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Portrait of a Marriage [DVD] (1990)

4.5 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Janet McTeer, David Haig, Cathryn Harrison, Diana Fairfax, Peter Birch
  • Directors: Stephen Whittaker
  • Producers: Colin Tucker
  • Format: PAL, Full Screen, Dolby, Digital Sound, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: 2entertain
  • DVD Release Date: 30 Jun. 2008
  • Run Time: 220 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0010TG1UI
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,266 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Set in 1918, writer Vita Sackville-West and British aristocrat Harold Nicolson are a golden couple, who socialised in high society literary circles and whose friends included Virginia Woolf and T S Elliot.

Married in 1913, their love endured and deepended over the course of their 50 years together. Each, however, was knowingly and repeatedly unfaithful to the other, Vita most famously with fellow writer Virginia Woolf. But only one affair threatened their union: Vita's tempestuous liaison with her childhood friend Violet Keppel.

This 1990 BBC drama is the story of that affair based on an extraordinary literary biography by Nigel Nicolson, Vita and Harold's son.

Starring Janet McTeer (Songcatcher, The Governor), David Haig (Keeping Mum, Campion) and Cathryn Harrison (Original Sin, Wuthering Heights).

This adaptation of Portrait of a Marriage won 3 Bafta Awards.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: 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.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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.
Read more ›
Comment 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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