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The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)

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Wife and husband, both actors, play a couple in love from the Victorian era. Soon they begin to feel that fiction interweaves into reality.

Director:

Karel Reisz

Writers:

John Fowles (novel), Harold Pinter (screenplay)
Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 9 wins & 15 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Meryl Streep ... Sarah and Anna
Jeremy Irons ... Charles and Mike
Hilton McRae Hilton McRae ... Sam
Emily Morgan Emily Morgan ... Mary
Charlotte Mitchell Charlotte Mitchell ... Mrs. Tranter
Lynsey Baxter ... Ernestina
Jean Faulds Jean Faulds ... Cook
Peter Vaughan ... Mr. Freeman
Colin Jeavons ... Vicar
Liz Smith ... Mrs. Fairley
Patience Collier ... Mrs. Poulteney
John Barrett ... Dairyman
Leo McKern ... 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:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

16 October 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

La amante del teniente francés See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$22,600,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Juniper Films See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The secret place where Anna (Meryl Streep) and Charles (Jeremy Irons) met regularly was at "The Undercliff" - i.e. the Lyme Regis Undercliff, a wild steeply-sloped coastal woodlands which stretches for a distance of six miles (= 9.5 kilometers) out of Lyme. See more »

Goofs

While at the house in the Lake District, the reaction to Sarah being pushed to the ground by Charles is genuine; Meryl actually hits her head on the floor & when Jeremy acknowledges; she nods, giggles & reorients herself in position next to him. See more »

Quotes

[describing how she became the French Lieutenant's mistress]
Sarah: Soon he no longer bothered to hide the nature of his intensions towards me. Nor could I pretend surprise. My innocence was false from the moment I chose to stay. I could tell you that he overpowered me, he drugged me. But it was not so... I gave myself to him.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in 10 to Midnight (1983) See more »

Soundtracks

Adagio from Sonata in D, K 576
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (as Mozart)
Played by John Lill
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Terrific -- with one major flaw
15 February 2010 | by hcoursenSee 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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