Thursday, 10 September 2015

Lady Chatterley's Lover

"She's a servant. It's not as if she's a person."

That's how you do it. Unlike the recent The Scandalous Lady W this is a perfect example of how to do an adaptation of a classic novel in a time slot of only ninety minutes without sacrificing any thematic depth or characterisation.

A confession first, though: I've read a fair bit of D.H. Lawrence- even The Plumed Serpent- but not Lady Chatterley's Lover. It isn't known as one of his best, and it's generally better known for the 1961 obscenity trial than as an actual novel. So I'm experiencing the characters and plot here for the first time. I'm rather impressed. 

The earlier scenes, setting up Constance and Sir Clifford's relationship, his injury in the trenches and subsequent emasculation, and their gradual growing apart, are done with an admirable economy of storytelling while still making time for subtle character moments. We slip into Mellors' POV as we meet him, get to know him and see his being emotes as gatekeeper, his relationship with Constance being spiky at first. Their early scenes together are full of chicks, flowers, and other obvious fertility symbols, which is very D.H. Lawrence.

The story of their affair doesn't quite go as expected, though. Her chat with her sister is revealing; what is shocking is not that she has taken a lover- this is more or less expected in this situation, upper class mores being what they are- but that said lover is a commoner. For the characters, the controversy here is all about class, not sex. This is underlined by Sir Clifford's clumsy attempt to get a friend- the "right sort", naturally, to father a child with her, more or less confirming that privileged upper class women were more or less expected to be brood mares. Patriarchy looms largest when families have money and stuff to pass down. Feminism, too, is a class issue.

I've no idea how much has been expunged from the novel, but I was rather impressed by this.

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