The Fox (1967 film)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Fox is a 1967 Canadian drama film directed by Mark Rydell. The screenplay by Lewis John Carlino and Howard Koch is loosely based on the 1923 novella of the same title by D. H. Lawrence. The film marked Rydell's feature film directorial debut.


Jill Banford and Ellen March are a couple who struggle to support themselves by raising chickens on an isolated farm in rural Canada. Dependent Jill tends to household chores and finances while the self-sufficient Ellen deals with heavier work, such as chopping wood, repairing fences, and stalking the fox that keeps raiding their coops, although she is hesitant about killing it. Jill seems content with their secluded existence, but the frustrated Ellen is less enchanted by the solitude.

In the dead of winter, merchant seaman Paul Grenfel arrives in search of his grandfather, the now-deceased former owner of the farm who died one year earlier. With nowhere else to go while on leave, he persuades the women to allow him to stay with them for a few weeks in exchange for helping with the work. Tension among the three slowly escalates when his attentions to Ellen arouse Jill's resentment and jealousy. When he proposes marriage to Ellen, Jill is first outraged, then hysterically fearful, even trying to bribe Paul to leave.

Eventually Paul tracks and kills the fox. Just before his departure, he makes love to Ellen and asks her to elope with him, but she confesses she would feel guilty if she abandoned Jill. After Paul returns to his ship, Jill confesses her feelings for Ellen, and the two women make love. Ellen writes to Paul, explaining that her place is with Jill and that she cannot marry him.

Several weeks later, Paul returns unexpectedly as the two women are chopping down a dying oak. He offers to complete the job and warns Jill to move away from the tree's potential path. In a standoff of wills, Jill refuses to move as Paul continues to chop at the tree. The falling tree crushes Jill, and she dies.

As spring begins, Ellen sells the farm, and she and Paul set off to start a new life together. Knowing that she is silently mourning the loss of Jill, Paul assures Ellen that she will be happy in her new life. Sadly and uncertainly, she asks, "Will I?"


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