This is not the first time that DH Lawrence's scandalous 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' has been adapted for the big screen but Pascale Ferran's 'Lady Chatterley' - although there are still plenty of sex scenes - is a more cerebral affair than expected. Although this quintessentially English tale is filmed in French, it is still set in England during 1921. This version is adapted from the second version of the book that Lawrence wrote (published as 'John Thomas and Lady Jane'), detailing the affair between noblewoman Constance Chatterley (Hands) and one of her disabled husband's servants, a virile gamekeeper called Parkin (Coullo'ch).
Injured and embittered by his experiences in the First World War, the cerebral Lord Chatterley (Girardot) is confined to a wheelchair. He is nursed by his young wife, who is becoming lethargic and enervated by her curtailed life. Prescribed a lessening of duties and walks outdoors by her doctor, she encounters the taciturn Parkin and makes a habit of visiting the hut where he raises birds for hunting. Before long they embark on a physical affair, which has more layers than expected.
The slow-moving camera lovingly and unhurriedly contemplates leaves, flowers and the passing seasons as Connie is transformed from repressed wife to passionate lover. As the film's name suggests, she is the focus but here Parkin, too, is changed by their relationship as they move from early awkward fumbling to a full freedom and ease with the other.
In this story of a woman's awakening, the beautiful Marina Hands ('The Barbarian Invasions') makes a believable shift from worn down wife to luminous lover. Little-known actor Jean-Louis Coullo'ch, whose experience is mainly in theatre, has the believable body of a man used to hard physical labour and a presence to match.
Although 'Lady Chatterley' has a total of six sex scenes, some unapologetically silly (it certainly is difficult to keep a straight face as Connie and Parkin lark about in the rain, wearing nothing but their boots), there is more to focus on here than just naked bodies. A calmly intelligent film.