Lady Chatterley beautiful a little slow

Pascale Ferran’s sweeping French-language depiction of a well-to-do English lady who embarks on a hot and heavy affair with a member of her estate’s staff is not as one is likely to assume an adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s 1928 novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover . Rather Ferran was attracted to the Chatterley story (which most of us only know as a supremely racy novel that was banned until the late ’50s) but found that version too cerebral and difficult to adapt. This film actually draws from a previous version of the book John Thomas and Lady Jane or as it was translated into French Lady Chatterley and the Man of the Woods which is apparently a more physical tale of forbidden lust.

In any case the backbone of the story is essentially the same: Constance Chatterley (Marina Hands) who lives in a perfect English manor with a wheelchair-bound husband is stifled and repressed — both sexually and otherwise. She seeks comfort in the arms of her estate’s gamekeeper a broody hulk of a man named Parkin (Jean-Louis Coulloc’h). As their sexual relationship blossoms so does Connie’s personality and both characters find a short-lived sense of happiness.

It’s a fairly simple story and Ferran tells it beautifully even though it is initially difficult to get used to the French actors as uptight British aristocrats. Ferran pays special attention to Connie’s pre-sexual-awakening ennui with the film building in the slow pace unique to period pieces set in the English countryside. Since her love of Parkin grows out of her love for the woods in which he lives the camera often lingers on picturesque shots of fields of daffodils and burbling streams. Plenty of time is given to the slow growth of Parkin and Connie’s relationship which gives a stronger sense of believability to their unlikely union.

Unfortunately while the languid pacing of the film makes for a lovely piece of art at nearly three hours it’s a long haul. While the cinematography is gorgeous and the sex scenes are tasteful and sensual it will be hard for even diehard Chatterley fans to sit through such little action over such a long period of time. That coupled with the lack of verbal communication between the two lovers in this particular version of Lawrence’s story (Parkin is portrayed as less of an intellectual than the male protagonist in Lady Chatterley’s Lover — Ferran chooses to convey this by offering him very little dialogue and by dumbing down his speech) makes Lady Chatterley a visually beautiful but not terribly entertaining experience.