Press Office

Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

Programme Information

Network TV BBC Week 12
Women In Love feature –
interview with writer William Ivory

Rosamund Pike and Rachael Stirling star in William Ivory's compelling two-part drama based on DH Lawrence's books

Women In Love

New this week on BBC FOUR

Rosamund Pike, Rachael Stirling, Rory Kinnear and Joseph Mawle star in Women In Love, a compelling new two-part drama by William Ivory (Faith, A Thing Called Love, Common As Muck) for BBC Four. Based on two novels by DH Lawrence – The Rainbow and Women In Love – which Lawrence originally intended to publish as one, Ivory has melded the books together in line with Lawrence's original vision as part of BBC Four's new Modern Love season exploring love and sexuality in 20th-century literature.

Here, William reveals how he became involved in the drama.

"About six years ago, Company Pictures' boss George Faber came to see me in Nottingham to discuss what we might like to make together next. George had produced my very first piece, Journey To Knock, and since then we had completed several programmes together.

"He asked if I'd considered adaption. I said I had but essentially thought it dishonest. After all, copying out is hardly writing. But then George explained he had a particular title in mind: Women In Love. My reservations instantly disappeared.

"For a start, you can't just copy Lawrence out. Because the narrative is not what makes him great; it is the internal dialogue of his characters and that of himself with his own consciousness which marks him a genius. And to get that on screen would be a challenge.

"Additionally, I was keen because I liked what Lawrence was as a writer; what he stood for. Which was, essentially, abandon and a lack of the cool, ironic detachment which seems to so delight current, post-modern audiences but which drives me mad. Lawrence is unashamedly there, pronouncing and pontificating, every word coming from deep within his self, utterly heartfelt and damning of self-restraint. He wore his heart on his sleeve and therefore left himself exposed to the easiest (and most cruel) forms of criticism.

"And, finally, I wanted to take on Lawrence because he was a Nottinghamshire lad, and so am I. And there is something about this county and how it is, which provokes an extreme sensibility, a way of looking at the world which is all about contrast and ebb and flow and which seems to have its origins in the coal mining around which Lawrence (and I) grew up and which forged lives and personalities which were at once totally industrial and, at the same time, entirely rural.

"So, a long process began. And quite quickly, I became convinced of the need to combine The Rainbow and Women In Love in some way; to go back to Lawrence's original idea for the story of the Brangwen sisters (when he'd first set out, it was to write a two-part novel called The Sisters).

"Once I'd begun the process, I was certain it was the right decision, since so much of what concerned Lawrence was the effect of family, of parents, in shaping not just our core social values but also the much deeper ones around passion and sexuality, and it was only in looking at the genesis of Gudrun and Ursula and properly understanding their relationships with Will and Anna, their parents, that one started to fully combine with the essential themes of the books and, particularly, to make sense of the way in which the central quartet's doomed relationship plays out in Women In Love.

"In a sense, this first decision, to go back to the original starting point – the point at which Lawrence instinctively embarked – became emblematic for the whole process. Because my producer, Mark Pybus, felt, as I did, that if we were to tackle Lawrence at all it had to be in the most Lawrencian way. Therefore, to concern ourselves entirely with excavating and putting on screen the elemental, deconstructed and primary feelings of Lawrence and of his characters as they collided at the start of the last century became the only modus operandi. And what this meant, ultimately, was that whatever fears remained apropos copying out, they finally disappeared once and for all with the clear realisation that our sole task was to interpret these books so that their heartbeat could be felt; and Lawrence's too. At which point, what happened where and in what order, seemed hardly to matter, so long as the collective consciousness of the novels emerged in the end...

"And in our cast, in Joe (Mawle) and Rory (Kinnear), Rosamund (Pike) and Rachael (Stirling), as well as Saskia (Reeves) and Ben (Daniels), and Olivia (Grant), too, we gathered about us a group of brilliant actors, all as sharp and as intellectually tuned to the material as could be, but who trusted me and our director Miranda Bowen to guide them away from the Penguin copies they at first clung to like life jackets and to finally let go of them completely and to abandon the overly cerebral approach which it is so easy to adopt in grappling with any Lawrence and to (as Lawrence himself would say) 'lapse out' until they inhabited the purely sensual world of his imagination. That they did this and did it so well accounts for a piece of work and two films which I believe render the spirit of Lawrence utterly."

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