A respectable and picturesque realisation of DH Lawrence's novel, 1989's The Rainbow
is director Ken Russell's prequel to his 1969 version of Women in Love
. By Russell's standards, this is a remarkably restrained treatment of Lawrence's novel, set in the Midlands in the 19th century: with its lush, rural setting and quaint bucolic soundtrack there are moments when you might imagine you're watching The Railway Children
--until the sex scenes kick in, that is.
Her soul infused with infinite longing by the sight of a rainbow as a child, Ursula Brangwen grows up restless at the prescribed roles set out for women in Victorian England, which are stoically endured by her mother (Glenda Jackson, who played Ursula's sister Gudrun in Women in Love). She idealises her swimming instructor--the older, more experienced Winifred (Amanda Donohoe) with whom she enjoys a passionate, borderline lesbian relationship. She becomes a schoolteacher against her parents' wishes, and takes up with Paul McGann, who is somewhat tepid as a Boer War officer. Ultimately, however, she finds all of these limitations too constraining and finally strikes out on her own in search of true spiritual and sexual freedom.
On the DVD: This is a full-screen version of the film, ratio 4:3. The sound quality is fine as is the colour and sharpness, though like the film itself, not quite as ravishing as you might hope. Special features consist of a routine trailer ("She played by her passion, not by their rules") and disappointingly perfunctory "filmographies" of the director and cast: merely lists of their previous movies. --David Stubbs
United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 2 DVD: LANGUAGES: English ( Dolby Digital 2.0 ), SPECIAL FEATURES: Filmographies, Interactive Menu, Scene Access, Trailer(s), SYNOPSIS: Director Ken Russell returns to the D.H. Lawrence territory that had earlier served him well in Women in Love. Sammi Davis plays Lawrence's Welsh heroine Ursula Brangwen, daughter of a wealthy mine owner, who is first seen as a child given to literally chasing rainbows. Disappointed that she can never have the real thing, the older Davis seeks out figurative rainbows in the form of sexual fulfillment. Neither heterosexual nor homosexual affairs fully satisfy Davis, because no one lover can match the 'ideal' the girl has created in her imagination. Davis' disappointment in the world is paralleled with the sorry lot of the wives of the local coal miners, who have adapted to their lives--something Davis can never do, will never do. Stately despite its raw subject matter, The Rainbow was filmed just before Russell's outrageous sword-and-sorcery fantasy Lair of the White Worm; since both films utilize many of the same cast members, the two pictures might make an astonishing double feature.
SCREENED/AWARDED AT: Moscow International Film Festival, ...The Rainbow