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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A dramatisation of a pivtol moment in cultural history, 28 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Chatterley Affair [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Poor Lawrence- D.H, that is. Lawrence can never escape his reputation as smut-peddlar and people giggle and snigger, particularly when it comes to Lady Chatterley's Lover- his most notorious book and unfortunately not his best, though it is a clear representation of many of his themes.

The movie (a TV one made by the BBC) dramatises the momentous court case where Penguin Books was brought under a charge of publishing obscene literature. The book in question was Lady Chatterley's Lover, which had never received an unexpurgated publishing in Britain, though it was first published in 1930. Alongside the tension of the trial, two of the jurors (Rafe Spall and Louise Delamere) begin an affair that mirrors the events of the novel- first accidentally, and then literally, as they try out everything in the novel.

Keith (Spall) is working class but the power dynamic of the novel is shifted as he is shown the ropes by the upper class Helena (Delamere). It's a good way of drawing in viewers who won't have heard of the novel or Lawrence, much less care, and helps to add some stakes in a trial where we know the outcome.

The most interesting part is not the jurors but the trial, which is pretty much verbatim. Most notable of the defendents of the novel was literary critic Richard Hoggart (David Tennant), who endures the snobbery and moral outrage of Mervyn Griffith-Jones (Pip Torrens). What emerges most strongly is that it does not matter whether the novel is the best thing in the English language or whether it's a lesser Lawrence novel. The idea of 'literary merit' and how one judges it evolved from moral judgement and applauding decency to a more nuanced reading. If art is made honestly, even if it does not entirely succeed, it should not be banned.

Of course, one could view this as just another attempt to throw a bit of Lawrence into the schedules in order to titillate the viewer. There is full frontal nudity and frankness about sex...well, like the novel. However, the jurors are genuinely trying to explore these depths- can one really have a passion like in Lady Chatterley's Lover and is it really worth the risk? A key aspect of the book is that despite rather blunt language, Lawrence speaks quite tenderly about sex. He did have a tendency to be overly serious so it is sometimes unintentionally funny, paving the way for Ian McEwan and other literary writers, but we forget the magnitude of what he was doing and the importance of his message. I think that the film deals with that nicely without becoming over-reverential. This is not a hagiography.

I shall leave you with a quote from the novel. Judge for yourself how accurate it is today: "It's the one insane taboo left: sex as a natural and vital thing. They won't have it, and they'll kill you before they'll let you have it."
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