Lady Chatterley's Lover (1981)
Directed and written by Just Jaeckin and largely
dismissed by reviewers at
www.imdb.com, this adaptation of the classic D H Lawrence novel
provides a very useful illustration of some of the concerns of the
Lady Constance Chatterley ‘Connie’ (Sylvia Kristel)
is an aristocrat who marries a young upper class man Sir Clifford
Chatterley ‘Cliff’ (Shane Briant). However, the War intervenes and he
comes back an impotent paraplegic. The young couple’s ante-bellic
amorousness is replaced by a sterile co-existence.
Cliff realises that Connie’s ‘feminine needs’ cannot go unmet and so
invites her to find a lover, even perhaps one who will one day produce
an heir for the Chatterley line, so that the line may continue. However,
the one man she chooses is Oliver Mellors (Nicholas Clay), the gardener
and game-keeper. Connie and Mellors make minutes of filmic lover right
before our eyes.
Lawrence, Mellors and Clifford are so utterly
obsessed by class, status and iniquities that it leads to a tragic
spiral… or so you’d think…. Add to this a manipulative menopausal
widow/nurse who so positions herself as to end up with the estate her
hard labour would never have delivered her.
While this is surely a case of ‘the book is better
than the film’, it does not warrant discarding the Jaeckin production
wholesale. There is merit perhaps in reading the book and then seeing
one interpretation. Or seeing the movie and then reading its source. I
find either way helps to furnish some sense of period to the narrative.
The transfer from the film is not as crisp as we have come to expect
this day and age, but it that’s only a minor inconvenience. The attempts
at sensuality and symbolism come off a bit awkward.