Hard to fall in love with this DH Lawrence adaptation

It’s hard for modern viewers to find patience with Women in Love. The women seem hard and self-involved

It’s hard for modern viewers to find patience with Women in Love. The women seem hard and self-involved


Oh, how infinitely kinder to be dumped by text than to learn your girlfriend is leaving you because she no longer wishes to be "bound by the weary sickness of pedantry and tradition," as does a poor chap in Vibe's Women in Love, Mondays.

Never mind the mercy let-down of, "It's not you, it's me". This jilted swain gets: "You do not accompany me into the unknown. You do not set off with me into life with wonder".

There are seminal novels that send frissons of the forbidden down through the ages. Alas, they don't  always travel well outside the dust jacket.

Now TV censorship is so light-handed, it must have seemed a cracking idea to adapt DH Lawrence's The Rainbow  and Women in Love, without having tactfully to move to the next scene whenever people started to get their kit off.

But what made the story of two inter-war sisters' experimental love affairs a zeitgeisty enough movie in the 1960s when talking about sex for its own sake still seemed dangerous and controversial, today seems rather pompous and laboured. However beautifully acted and gorgeously recreated as a period, the story and in particular the dialogue triggers the inner bored teenager in one's head: "Oh, whatever, just get on with it".

Even allowing for the modish, Bloomsbury iconoclasm of the times, it's now hard to accept even striving artists and philosophers talked this way. The truest bit of dialogue was when the soul-weary school inspector (Roy Kinnear) says,"I belong in one of those gloomy Russian novels where I can be ill for 400 pages".

The adaptation could have updated the dialogue, but that would have been inauthentic, too.

Perhaps the problem is that while it's a timeless preoccupation,  Lawrence's grapplings with the nature of physical versus emotional love seem laborious and obtuse to a modern palette. In his time, by some lights even thinking about such things, let alone discussing them as his characters do, was subversive and panic-inducing. It's hard for modern viewers to find patience with this.  The women seem hard and self-involved, then men soppy, venal and confused – yet none of this is fair, or what Lawrence probably intended.

In fairness, there's a surprising amount of humour for all the bosom-heavery, and the production is insightful about the societal mores it's picking away at.  

But Women In Love, the TV series, is not, and probably couldn't hope to be, a fraction as resonant as the books were in their day.

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 - Stuff


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