This 1989 adaptation of D.H Lawrence’s bodice ripper was helmed by the flamboyant director Ken Russell, never one to shirk from showing a bit of flesh.
Okay, a lot of flesh. And this, despite being somewhat toned down and controlled compared to some of his other movies, is no exception. A coming of age story involving bisexuality and the awakening of desire, it has an excellent cast including the ever reliable Paul McGann, Glenda Jackson, the excellent David Hemmings and the much missed Christopher Gable but stars the relatively unknown Sammi Davis as Ursula, the main protagonist of the piece.
Set during the time of the Boer war, Ursula is first introduced to the arts of lovemaking by a bisexual gym mistress. Good start! While embarking on a career in teaching, she meets and falls for a young soldier (McGann) who takes her virginity and declares undying love as young army officers tend to do in this sort of movie. Ursula however is having none of that and declines, unwilling to resign herself to a life of domestic bliss, despite the fact that she would be the wife of a man in a high up position in the foreign service, preferring the freedom to be with whoever she desires.
As mentioned, Ken Russell never shies away from nudity so this isn’t a film for the kids, depicting as it does a naked lesbian love scene fairly early on. The acting from all concerned is excellent, with a stellar cast like this you can always be assured of riveting performances and the newcomer Sammi Davis more than holds her own against the stars she has been cast against. She plays very nicely a woman who is not so interested in reality as in fantasy, neatly underlined by the overly brightly coloured rainbow that features at the beginning and end of the film. Visually the movie is stunning and inventive, as you would expect from Russell with some lush cinematography counter pointing the beautiful locations and exquisite period costumes. Whether you are a fan of period drama or not, this absorbing story is one to catch as soon as you can, you won’t be disappointed!
Director: Ken Russell
Writers: Ken Russell (screenplay), Vivian Russell (screenplay)
Stars: Sammi Davis, Amanda Donohoe and Paul McGann
Release Date: 3 November 1989 (UK)