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The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)

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A film is being made of a story, set in 19th century England, about Charles, a biologist who's engaged to be married, but who falls in love with outcast Sarah, whose melancholy makes her ... See full summary »

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(novel), (screenplay)
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Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 9 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Hilton McRae ...
Sam
Emily Morgan ...
Mary
Charlotte Mitchell ...
Mrs. Tranter
Lynsey Baxter ...
Jean Faulds ...
Cook
...
Mr. Freeman
...
Vicar
Liz Smith ...
Mrs. Fairley
Patience Collier ...
Mrs. Poulteney
John Barrett ...
Dairyman
...
Dr. Grogan
Arabella Weir ...
Girl on Undercliff
Ben Forster ...
Boy on Undercliff
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Storyline

A film is being made of a story, set in 19th century England, about Charles, a biologist who's engaged to be married, but who falls in love with outcast Sarah, whose melancholy makes her leave him after a short, but passionate affair. Anna and Mike, who play the characters of Sarah and Charles, go, during the shooting of the film, through a relationship that runs parallel to that of their characters. Written by Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

She was lost from the moment she saw him.

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

16 October 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La amante del teniente francés  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film's director Karel Reisz once said of this film: "I admired the novel tremendously from my first reading, but I didn't see how to turn it into a drama. The book has two exceptional qualities as a source for a movie. First, quite simply, it has a wonderful story that centers on the extraordinary character of Sarah Woodruff, a turbulent, passionate spirit who is, so to speak, born into the wrong age. She has some of the visions we associate with the 20th Century, but she was born penniless into the 19th Century. Secondly, the novel is a kind of a game. It tells a Victorian story, but does so from the vantage point of today. Fowles continually invites us to view events with our modern knowledge. He plays with the idea that he is only writing a fiction, and shares some of his problems with us". See more »

Goofs

Early in the film when Charles takes a horse-drawn carriage to visit Ernestine the horse changes between shots (confirmed by the number of "stocking" feet it has). See more »

Quotes

Sarah: I have set myself beyond the pale. I am nothing. I am hardly human any more.
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Connections

Referenced in Saturday Night Live: Blythe Danner/Rickie Lee Jones (1982) See more »

Soundtracks

Prelude in C minor
Written by Johann Sebastian Bach
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Terrific -- with one major flaw
15 February 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This film is a joy to watch -- as not many films these days are. The settings are superbly created -- the green, grotto-like woodland where Irons and Streep meet in the Victorian world of the film, the murky streets of Lyme, Exeter, and London, and the interior of the lawyer's office, for example. The Victorian part of the film emerges from the dawning of the concept of abnormal psychology (just before Freud) and is really convincing. Streep shows us that her character cannot move on emotionally until she has worked out her own madness. That constitutes a remarkable and complex performance of insanity and self-awareness inhabiting a single psyche. She earns the gentle movement out of the tunnel and onto the calm lake. The turbulence of the unconscious -- that threatening sea of which Irons has warned her -- has been subdued. Seems to me the flaw lies in the 'modern story' (as some here have pointed out). It may be that the Streep character is trying to find a subtext for her fictional heroine, but it looks like the old ennui, so that, while her lack of concern for the relationship is understandable, his obsession with it is not. Though the garden party at the end almost gets it there. Were we shown her decision there? If so, I missed it. I like the concept of the 'two endings' and their contrast, but the ending in the 20th century was a so what? The one in the 19th century was complex and included much of the pain that the relationship had caused both characters. A little more attention to the contemporary love affair -- to suggest that it was more than just a romp on location -- would have helped that dimension of the film per se and also suggested what the Victorian lovers had earned within their Hardyesque world.


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