Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 14. 1970
Women in Love
There could be few novels more difficult to adapt for the screen than the D.H. Lawrence masterpiece "Women In Love". Yet despite having to neglect large sections of the text Ken Russell's film is a fascinating success. Lawrence wrote to a friend: "it is the inhuman will, call it. ..physiology of matter that fascinates me. I don't so much care about what the woman feels....I only care about what the woman is....unhumanly, physiologically". Throughout the novel there is an overwhelming sensation of the claustrophobic inevitability of a nightmare.
Hermione (Eleanor Bron) wants Birkin (Alan Bate) to give himself intellectually and spiritually to her—to become one with her and lose himself. He rebels. He turns to Ursula (Jennie Linden) but believes she is making the same demands, on an emotional level, as Hermione.
In one scene he barges through a congregation of mourners and tells Ursula that love is associated with death instead of life in modern society, and that the word should be tabooed from utterance for many years, till we get a better idea.
After a naked wrestling scene Birkin wants to swear 'blut bruderschaft' with Gerald to establish a spiritual-physical (but not sexual) bond, counterbalancing his love for Ursula—a means of maintaining his separate identity.
Gerald uses love fatally. Like his mechanistic concept of mankind his love is a denial of true self. He tells Gudren (Glenda Jackson) of his fear of the void, the hollowness within him. In desperation after his father's death he comes to her all night and gives himself utterly, as a child, endeavouring to lose himself.
The social-historical setting—Midland colliery town before the Great War, country estates and holidays high in the snows of southern Germany—is understandably more prominent in the film than in the novel and yet at no stage does the grandeur of colour and space detract from the emotive power of the dialogue. Occasionally, however, the juxtaposition of camera shots establishes a clumsy irony.
Eleanor Bron uncomfortably exaggerates Hermione's domineering nature with her desire for mental supremacy. Gerald's mother has stepped straight from a Gothic novel, mad laughter and all.
Kramer wisely plays down Birkin's tendency to preach, but although Alan Bates skillfully recreates his chameleon quality, his intensity was missed. Jennie Linden doesn't quite catch Ursula's charisma. Oliver Reade's Gerald is well done, while Glenda Jackson (who played Charlotte Corday in Marat Sade) gives the finest performance I have seen on film this year.
Considering the screen disasters that have been made of Lawrence (remember "The Fox") this film must not be missed.
Zabriskie Point is trite, naive and incredibly pretentious. Antonioni is so earnestly spelling out a clished message that the film's world is one of simple dichotomy. Place a student (or Youth) on one side and Society on the other. Associate one with enlightened freedom and individual integrity and the other with repression and mindless materialism and you have the reason for this film's hollowness.
When the two leading characters are comfortably reduced to the abstraction of a sociologist, it is not surprising that they move and speak like puppets. Mark Frechette and Daria Halprin are given no chance to act (if they can). The dialogue they are given is embarrassingly clumsy.
Visually the film is impressive. Alfio Contini's photography makes full use of the space and emptiness of the desert and cloudless skies but many of the sequences are far too long. Elaborate architecture, magnificent landscapes and an explosive finale do not make a good movie.
However, I liked the scene where a cop stopped Daria in the desert to ask her where her car was. Her reply was suitably slick. He took his glasses off, stared at her, then very slowly looked around the horizon. He stared at her once again, then without saying a word got back in his car and drove away. Unfortunately I had to stay until the end.