Women in Love (1969)

women in love poster 1969 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Complex story and characters, good locations

Feels underplayed at points and then overplayed

Movie Info

Movie Name: Women in Love

Studio: Brandywine Productions

Genre(s): Drama/Romance

Release Date(s):  November 13, 1969 (UK)/March 25, 1970 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

women in love gudrun ursula graveyard glenda jackson jennie linden

Looking for love in all the wrong places…

Sisters Gudrun Brangwen (Glenda Jackson) and Ursula Bragwen (Jennie Linden) have different views on love, but they are both testing the water.  Times are changing in the region following World War I, and the old ways are not sustainable.  While Ursula sets her sights on the introspective Rupert Birkin (Alan Bates), Gudrun finds herself more attracted to the colder and more emotional Gerald Crich (Oliver Reed).  Gerald and Rupert also have different interpretations of love, and the clash of expectations is coming.

Directed by Ken Russell, Women in Love is a romance-drama.  The film is an adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s 1920 novel and was released to controversy and criticism due to its portrayal of nudity and sexuality.  The film won an Academy Award for Best Actress (Jackson) with nominations for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Cinematography.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #916).

Ken Russell’s big and acclaimed movies are harder to find than many of his less than stellar films…the reason probably is that Russell takes risks so movies like Women in Love and The Devils might not make it to TV or fit on the shelf at the standard school…which makes them all the more desirable.

women in love naked wrestling alan bates oliver reed

You know, a casual naked wrestling match with your best friend…everyone does it…right?

Women in Love isn’t an easy film and it is a film that is open to a lot of interpretation.  Largely a character driven film, the movie deals with different personalities and viewpoints, and it also heavily deals with sex (not just love).  The movie’s question of “love” is the central aspect…what is love and what types of love are there?  The two couples represent different sides of that argument and in the middle of it all there is the homosexual tension between the two male characters that is explored through aspects of toxic masculinity and an inability to emote in any traditional form.  While Ursula and Rupert navigate the confusing maze, Gudrun and Gerald get lost in it…ending in tragedy.

The movie is also daring for the actors involved.  Jackson’s headstrong and opinionated Gudrun earned her an Academy Award but also made her the first actress to do nude scenes in her award winning performance.  Jennie Linden has the less juicy role but she is tied to the more refined (but honestly probably as deeply troubled) Rupert who Alan Bates plays as cool and collected.  Like his outside persona, Oliver Reed is a wrecking ball of emotion and repressed emotion.  His character could easily be written off as a closeted homosexual that overcompensates because of his inability to freely love, but it feels like there is more going on with the character than that.

women in love alps oliver reed glenda jackson

Let’s go to the Alps…it will be fun and relaxing…or not

Russell also excels at the visuals.  The movie’s centerpiece and most cited scene is the male, full-frontal wrestling scene which caused censorship problems, but the nuances of the rest of the film in comparison to scenes like this create a jarring contrast.  What might be seen from the title as a sappy period romance to those unfamiliar with Lawrence is a rather hardcore almost anti-romance created in part by the contrasting visuals.

Women in Love is a very interesting film, and though it was released in 1969 where society views were changing, I don’t see how the audiences and viewers would take it (an example is Oliver Reed who starred in the shiny, happy Oliver! the year before).  The film is a rough film that feels ahead of its time.  If you haven’t seen Women in Love you should seek it out…it is long, but it is worth the investment.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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