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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)
Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 9 wins & 15 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... Sarah and Anna
... Charles and Mike
Hilton McRae ... Sam
Emily Morgan ... Mary
Charlotte Mitchell ... Mrs. Tranter
... Ernestina
Jean Faulds ... Cook
... Mr. Freeman
... Vicar
... Mrs. Fairley
... Mrs. Poulteney
... Dairyman
... Dr. Grogan
... Girl on Undercliff
... 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  »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$22,600,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Even though it earned her some of her best reviews and several awards, Meryl Streep considers this one of her weakest performances. See more »

Goofs

When Charles visits the garden and his bride to be is firing arrows, as she sees him she loads a new arrow - then there is a cut to a closer shot and she is loading the new arrow again. See more »

Quotes

Sarah: [describing how she became the French Lieutenant's mistress] He took me to a private sitting room, ordered food. But... he had changed. He was full of smiles and caresses, but... I knew at once that he was insincere. I saw that I had been... an amusement for him. Nothing more. I saw all this within... five minutes of our meeting. Yet I stayed.
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Connections

Referenced in Ban the Sadist Videos! (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

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

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User Reviews

Narrative Folding
18 August 2000 | by See all my reviews

Haunting environments, two of the century's greatest film actors, one of the half-dozen or so best modern playwrights and Fowles' experiment in parallel narratives. Fowles' work was pale compared to Nabokov's "Pale Fire," for instance in building a convoluted, layered narrative, but is comparable in extent. Here, Pinter's obsession with time refines the vision -- his "Proust Screenplay," also centered on layered time, is much studied and admired.

Everything clicks here. Gorton's designs are detailed and hypnotizing, especially the use of the Lyme groin and related tunnel-like streets. Francis' camera (after "Elephant Man") captures a dim grey sky, made sharp in modern sequences. With the director, they have contrived to quote great paintings. In particular, the first shot after the three year search when Irons gets the telegram directly and obviously references a famous Monet painting -- in fact the first impressionistic painting, a turning point in the artist's perspective. Davis' music -- the only thing that spans time -- supports.

And Meryl is lovely, but so different in each role. We really wonder if her modern madness created the modern affair in quest of the perfect chemistry for the Sarah role It makes Sarah's imagination deeper and more self-referential than in the book. One scene is uniquely masterful: the modern actors "walk" through a scene, then they do it again. Streep turns on, "steps into" the role and becomes Sarah, and a moment later, she pulls the whole scene into the past. This will stick with you, I promise.

The director, Reisz, is supposed to have suggested the concept to Pinter, and then attracted the very best. His tightness of vision is apparent. I wish he were still making films. In a sense he is: he literally "wrote the book" on modern film editing.


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