Women in Love (film)
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Women in Love is a 1969 British film which tells the story of the relationships between men and women during the early part of the 20th century. It stars Alan Bates, Oliver Reed, Glenda Jackson and Jennie Linden. The film was adapted from the novel Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence. It was directed by Ken Russell and is famous for an extended scene in which Alan Bates and Oliver Reed wrestle in the nude.
The film takes place in 1920, in the Midlands mining town of Beldover. Two sisters, Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen, discuss marriage on their way to the wedding of Laura Crich, daughter of the town's wealthy mine owner, Thomas Crich, to Tibby Lupton, a naval officer. At the village's church, each sister is fascinated by a particular member of the wedding party – Gudrun by Laura's brother, Gerald, and Ursula by Gerald's best friend, Rupert Birkin. Ursula is a school teacher and Rupert is a school inspector; she remembers his visit to her classroom, interrupting her botany lesson to discourse on the sexual nature of the catkin.
The four are later brought together at a house party at the estate of Hermione Roddice, a rich woman whose relationship with Rupert is falling apart. When Hermione devises, as entertainment for her guests, a dance in the "style of the Russian ballet", Rupert becomes impatient with her pretensions and tells the pianist to play some ragtime. This sets off spontaneous dancing among the whole group and angers Hermione. She leaves. When Rupert follows her into the next room, she smashes a glass paperweight against his head, and he staggers outside. He discards his clothes and wanders through the woods. Later, at the Criches' annual picnic, to which most of the town is invited, Ursula and Gudrun find a secluded spot, and Gudrun dances before some Highland cattle while Ursula sings "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles". When Gerald and Rupert appear, Gerald calls Gudrun's behaviour "impossible and ridiculous", and then says he loves her. "That's one way of putting it", she replies. Ursula and Rupert wander away discussing death and love. They make love in the woods. The day ends in tragedy when Laura and Tibby drown while swimming in the lake.
During one of Gerald and Rupert's discussions, Rupert suggests Japanese-style wrestling. They strip and wrestle in the firelight. Rupert enjoys their closeness and says they should swear to love each other, but Gerald cannot understand Rupert's idea of wanting to have an emotional union with a man as well as an emotional and physical union with a woman. Ursula and Rupert decide to marry while Gudrun and Gerald continue to see each other. One evening, emotionally exhausted after his father's illness and death, Gerald sneaks into the Brangwen house to spend the night with Gudrun in her bed, then leaves at dawn.
Later, after Ursula and Rupert's marriage, Gerald suggests that the four of them go to the Alps for Christmas. At their inn in the Alps, Gudrun irritates Gerald with her interest in Loerke, a gay German sculptor. An artist herself, Gudrun is fascinated with Loerke's idea that brutality is necessary to create art. While Gerald grows increasingly jealous and angry, Gudrun only derides and ridicules him. Finally, he can endure it no longer. After attempting to strangle her, he trudges off into the cold, to commit suicide and die alone. Rupert and Ursula return to their cottage in England. Rupert grieves for his dead friend. As Ursula and Rupert discuss love, Ursula says there can't be two kinds of love. He explains that she is enough for love of a woman but there is another eternal love and bond for a man.
Both Oliver Reed and Alan Bates were initially apprehensive about filming the legendary nude wrestling scene. Russell had to assure them that the set would be off-limits and that there would be no rehearsal. Both actors got reasonably drunk before shooting, but the scene became memorable.
Glenda Jackson was the first actress to win an Oscar for a role in which there was a nude scene.
Michael Gough was cast after shooting had begun when it was decided that the actor first cast in the part was miscast.
Michael Caine turned down the role of Gerald.
Jennie Linden had just given birth to her first child when she was cast, whereas Glenda Jackson fell pregnant during preproduction and at the latter part of the shoot, the camera had to work around her bulge. However, Russell found it advantageous, as it gave her fuller, firmer breasts, that were an asset to the allure of her character.