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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars VIOLET AND VITA AND HAROLD AND DENYS
This is a superb BBC production. High production values. It's a TV luxury. Based on Vita's memoire of her love affair with Violet Keppel Trefusis which can be found in Nigel Nicolson's Portrait of a Marriage', it is very well scripted by Penelope Mortimer and acted excellently by a high calibre cast. The drama is gut wrenching in parts. There is a violent scene between...
Published on 16 Sep 2007 by Phillysound2

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but I guess I was expecting something different.
It's not bad, but I guess I was expecting something different...Although the story is interesting and you learn a lot of things on how gay people lived their lives during this period.
Published 7 months ago by Valentina Marangoni


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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars VIOLET AND VITA AND HAROLD AND DENYS, 16 Sep 2007
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This is a superb BBC production. High production values. It's a TV luxury. Based on Vita's memoire of her love affair with Violet Keppel Trefusis which can be found in Nigel Nicolson's Portrait of a Marriage', it is very well scripted by Penelope Mortimer and acted excellently by a high calibre cast. The drama is gut wrenching in parts. There is a violent scene between Vita and Violet that makes me want to jump into the TV and put an end to it. Of note for me is the acting of Cathryn Harris especially in the first 2 episodes; she is a perfect Violet awesomely in love with Vita. The blood from Violet's face would drain when she caught sight of Vita. Cathryn transmits this intensity of feeling with great skill - this is marvelous acting (watch for her reactions especially in the love scenes). Peter Birch/Denys Trefusis also has a similar quality which is perfectly right for the character. Only David Haig as Harold grates because the direction has him play the part too passively as a kind of neutered man- still we get the point of the dynamics. Janet McTeer is excellent.

In the final 2 episodes disenchantment sets in as it did in real life and the story winds down in Amiens, France (early 1920) where the story comes to a fevered climax. At the end the sheen has come off all the characters. I no longer cared much about Vita and Harold but was concerned about Violet especially and Denys who are left with a ruined future - we are not told what happened to them and they are not contextualised in the drama. The absence of Violet's powerful and famous mother Alice Keppel is a flaw as she was instrumental in the ending of the affair.

The post script is that Vita and Violet continued their relationship as far as they could until Spring 1921. Denys Trefusis sought a formal separation which would have brought the whole affair into the public domain (he was penniless and would need alimony I suppose but he was also seething from humiliation). Lawyers and matriarchs came onto the scene and Vita agreed, through lawyers, to give Violet up. Violet became bereft, lost and declassee or ostracised from high society - a great humiliation for her mother, rich grande dame Alice Keppel (Edward VII's discreet, clever mistress). Violet and Denys eventually reached an agreement and went to live in France - the spoiled marriage turned into a fragile companionship funded by Mrs Keppel. Denys introduced the lonely Violet to the high priestess of arts and music, Princess Polignac and that love affair was tolerated because of its discretion. This enabled the brilliantly intelligent Violet (we don't see much of this in the TV series) to become classee in Paris's (and Florentine) high society. She never married again but, after poor Denys died of consumption she went back to her flirting ways -even as a grande dame -and had many a male suitor as she did before she met Vita. Not many in France and Italy knew about her true past. There must have been a buried sadness - she knew that her great ambition had failed; she lived in the artificial life she had once so hated. But she was based in France. Her heart was French, she said. She once prophesied that her life would be one of waste. Maybe it was but she gave a lot of pleasure to the many people who knew her. She published several novels and her memoires.

Vita and Harold lived in companionship and never had intimate relations again. Vita continued to have affairs and wrecked a couple of marriages on the way but managed to have an enduring mostly platonic, passionate friendship with Virginia Woolf. There is evidence that Violet and Vita felt the flame again in their middle age but desisted. The friendship was worn down by disappointment - both represented fallen ideals and wasted potential. Harold had his liaisons but they were never grand affairs. Vita became quite reclusive at Sissinghurst and her biography politely implies she may have liked the alcohol a bit too much in older age. She was ambivalent towards her children. She and Harold lived apart most of the time but their affectionate companionship endured to the end and Harold - a man of real substance with a raft of books to his name - was left desolate when Vita died in 1962. The beautiful garden at Sissinghurst is the best portrait of their marriage. Violet was the last to leave this earth in 1972 -

"My heart was more disgraceful, more alone
And more courageous than the world has known,
O passer by my heart was like your own."

Shortly after Violet's passing, Nigel Nicolson's book was published. London (and Paris and Florence for the first time) was aghast all over again. And now, here we are. Just buy this DVD. It's honestly one of the best BBC dramas ever. I'd give this more stars if I could.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars VITA AND VIOLET AND HAROLD AND DENYS, 25 July 2007
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This is a superb BBC production. High production values. It's a TV luxury. Based on Vita's memoire of her love affair with Violet Keppel Trefusis which can be found in Nigel Nicolson's Portrait of a Marriage', it is very well scripted by Penelope Mortimer and acted excellently by a high calibre cast. The drama is gut wrenching in parts. There is a violent scene between Vita and Violet that makes me want to jump into the TV and put an end to it. Of note for me is the acting of Cathryn Harris; she is a perfect Violet awesomely in love with Vita. The blood from Violet's face would drain when she caught sight of Vita. Cathryn transmits this intensity of feeling with great skill - this is marvellous acting (watch for her reactions especially in the love scenes). Peter Birch/Denys Trefusis also has a similar quality which is perfectly right for the character. Only David Haig as Harold grates because the direction has him play the part too passively as a kind of neutered man- still we get the point of the dynamics. Janet McTeer is excellent.

In the final 2 episodes disenchantment sets in as it did in real life and the drama ends in Amiens, France (early 1920) in a fevered climax. By this time the sheen has come off all the characters. I no longer cared much about Vita and Harold but was concerned about Violet especially and Denys who are left with ruined futures - we are not told what happened to them and they are not contextualised in the drama. The absence of Violet's powerful and famous mother Alice Keppel is a flaw as she was instrumental in the ending of the affair. The DVD includes a very short note about Vita but nothing about the others.

The post script is that Vita and Violet continued their relationship as far as they could until Spring 1921. Denys Trefusis sought a formal separation which would have brought the whole affair into the public domain (he was penniless and would need alimony I suppose but he was also seething from humiliation). Lawyers and matriarchs came onto the scene and Vita agreed, through lawyers, to give Violet up. Violet became bereft, lost and declassee or ostracised from high society - a great humiliation for her mother, rich grande dame Alice Keppel (Edward VII's discreet, clever mistress). Violet and Denys eventually reached an agreement and went to live in France - the spoiled marriage turned into a fragile companionship funded by Mrs Keppel. Denys introduced the lonely Violet to the high priestess of arts and music, Princess Polignac and that love affair was tolerated because of its discretion. This enabled the brilliantly intelligent Violet (we don't see much of this in the TV series) to become classee in Paris's (and Florentine) high society. She never married again but, after poor Denys died of consumption she went back to her flirting ways -even as a grande dame -and had many a male suitor as she did before she met Vita. Not many in France and Italy knew about her true past. There must have been a buried sadness - she knew that her great ambition had failed; she lived in the artificial life she had once so hated. But she was based in France. Her heart was French, she said. She once prophesied that her life would be one of waste. Maybe it was but she gave a lot of pleasure to the many people who knew her. She published several novels and her memoires.

Vita and Harold lived in companionship and never had intimate relations again. Vita continued to have affairs and wrecked a couple of marriages on the way but managed to have an enduring mostly platonic, passionate friendship with Virginia Woolf. There is evidence that Violet and Vita felt the flame again in their middle age but desisted. The friendship was worn down by disappointment - both represented fallen ideals and wasted potential. Harold had his liaisons but they were never grand affairs. Vita became quite reclusive at Sissinghurst and her biography politely implies she may have liked the alcohol a bit too much in older age. She was ambivalent towards her children. She and Harold lived apart most of the time but their affectionate companionship endured to the end and Harold - a man of real substance with a raft of books to his name - was left desolate when Vita died in 1962. The beautiful garden at Sissinghurst is the best portrait of their marriage. Violet was the last to leave this earth in 1972 -

"My heart was more disgraceful, more alone
And more courageous than the world has known,
O passer by my heart was like your own."

Shortly after Violet's passing, Nigel Nicolson's book was published. London (and Paris and Florence for the first time) was aghast all over again. And now, here we are. Just buy this DVD. It's honestly one of the best BBC dramas ever. I'd give this more stars if I could.
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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A marriage of intrigue and bewilderment: for modern standards nothing but social dinosaurs,, 13 Aug 2008
By 
Amelrode (Vilvoorde) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Portrait of a Marriage [DVD] (DVD)
Based on the book by their son Nigel this movie shows the story of the marriage of Vita Sackville-West, the famous novelist, poet and biographer, and Sir Harold Nicolson, diplomat and author. Vita had numerous love affaires with woman, while Harald had his male affaires. Nevertheless the couple maintained their marriage - bisexual couple share a bond of understanding and affection.

The central issue is affaire of Vita with Violet Keppel, Mrs. Denys Trefusis, the daughter of Alice Keppel, the famous mistress of King Edward VII and aunt to Camilla Parker-Bowles. It is quite an amazing story and most instructive in class terms and prejudices against homosexual love.

For modern viewers there is nothing shocking in the sexual sense; but the social behaviour is breathtakingly shocking: duplicitous, self-seeking, naive, decant and hypocritical and utterly snobbish. The break off scene between Vita and Violet in a hotel in France is so utterly kitsch and silly, but very difficult to stomach: Vita breaks off with Violet because she might have sexual relations with Denys Trefusis, the man she recently had married, whilst Vita has two children with Harold and actually the Trefusis-Keppel marriage contract stipulates that no sexual relations will take place and they did not. How very trifle!!

The concerns about money, status and class are unbelievable and watching it seems to me one is watching social dinosaurs. Sex and marriage are separated and more often they spend their lives apart, except in old ages one is moving closer. The worse part at last: the treatment of the children of this upper-class lady, especially Vita is just disgusting. One could be homosexual, but one needed to be discreet. Harold was, so it fine, Vita and Violet were not and therefore it was scandalous.

All in all it is a great movie to learn about the upper-class world between the two world wars. The acting portraits this to perfection. Gay love still is difficult as it has to encounter still prejudices, but the world has luckily moved on and wed live so much freer. So it is look back into a world long gone. Let us hope it stays that way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great reproduction of the book., 26 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Portrait of a Marriage [DVD] (DVD)
Broadcast many years ago on the BBC and seemingly never repeated, it was great to watch this mini-series again. This is a great series to watch if you want to learn a bit of the background around Sissinghurst - Vita Sackville-West created the gardens there with husband, Harold and you get to see many shots of both the house and grounds in the programme. If you're interested in lesbian history, this is also a great dvd of the history of one of Vita's more dramatic relationships. Well worth the purchase.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but left me wanting a bit more, 19 Mar 2010
By 
Diane Burke (Perth, WA formerly Aberdeen UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I remember watching this in 1992 when it was first shown on the Beeb - after the 9.30pm watershed. However I can imagine that were it filmed for today's audience, there would be pretty much more than seeing two women cuddling in bed!

McTeer & Harrison were excellent in their portrayal of Vita Sackville-West & Violet Trefusis. Given that Janet McTeer is around 6 feet in height, she wore Vita's "uniform" well and also bore quite a striking resemblance to her.

Although this was well cast, those who were expecting to see a real turmoil in the marriage could be left disappointed. We saw the decadence of the post-war era with women travelling to France to be able to carouse with their lesbian lovers and see Vita & Violet in a cafe dancing a wild tango but I really felt that I wasn't seeing the real true reason why both these women felt the need to shock and destroy the lives of both men in their lives except when Violet reveals her true feelings for Denys Trefusis.

I read a book on Violet's mother which spent an entire chapter to this affair and got a real taste for Violet's dissolute nature and complete disregard for everyone around her. And that was just one chapter of a whole book that had nothing really to do with her!

Violet does come across as a pretty distasteful character and we feel the shame and humiliation of Denys Trefusis who dies not long after this affair is over.

In reality, Violet & Vita stay in contact and meet from time to time over the ensuing years but there is very little to see in the love between Vita and Harold in their later years. It would have been good to see more of that to see how their marriage survived and exactly what impact it had on their children whom we rarely see but we do see Vita as a loving mother in a brief interlude.

There is only Harold shown in the time after Vita's death in 1962 and we see the beautiful garden she created at Sissinghurst which is a lasting legacy to a woman who may not have set out to make her mark on history but this series and her written works as well as her beautiful garden will ensure that both she and Violet Trefusis are not forgotten.

This series was done with the craft that we have expected over the years from Auntie Beeb and does give a good period flavour but there was just something lacking.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A marriage of intrigue and bewilderment: for modern standards nothing but social dinosaurs, 13 Aug 2007
By 
Amelrode (Vilvoorde) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Based on the book by their son Nigel this movie shows the story of the marriage of Vita Sackville-West, the famous novelist, poet and biographer, and Sir Harold Nicolson, diplomat and author. Vita had numerous love affaires with woman, while Harald had his male affaires. Nevertheless the couple maintained their marriage - bisexual couple share a bond of understanding and affection.

The central issue is affaire of Vita with Violet Keppel, Mrs. Denys Trefusis, the daughter of Alice Keppel, the famous mistress of King Edward VII and aunt to Camilla Parker-Bowles. It is quite an amazing story and most instructive in class terms and prejudices against homosexual love.

For modern viewers there is nothing shocking in the sexual sense; but the social behaviour is breathtakingly shocking: duplicitous, self-seeking, naive, decant and hypocritical and utterly snobbish. The break off scene between Vita and Violet in a hotel in France is so utterly kitsch and silly, but very difficult to stomach: Vita breaks off with Violet because she might have sexual relations with Denys Trefusis, the man she recently had married, whilst Vita has two children with Harold and actually the Trefusis-Keppel marriage contract stipulates that no sexual relations will take place and they did not. How very trifle!!

The concerns about money, status and class are unbelievable and watching it seems to me one is watching social dinosaurs. Sex and marriage are separated and more often they spend their lives apart, except in old ages one is moving closer. The worse part at last: the treatment of the children of this upper-class lady, especially Vita is just disgusting. One could be homosexual, but one needed to be discreet. Harold was, so it fine, Vita and Violet were not and therefore it was scandalous.

All in all it is a great movie to learn about the upper-class world between the two world wars. The acting portraits this to perfection. Gay love still is difficult as it has to encounter still prejudices, but the world has luckily moved on and wed live so much freer. So it is look back into a world long gone. Let us hope it stays that way.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A marriage of intrigue and bewilderment: for modern standards nothing but social dinosaurs, 31 July 2007
By 
Amelrode (Vilvoorde) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Based on the book by their son Nigel this movie shows the story of the marriage of Vita Sackville-West, the famous novelist, poet and biographer, and Sir Harold Nicolson, diplomat and author. Vita had numerous love affaires with woman, while Harald had his male affaires. Nevertheless the couple maintained their marriage - bisexual couple share a bond of understanding and affection.

The central issue is affaire of Vita with Violet Keppel, Mrs. Denys Trefusis, the daughter of Alice Keppel, the famous mistress of King Edward VII and aunt to Camilla Parker-Bowles. It is quite an amazing story and most instructive in class terms and prejudices against homosexual love.

For modern viewers there is nothing shocking in the sexual sense; but the social behaviour is breathtakingly shocking: duplicitous, self-seeking, naive, decant and hypocritical and utterly snobbish. The break off scene between Vita and Violet in a hotel in France is so utterly kitsch and silly, but very difficult to stomach: Vita breaks off with Violet because she might have sexual relations with Denys Trefusis, the man she recently had married, whilst Vita has two children with Harold and actually the Trefusis-Keppel marriage contract stipulates that no sexual relations will take place and they did not. How very trifle!!

The concerns about money, status and class are unbelievable and watching it seems to me one is watching social dinosaurs. Sex and marriage are separated and more often they spend their lives apart, except in old ages one is moving closer. The worse part at last: the treatment of the children of this upper-class lady, especially Vita is just disgusting. One could be homosexual, but one needed to be discreet. Harold was, so it fine, Vita and Violet were not and therefore it was scandalous.

All in all it is a great movie to learn about the upper-class world between the two world wars. The acting portraits this to perfection. Gay love still is difficult as it has to encounter still prejudices, but the world has luckily moved on and wed live so much freer. So it is look back into a world long gone. Let us hope it stays that way.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Most enjoyable., 18 April 2014
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This review is from: Portrait of a Marriage [DVD] (DVD)
Having read the book and also studied the life and times of Vita, Violet and Virginia Woolf, I feel this was a fair attempt at a true representation of the facts. Well acted and enjoyable. You shoul read the book as well!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very good!, 22 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Portrait of a Marriage [DVD] (DVD)
This was a good,well written biography covering the lives of these morally and spiritually bankrupt but gifted people.

How they needed the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ! their lives were a parable akin to the book of Ecclesiastes of the tragedy of a life lived without any reference to their Creator.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Strong interest in the Bloomsbury set, 1 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Portrait of a Marriage [DVD] (DVD)
An excellent portrayal of a tempestuous relationship. I've visited Knole where Vita was born and also Sissinghurst where she lived with Harold Nicolson.
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