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Ken Russell's loose adaptation of the last part of D.H. Lawrence's "The Rainbow" sees impulsive young Ursula coming of age in pastoral England around the time of the Boer War. At school, she is introduced to lovemaking by a bisexual physical education instructress. While experiencing disillusionment in her first career attempt (teaching), she has an affair with a young Army officer, who wants to marry her. Unable to accept a future of domesticity, she breaks with him, and eventually leaves home in search of her destiny.Written by
According to David Hemmings' autobiography, 'Blow Up and Other Exaggerations', he was first choice for the role of Uncle Henry but Ken Russell had to renege on the offer because the US film distributors did not want him. Bizarrely, Ken then cast Elton John in the role, before the singer got cold feet over wigs, costume and arduous acting lessons and asked to leave the project. The next choice was Alan Bates (who had played Birkin in the sequel, Women in Love (1969)) but he declined and the role went back to Hemmings. See more »
Despite the film's many flaws- it is loosely based on only a section of DH Lawrence's Northern saga, the lead actress is fairly wooden and the style of the film screams eighties cheese- I think it's a great little film. It's one of those few films that not simply inspire you to follow your dreams but actually insists that you do so, whether those dreams come to fruition or not.
It's set in a mining town in the 1910's. Ursula Brangwen (Sammi Davis- no, not THAT one) is a rebellious teenager and persistent dreamer, constantly striving for 'the rainbow' that symbolises fulfilment. She pursues it in two different ways; one through trying to gain work as a schoolteacher, thereby becoming financially independent, and because this is DH Lawrence directed by Ken Russell, sexual fulfilment.
Though she shares a naughty kiss in the local church with family friend and dashing soldier Anton Skrebensky (Paul McGann), it is Ursula's female swimming instructor Winifred Inger (Amanda Donohoe) that gives her her first sexual experience. Ursula is devoted to her but Inger's experience outweighs Ursula's innocence. There is nudity here but no big love scene. It's actually fairly restrained for Russell, and for once it actually feels appropriate for the film.
Ursula moves back to sexy soldier Skrebensky (try saying that out loud) and experiences true Freudian bliss against a tree with a gushing waterfall behind it. Now that's more like Russell, isn't it? It's not pornographic but it's a bit raunchier than Colin Firth's wet shirt. Perhaps not the best viewing for teatime with the family. Still, Paul McGann is a suitable substitute for eye candy; it's very much a film for the women.
The love scenes are shot in an interesting way. Ursula never seems to fully connect as part of the couple- or if she does, the camera doesn't care. The focus is on Ursula's reactions so Russell uses techniques like jump cuts- although this makes one love scene unintentionally hilarious.
Acting-wise, I'm glad that they didn't cast a star. Yes, Davis was not going to be the next Elizabeth Taylor but her inexperience works perfectly for the film. Ursula has not fully worked out her character yet but only that she has a drive to do something different with her life and make more of herself. Because the film is very condensed, the actors have less to work with, which is why Donohoe's character comes off more as a type. Still, I think she conveys an interesting image of a very masculine woman. McGann is a brilliant actor and despite being the obvious eye candy (indeed,a shot of Skrebensky and Ursula by the waterfall graces the film's poster), he manages to show that Skrebensky is also a slave to convention. As Ursula tells him, "I'd rather be swept off my feet by a half-naked robber than a soldier defending my honour". Sassy! Yes, it's not perfect but I think that it's well worth a watch. This is period drama that has genuine relevance to modern life and modern concerns, and is a great coming-of-age story with a brave and life-inspiring message.
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