford Chatterley's side in his stately manor, conveys,
after her encounters with Parkin, a woman reborn. Hands is in practically every
frame, and we discover this luminous actress as Connie discovers herself.
As the taciturn Parkin, Jean-Louis Coulloc'h, with his earth-hugging build,
conveys an aura of "deep France," a dignity not yoked to money or status, and -
Ferran's words - "incredible virility." As Clifford, paralysed south of the waist by
war wounds, Hippolyte Girardot is watchful and coiled with rage at life's low
blows, a man who owns everything, but controls little.
But why is Parkin pronounced "Park-keen," and all these people speaking
French in an English coal-mining community? Thanks to Ferran's artistry we give
this discordance a pass. Her genre-crossing "Chatterley" plays like a piece of
music, with sets of motifs repeating and adding meaning with each repetition.
Early on, for example, Clifford and his Cambridge-educated cronies discuss
battle casualties, observing that "the body works in mysterious ways." The line is
expanded in quite another direction each time Connie and Parkin meet in the
cabin to explore the body's mysterious ways. And in this richly suggestive script,
Connie's trips through the forest from manor to cabin act as a refrain, each time
upping the ante and building in intensity.
That Connie's transformation converges with the spring awakening, in
lyrical images alive with the forest's sounds, might border on cheesy. While the
scene of the lovers sticking posies in each other's pubic hair might border on the
ridiculous. But this stuff is pure Lawrence, an author who found God in the "life
force" as incarnated by nature; who on an ordinary day might write: "the
magnificent here and now of life in the flesh is ours, and ours alone, and ours
only for a time. We ought to dance with rapture... " Ferran's adaptation is also
unexpectedly poignant. I defy anyone to watch the closing scene, when
Constance and Parkin speak their hearts, without misting up.
For all its glories, though, the aspect of "Chatterley" that's bound to grab
notice is the innovative way Ferran has filmed love-making. The candour of the
six sex scenes ("How curious, it's tiny now, like a little bud!") go against what
Ferran terms the "currently 'authorized' representations of desire in cinema." iW
and Ferran discussed this topic and more when the filmmaker, a small woman
with a great laugh and the look of a philosophy student, was in New York for the
screening of "Lady Chatterley" at the Tribeca Film Festival.
indieWIRE: What prompted you to adapt this novel for film?
Ferran: I'm the opposite of you, I didn't know DH. Lawrence at all. I
discovered him very recently in a book, "On the Superiority of Anglo Saxon
Literature." Lawrence is underrated in France. We have a cliché image of "Lady
Chatterley's Lover" as a rather musty erotic novel from the past. No one had told
me it's simply the most beautiful love story in the world [laughs].
But I greatly prefer the 2nd version [Lawrence wrote three markedly
different versions]. The third was too hard to adapt: the industrial revolution
figures heavily, it would require a large cast.
When I read the second version, I had the feeling that everything that I
would have to take out of the third, if I adapted it, Lawrence had already done in
the second. It was as if he authorized me, actually said to me, 'Take the second
version and feel free to do what you want.' It was very strange. The book speaks
to me intimately about my life, and I have the impression that it does the same to
millions of people."
If they're lucky.
Right, if they're lucky [laughter].
A question about form. Why all those short takes in the early part of
the film. There's one of Connie, for instance, just dozing off in a chair in
front of the cabin [before connecting with Parkin].
It's the way the film manages the issue of time. Through those pointilistic
scenes I was trying to convey that in the beginning, everything sort of merges
together for Connie. But after the love scene with Parkin, she exists again in the
intensity of the present moment.
What made you decide to use such devices as voiceovers and
intertitles. A paradox for me is that the film is both literary and very
The intertitles gave me more freedom. I didn't have much time to write the
script. And above all, I wanted to avoid musty classicism and that academic style.
Like Masterpiece Theatre.
Exactly. I like the great stylistic liberty in Lawrence, his spontaneity... the
passages in stream of consciousness. He's the anti-Flaubert, who was a
perfectionist working over each sentence hundreds of times. I mean, Lawrence
wrote his novel three separate times, and each time he wrote it in three months.
And I thought, I have six months to adapt it, no big deal, I'm going to do it
quickly. Giving priority to places I need to get to in the story. And if I'm not sure
how to create a scene, I'll just use intertitles. That allowed me to accelerate or
slow down when I needed to.
For example, an intertitle reads, "For two days Constance didn't go to the
cabin because Clifford's aunt had arrived" - and then the aunt leaves and you
see Connie dashing through the woods like a lunatic. In that way you're more in
her head, her energy. I find it a freer and more modern way of telling a story.
How did you prepare the actors for the love scenes? Two of them are
in real time...
We worked [laughs].
Could you give an example?
We rehearsed those scenes. They're very important and also very scary.
Because filming such intimacy exposes both actors and director. And you fear
not being up to the artistic challenge it presents.
I kept saying to the actors, and I think they agreed: 'There are not many
films that do those scenes convincingly. And: we're going to adapt this great
book, and we're going to film it convincingly, in a way no one has done before.'
And I thought, isn't this presumptuous? Who the hell do we think we are?
So I thought we must absolutely rehearse those [love-making] scenes
exactly the way we'd rehearse scenes of dialogue. But in this case, there aren't
words. So two or three months before the shoot, we spent a week, just the three
of us, in a little dance rehearsal studio. Just doing work exercises. In the morning
a dancer came in to do warm-up exercises with the actors that involved physical
contact. [And if "La Dolce Musto" is to be believed, they also looked at the
undergarments - garter belts and panties - and tried to get used to them.]
I absolutely wanted, by the end of the week, a complicity between us. A
lack of modesty. It was also important to be able to pronounce words without
embarrassment - and bearing in mind that later on there would be a crew. To be
able to say, 'At that moment there's penetration... ' And after a certain moment
you ejaculate. These are hard words to say - it's even hard now" [laughs, along
with a translator sitting in]. If between the three of us we couldn't say these
words, we'd have... zip.
We had to get to the point where the actors touch each other as part of the
work, and not connected to any desire between them as real people. Like
You mean the actors weren't actually aroused?
Of course not [laughs].
It sure looked like it.
Well, yeah. The characters desired each other, but the actors themselves,
But he had a hard-on - you know, in that scene.
Well, that's work, too [laughs]... He had a hard-on because the character
was supposed to at that moment. It's artifice in the same way people kill each
other on screen.
I don't mean to say that it's not possible at certain times to mix it all
together. But hey, if actors had to be madly in love with each other, the film would
get too complicated. These actors felt enormous respect and empathy. But our
starting principle was that there would be no desire between them. Though we
needed to portray it.
The fact that the actors could hide behind their characters made it [more]
rea; and gave them the courage to unveil themselves. The closer we got to the
spirit of the character - and the farther from the actors themselves - the easier it
became for them to express very intimate things.
In the same way, because I could hide behind a story that takes place in
England in 1920, and doesn't directly tell my life story, I was able to expose
myself so much. Otherwise, you know, it would be obscene, impossible...
How is your way of filming love-making different from the more usual
In the two authorized representations of desire and sex, there's first the
almost obsolete way, where as soon as the lovers are in bed, the film brutally
changes in nature: music, dissolves, ellipsis. While in the "modern" style, sex is
detached from all affect, basically the high-life of animal drive. Only the body
I've shown the whole megillah - how you're the same person before,
during and after love. All your human possibilities function in the love scenes.
They're saturated with emotion. At least I modestly tried for that. What's so
deeply modern about Lawrence's book is that it puts the body first, but doesn't pit
the body against the characters' thoughts or feelings.
I wondered why in Connie's passage from repressed wife to
passionate lover she never felt any guilt.
So did I But I love that, it's true to the book: there's never a sense of sin or
transgression. That's what scandalized in England when it was published. I find
that aspect magnificent and liberating. Even Marina [Hands] said, No, no, there's
never a shred of guilt [laughs].
You made Clifford oddly sympathetic, despite his defence of class
Yeah, I had to show why Connie had been in love with this man at one
time. It wasn't an arranged marriage. And he was a product of his period and
class. When he could walk he would have been quite seductive
Parkin and Connie's final speeches really blew me away.
I'm delighted you like that scene, it's the most controversial in the film.
Some people loved it, others who liked it less think the film could almost have
ended before that.
For me that would be completely impossible. What's great about Parkin's
journey is that he finds language. He dares to express emotion. Everyone
struggles with that, men more than women, perhaps. And the fact that this
character - who throughout the film has so much trouble speaking - would dare to
acknowledge how Connie has changed his life... For me that's really powerful.
In that final speech, where Parkin speaks of his feminine side, I heard
Lawrence speaking of himself.
Yes, and throughout the film the poles reverse. The lovers take turns
being passive and active - or actively passive - they switch around. And Parkin is
unbelievably virile, but sometimes shows a feminine delicacy and childishness.
Do you consider the ending optimistic?
Oh, for me it is. I can't imagine a more optimistic ending. The future is
open. And the future will be what Constance and Parkin choose to make of it, or
don't. But for two and a half hours you've watched them put something together.
Surely they'll again manage to reinvent their lives. Even if they fail, these people
are so much better than in the beginning, more beautiful, more evolved, more
venturesome... With their bare hands they've invented a new world.
One last question. Lawrence was obsessed with relinquishing ego
and wilfulness. The kind that's expressed in that scene when Clifford's
motorized wheelchair conks out, but he insists on driving it up the hill...
Yes, that scene and the futile expression of will is very faithful to the book.
I want, I want, therefore I'll conquer.
Since Lawrence promoted a freer, more open way of dealing with life,
I was wondering: in making this film did you tap into that?
I'm so glad you asked that, you're the only journalist who has. It was
precisely my working method for the film: that it would not be based on my will
alone, but on a communal effort. Even the technicians' input was important. My
working method was "c'est par la douceur on attrape les choses" [it's by
gentleness that one accomplishes things], not by enforcing will. Of course the
standard image of a director is pure will. I tried not to be in that position. I wanted
a living process
The New York Times
By Dennis Lim
17 June 2007
THE years have not been kind to Lady Chatterley. Nor for that matter have
the movies. Scandalous in her day, the sexual adventuress of DH Lawrence’s
best-known novel has matured into something of a pop-culture joke, remembered
less as a symbol of erotic liberation than a soft-core staple of late-night cable.
Notwithstanding an early, relatively staid 1955 French adaptation, starring
Danielle Darrieux and made while the book was still contraband in the United
States and Britain, film versions of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” have favoured the
heavy-breathing, bodice-busting approach to period romance.
The British provocateur Ken Russell, who had successfully tackled
Lawrence with his film “Women in Love” in 1969, directed a sudsy “Chatterley”
mini-series for the BBC in 1993. Trashier still was a 1981 version that featured
Sylvia Kristel, the leggy star of the popular “Emmanuelle” films. There have been
Japanese and Italian renditions; the 70s soft-core craze even produced a
contemporary spin-off, “Young Lady Chatterley.”
The newest “Chatterley” - a nearly three-hour French-language
adaptation, directed by Pascale Ferran - effectively wipes the slate clean. “Lady
Chatterley,” which opens Friday, is both sober and sensual, not just a world away
from the high-toned smut of its predecessors but also, in its directness and
simplicity, an anomaly in the elaborately ornamented genre of the costume
drama. In France it has won widespread critical acclaim and five César Awards.
Ms Ferran’s film is based not on the definitive “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,”
which Lawrence published himself in Italy in 1928, but on an earlier version of the
novel. He wrote it three times in two years, while suffering from the tuberculosis
that killed him in 1930. All three versions concern the intense affair between a
frustrated young aristocrat and her virile gamekeeper, but the second
“Chatterley,” the one Ms Ferran has adapted, is not as polemical as the third.
The class differences between the lovers are more pronounced, but the lovers
themselves are less inclined to subject their relationship to anguished analysis.
The signal quality of Ms Ferran’s “Lady Chatterley,” as implied by its
abbreviated title, is the sharpened focus on the heroine, Constance (played by
Marina Hands). The first “Chatterley” film directed by a woman, it is also the only
one that, in its contemplative way, honours Lawrence’s radical ambitions. His
biographer John Worthen notes that Lawrence considered “Lady Chatterley’s
Lover” “a bit of a bomb” and described it in positively anarchic terms: “Let’s hope
it’ll explode and let in some air.”
Ms Ferran argues for the continued relevance of Lawrence’s stance. “The
book is no longer scandalous today,” she said in an interview in April, while in
New York for the Tribeca Film Festival. “But its view of sexuality is still in the
extreme minority. It’s on the side of joy and the flourishing of the body. It
considers sexuality without guilt, which is completely opposite to the Puritanism
of Lawrence’s time and also to the neo-Puritanism, so to speak, of our time.”
“Lady Chatterley’s Lover” occupies an awkward place in the history of
modern sexual consciousness. The first legal publication of an unexpurgated
edition in the United States in 1959, and in Britain the following year after a
landmark obscenity trial, coincided with the dawn of the sexual revolution. Philip
Larkin’s famous verse about sex beginning in 1963 - “Between the end of the
Chatterley ban/And the Beatles’ first LP” - reinforces the connection. But
changing attitudes led to the declining reputation of the book and its author.
“In the 60s Lawrence was all the rage,” said Sarah Cole, who teaches
English at Columbia University and specializes in 20th-century British literature.
“By the end of the 70s that status had begun to change, thanks mostly to feminist
reappraisals of his work. ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ was once viewed as a
revolutionary story of sexual liberation but came to be seen as a troubling story of
female subservience.” Ms Ferran discovered Lawrence via an essay by the
French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. She made her way through the major novels
while preparing another film a few years ago.
Shortly after that project foundered she came upon the second version of
“Chatterley” and, she said, “fell in love instantly.” Published in French as “Lady
Chatterley and the Man in the Woods” and in English as “John Thomas and Lady
Jane” (the lovers’ pet names for their genitals), that version had, she thought,
aged better than the third.
The attraction to Lawrence is in keeping with Ms Ferran’s generation of
filmmakers. She is part of a loose collective - Arnaud Desplechin (“Kings and
Queen”) is the best known - who attended Idhec (Institute des Hautes Études
Cinématographiques) film school in Paris and have occasionally worked
“It’s a very particular generation,” said Emmanuel Burdeau, editor in chief
of the influential journal Cahiers du Cin ma, which ranked “Lady Chatterley” as
its No. 4 film of 2006. “They share an admiration for Anglo-American literature
and an intellectual approach to cinema combined with the belief that it is possible
to gain success without making any concessions. François Truffaut remains the
model: an artist who was able to attract an audience.”
“Lady Chatterley” is only Ms Ferran’s third film in a dozen years. She won
the Camera d’Or prize for best first feature at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival for
“Coming to Terms With the Dead” (and returned to the festival last month as jury
president of the Certain Regard section) but in the years since, apart from a 1996
television movie, has failed to get projects off the ground. The difficulty of
financing a certain kind of French movie - the so-called auteur film - was
something she addressed in February at the César ceremony, in a fiercely
eloquent speech, which became national news, denouncing the present system
as a “betrayal” of the French cinematic heritage.
Ms Ferran’s decision to adapt “Chatterley” stemmed from her realization
that the story could still pose a challenge to convention. “It would not be a
shocking film, but it would remain transgressive,” she said. “Lawrence’s view that
sexuality is not shameful, that it’s part of life - you would think that these issues
have been resolved, but if you look at films today, the modern tendency is to
show an animalistic sexuality. This representation puts desire on the side of
destruction and death. It separates the issue of sexuality from the issue of
feeling. It disassociates the mind and the body.”
Mr Burdeau said that the movie’s tone of calm affirmation was what set it
apart. “One had been used for so many years to seeing films that dealt
hysterically with ‘desire’ and ‘the body’ that this came as both a joy and a relief,”
he said. “ ‘Lady Chatterley’ is a film that says yes, but in a very smooth and
For a film about torrid passions “Lady Chatterley” is often curiously placid.
It takes in the material presence of bodies and the rhythms of the natural world
with a meditative alertness that bears little resemblance to Lawrence’s
loquacious pantheism. “The novel has a restless verbal energy that is entirely
occluded here,” Ms Cole said. “There is something lovely and rich in this silent
world, but it is not particularly Lawrentian.”
Ms Ferran’s almost Buddhist approach can be traced to a film that she
called her “guiding light”: “Blissfully Yours” (2002), by the Thai director
Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Little seen but revered by cinephiles, Mr
Weerasethakul’s film is a serene, enigmatic reverie that, like “Lady Chatterley,”
features several uninhibited instances of alfresco sex in verdant settings.
The half-dozen sex scenes in “Lady Chatterley” - all intricately
choreographed, some unfolding almost in real time - serve as milestones in the
portrait of a relationship. Each one provides an insight into the mind-set of the
characters. Before the shoot Ms Ferran rehearsed extensively with her lead
actors, Ms Hands and Jean-Louis Coulloc’h, who plays the gamekeeper Parkin,
paying special attention to the mechanics of the intimate scenes.
“All three of us were very prudish,” she said. “To remove that petrifying
fear, we worked through the sex scenes as if they were important dialogue
scenes, but with gestures replacing words.”
To get her actors comfortable with physical contact, she also had them
work with a butoh dancer. “They would act like animals or play with their bodies,”
she said. “It was useful, and it also introduced humour into the situation.”
Ms Ferran’s sex scenes are arguably an improvement on Lawrence’s; for
starters there’s a lot less talking. She also deftly handles Lawrence’s obsession
with the phallus - his preferred term was “godhead” - in a moment that shifts the
emphasis from male worship to female pleasure. After a few fully clothed
fumbles, the couple spend their first night together, and as they disrobe by
candlelight, Constance gently but firmly asks for a full frontal view of her lover.
“That scene for me is about the birth of intimacy,” Ms Ferran said. “The
night before, they’re two human beings. The next morning, they’re a couple. It
was important to capture the advent of the gaze, when one dares to look at the
other. When a young woman sees an erect penis for the first time, it’s an event.”
Discreetly stripped of Lawrence’s more antiquated ideas, Ms Ferran’s
“Chatterley” seems to take its cue from one of his alternate titles for the book:
“Tenderness.” “For all the joy of sexual awakening and fulfilment, the novel is
really very dark, very embittered, in some ways very sad,” Ms Cole said. “The
film by contrast seems exuberant. The atmosphere, physical and psychological,
is much healthier and happier than what we find in the novel.”
Ms Ferran said she was compelled to underscore the utopian aspect: “It’s
the most beautiful love story in the world because it’s the most revolutionary.” But
more than anything, she said, she had hoped to conjure the novel’s elemental
“It’s a story everybody recognizes,” she said. “It’s almost a founding myth.
But when you read the book, you have the impression that this is the first time it’s
being told.” She added, “I thought maybe I could make a film that felt like that.”
The Los Angeles Times
Marina Hands stars as the lady who can't and won't deny her feelings for a
By Kenneth Turan, Times Staff Writer
In France's 'Lady Chatterley,' lovers cross class boundaries as their desire
unfurls slowly, beautifully.
Nothing sexual is forbidden to today's filmmakers, but paradoxically, that
has made some things more difficult to put on screen. While explicitness and
simulated candour are everywhere, sensuality has become harder to come by
because it requires an emotional nakedness and vulnerability at odds with the
soulless superficiality that's so much in vogue.
So it's a special pleasure to report that the French "Lady Chatterley" is the
most frankly sensual movie in memory. Winner of five Césars, the French Oscar,
including best picture and best actress for its luminous star, Marina Hands, it has
found the soul of the celebrated DH. Lawrence novel about the forbidden love
between a nobleman's wife and a gamekeeper by treating it in a way that is
distinctly modern as well as classical, even old-fashioned.
Lawrence wrote three versions of the sexually frank novel, which was
forbidden publication in England until 1960, when it was cleared of obscenity
charges after a trial in which the prosecutor famously asked the jury, "Is it a book
you would wish your wife or servants to read?"
But yesterday's sensations often lose their power to shock, and the
four-letter words, sexual situations and class conflicts that unnerved people when
Lawrence initially published the book in Italy in 1928 are not nearly enough to
offend most anymore.
But director Pascale Ferran, who won the Camera d'Or at Cannes in 1994
for her first film, "Coming to Terms With the Dead," connected to the core of
Lawrence's idea of the transformative power of sexual passion and saw a way to
make it come alive to today's viewer. The first thing she decided to do was base
her film on the second version of Lawrence's novel, published as "John Thomas
and Lady Jane," a version less bitter than the final draft and the one that would
have been the best fit for "Tenderness," one of Lawrence's alternate titles for the
What is most modern about Ferran's "Lady Chatterley" is its sexual
candour. Though it does without the pornographically explicit sexuality that has
become fashionable for contemporary European art cinema, the film's extensive
use of nudity, including full-frontal shots, would not have been possible in years
The film's half-dozen physical love scenes are remarkable in the way they
combine that up-to-date nudity with a throwback focus on the faces of the
participants, especially Hands' Lady Chatterley, as they are in what used to be
called the throes of passion, a focus that recalls Hedy Lamarr in "Ecstasy" and
other erotica of an earlier era.
Because so much of "Chatterley" is in essence a two-person drama, its
success wouldn't have been possible without actors willing to commit themselves
to these parts literally body and soul. The film's two stars so immerse themselves
in character and situation that they are equally comfortable expressing the
physical and psychological aspects of their relationship.
Jean-Louis Coulloc'h , who plays the gamekeeper Parkin, is relatively new
to acting and has a rough-hewn awkwardness essential for the part. As for
Hands, who has a key role in the forthcoming "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,"
she has an especially expressive face that is always alive and in the moment.
Key to the impact the film's sexual situations have is how they've been
shot. "Lady Chatterley" is presented in a restrained, intelligent manner, as
classical as it is unhurried and unobtrusive, a style that is so out of fashion that
it's almost as shocking today as the nudity and sex would have been in years
For the key thing about "Lady Chatterley" is that it's a film with the courage
to take its time. Though it runs a daunting-sounding 2 hours, 48 minutes, that
length is necessary to achieve Ferran's goal of gradually immersing us
completely in the world of its characters, enabling us to feel what they're feeling
as they're feeling it.
Though it incongruously keeps the novel's English names, this French
"Lady Chatterley" pares the story and characters. We first see Lady Chatterley at
a dinner party with her husband, Sir Clifford (Hippolyte Girardot), a paralysed
World War I veteran whose injury is supposed to represent the weakness and
futility of the upper class. Reduced to things like polishing the silver with the
servants, Lady C does not exactly have a rich, fulfilled life either.
One day, out to give an order to the house's gamekeeper, Lady Chatterley
sees him from the back, naked from the waist up. The sight, striking like a madly
passionate coup de foudre, stops her cold and leads her to invent reasons to
spend more and more time with this taciturn but not unresponsive man.
Not surprisingly, given Lawrence's belief in its powers, the two initially
bond over a love for the beauty of the natural world, a splendour which the film
itself, led by cinematographer Julien Hirsch, who won a Cesar for his work, is
also enraptured with.
Because "Lady Chatterley" is committed to its deliberate style, we get to
fully appreciate what a fraught relationship this is, how and why societal and
personal pressures make these two people feel so awkward with each other that,
in the director's words, "they have to re-accustom themselves to one another"
every time they meet.
To see this difficult love believably take root and flower is a tribute to the
power of passion, not only the passion between lovers but the kind that animates
filmmakers as well.