Lady Chatterly's Lover
At Harvard Square Theatre
There are some books, that lend themselves to good movie versions, but Lady Chatterly's Lover is not one. A good movie requires characters whose emotions are easily externalized in action. If you cannot show how a person feels, then you are out of luck. On the screen internal plight must be translated into concrete action.
Lady Chatterly's Lover is essentially the story of one woman's emotional fulfillment through a crudely elemental sexual experience. To make convincing Constance Chatterly's transition from a cold machine to a responsive human being, D. H. Lawrence felt compelled to describe her reactions to specific sexual experiences in detail. For this reason, Lady Chatterly's Loverwas a controversial book-and for this reason, it probably can never be made into a successful movie.
Without the narrative voice to give glimpses of Lady Chatterly's feelings, what remains? Only the bare plot outline: the story of a rich woman's affair with a gamekeeper. This has been put on film with relative case and with assured financial success. But it is not D. H. Lawrence's story. The movie version is not a tender love story, or the portrait of a woman being re-awakened to life, but merely a chronicle of fortuitous mutual lust.
Since some of the Lawrence dialogue (expurgated, of course) has been retained, the discrepancy between the characters' appearances and their fervent avowals is very great indeed.
The acting doesn't help things. Leo Genn, as the gamekeeper Mellors, seems able to do little more than expand his massive chest and leer. Danielle Darrieux, playing Lady Chatterly, is only a slight improvement. She doesn't leer, but she does manage to convey a disquieting coldness even when running off with her lover.
In other respects, the movie is badly done. The visual euphemisms employed are of the most common and unimaginative sort. When Mellors first seduces Connie, we cut to a shot of lumberjacks felling a tree; quite rightly the audience hoots and hisses.
The present film version of Lady Chatterly's Lover, stripped of the psychology of the book, becomes just another trashy little story. It isn't tender, it isn't provocative, it isn't interesting. There is certainly no reason to see it.