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Book to Film: Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence

Women in Love follows the lives and loves of the Brangwen sisters, Ursula and Gudrun. Set in a coal mining town surrounded by the pastoral English countryside, it explored divergent reflections about humanity and relationships in the spur of industrialization, which resounds most of D.H. Lawrence's works.

If I have to speak how this book affected me, I'd give you an image of a distant train chugging toward the platform I stood on. The rumbling noise perks up my reverie, then becomes insistently louder until the shrill whistle and mayhem of wheels and steam blast on my face rattling my consciousness.

There was nothing placid nor ideally romantic about this book. Lawrence writes with intense, charged and sensual gusto. If he meant to express love in this way then in a different abstract plane, I get him. Otherwise, his prose mostly took up the hat of romanticism. I am quite arrested by his interesting vocabulary and considering the ban issues on the author's books during his time that lead to his exile, it is no wonder it raised a lot of brows.

Despite the generally commented allusion between the two men, I naturally gravitated to the sisters and their close relationship. This appears prominently both in the book and the film. Gudrun, for me, is like a splash of harsh vivid colors (like her dresses). There's something attracting and distasteful about her airs perhaps because I share a few of her opinions. Ursula seems larger in presence. There's a certain force within her that permeates out of the pages. With the men, I do find Birkin and his rumination very interesting and he, more or less, represent a bit of Lawrence himself, or so they say, while I see Gerald as an industrial character, all mechanical and steel.

It was brilliant and intellectual and mad all at the same time. Some would consider Lawrence as a realist but I see thin surrealism coating everything. I'd enjoy the arguments presented but at times I hardly know what to make of it. It's like the characters are not present in the real everyday, mundane world. Most times they are slaves of their churning emotions and roiling mind out of touch of reality.

Then again, I begrudgingly admit Lawrence splits my mind open as if he drew out threads of my darkest thoughts bringing it to light and I would be repelled (the word often appears in the book) by him. In this case I would stop reading for a moment, needing space. I wondered if that's what happened to he olden readers who criticized his works; that they were left repulsive and uncomfortable.

The book was first made into film in 1969 and later on a TV series in 2011, the latter of which I had seen. I read mostly that the first film was more faithful to the book while the remake explored alterations. The 2011 series was adapted into screen combining the two books, The Rainbow (Brangwen Family #1) and Women in Love, following D.H. Lawrence's original intention to publish both as one piece, as well as mixing in a few of Lawrence's other literary anecdotes.

I wouldn't really focus on the actors being quite different from how I pictured them out to be. Rather what stood out to me was the revisionist view of the director. Miranda Bowen brought a classic book to be relevant of the modern times, adapted through William Ivory's particular terms. Despite the vintage dresses and period set, the characters' personalities are as easily recognizable as it is today.

The moving frames (possibly they were using hand held cameras) create an atmospheric cloud of intimacy peppered with quiet moments and a mournful soundtrack. It best displayed the sensitivity of scenes or the despair and passion of a moment. I love how the sounds of nature complement into it serving as an echo of what is transpiring in the foreground.

I have read it was shot mostly in Africa passing as English Midlands of 1920s (which would explain the summery light permeating the film). Essential scenes were changed around off its original sequence, pouring more tension to the characters, and natural impulses were portrayed in explicit manner. The hot desert, instead of the isolated snowy vista of Germany, played as backdrop to the momentous climax of the story.

Rory Kinnear, playing Birkin, easily portrayed the character's self-conflict; in the quiver of his chin, lingering glances and tortured eyes. Joseph Mawle, as Gerald Crich, is oozing with virile charms and intensity (excuse me being dazzled). He is Mr. Crich almost to a tee (considering Gerald in the book is actually fair and blond). 

I enjoyed watching the times when Gudrun and Ursula are in the same scene together either out on a little adventure or just plain talking. Rachael's Ursula is quite steady though an inner fire lies below the surface while Gudrun here, played by Rosamund, seemed more nervy than volatile. But when they are together, things just light up with their prettiness and troubled musings.

The two-episode series was excellently done and, one could say, a womanist view of Lawrence's work. It is better to watch it free of comparison from the book and let itself do the work. I have admired how Bowen executed visually the luminous prose and intentions of D.H. Lawrence.

There are quiet and fierce moments which lingered on to me; Ursula and the horses on the pasture, Gudrun by the coast with her lover and every time she is painting, the confrontation of Hermione to Birkin among others. Bowen's Women in Love is a resonance of its title, not in its felicity but of its revolutionary parts; think turbulent, think passion.


Women in Love is a novel by British author D.H. Lawrence published in 1920. It's a sequel to his earlier novel The Rainbow ('15) & follows the continuing loves & lives of the Brangwen sisters, Gudrun & Ursula. Gudrun Brangwen, an artist, pursues a destructive relationship with Gerald Crich, an industrialist. Lawrence contrasts this pair with the love that develops between Ursula & Rupert Birkin, an alienated intellectual who articulates many opinions associated with the author. The emotional relationships thus established are given further depth & tension by an unadmitted homoerotic attraction between Gerald & Rupert. The novel ranges over the whole of British society at the time of WWI & eventually ends high up in the snows of the Swiss Alps.

Book Title: Women in Love (Brangwen Family #2)
Author: David Herbert Lawrence
Genre: Classics, British Literature
Published: January 2003 (first published 1920)
Publisher: Dover Publications
Rating: ♨♨♨♨♨ (5 cups)

Television Series Title: Women in Love
Director: Miranda Bowen
Adapted Screenplay: William Ivory
Release Date: 2011
Cast: Rosamund Pike, Joseph Mawle, Rory Kinnear, Rachael Stirling, Olivia Grant
Rating: ♨♨♨♨♨ (5 cups)

{film stills. 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5}


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