Forget what you’ve heard about Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence. It was racy and sexually frank enough to be banned in England at the time it was written, sure, but beyond this haze of notoriety, a luminous love story is itching to come out.
Pascale Ferran penetrates the psyche of the bored and rich elite in her portrayal of Constance Chatterley (Marina Hands), the becoming young wife of an aristocrat crippled for life from the waist down after serving in the Great War. Connie is not so much unhappy as she is naively listless in a drastic physical sense. When a servant suggests she go pick wild tulips, Connie awakens to a natural world filled with splendor. Ferran, only the third female director to win a César (the French Oscar), has carefully cast the brooding, somewhat apishly built Jean-Louis Coulloc’h to play the “uncouth” gamekeeper who becomes Lady Chatterley’s lover. Their love affair evolves in huts and clandestine foresty spots. Illusions of lovemaking are left to the wayside in Ferran’s direction, which leaves out no awkward movement or reflection in this nearly three-hour film. It should also be noted that Ferran chose to adapt the less popular second version of D.H. Lawrence’s classic, published as John Thomas and Lady Jane instead of the definitive Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
While some of the pedestrian English gruffness of Coulloc’h’s Parkin may be lost in translation, Ferran eschews class divide as a major motive for Connie’s carnal impulses. The subtle power play between the lovers instead becomes so modern, in fact, that you may not realize how the time has passed.