Few viewers today are going to be particularly surprised by Lawrence’s uninhibited attitude to sex.
The programme-makers could, I suppose, dial up the sexiness a notch (“Hey Lady C, what say we put on these gimp-masks and get some of the pheasants involved? The sex-scenes are tastefully dull, moodily lit and accompanied by a stately string section rather than a slap-bass, kazoo and slide-whistle (that would have been my choice).
Sir Clifford is the most interesting and heartbreaking character, which denies the lovelorn Constance any sense of romantic justification (Oh, you’ve abandoned your disabled husband to have sex in a shed? Sir Clifford turns a blind eye to Constance’s convention-defying rumpy-pumpy because he is filled with shame and wants an heir.
He drives around in a little motorised car, talks at length about coal mining and is totally, comically oblivious to the glowering sulks of his chippie, oversexed employee.
The most dramatic scene is one in which, after discovering Constance is pregnant, Mellors has to push Sir Clifford’s broken-down jalopy. On discovering the identity of his cuckolder, Sir Clifford has a tantrum.
, had a Tinder bio it would read: “Hi ladies, I’m a grunting, glowering brute who lives in a shack in the woods. What woman doesn’t fantasise about a skulking backwoodsman who has named his genitals?
Likes: long walks on the beach.” Mellors is so dreamy.
The new Jed Mercurio adaptation of (Sunday, BBC 1) opens by interspersing shots of coal-mining class struggle and sodden trench warfare with the courtship, wedding and love-making of Sir Clifford (James Norton) and Lady Chatterley (Holliday Grainger).
These are all, the film makers seem to be suggesting, versions of the same thing.
And embittered class warrior Mellors (Richard Madden) attacks all activities with the same brow-furrowed singularity of purpose. When, early in the programme, Sir Clifford is blown up by a German grenade, Mellors looms over him in the trench and takes command of the unit.
When a badly injured Sir Clifford returns home and hires Mellors as groundskeeper, Mellors takes over from him in attending to other tasks, such as shirtless pheasant cultivation and wife-pleasuring. The short version: lonely Lady Constance Chatterley befriends an eccentric tramp who lives in the woods and with whom she has adventures. There’s not really much else to the plot of DH Lawrence’s novel.
Literary novels aren’t as dependent on plot as television drama is, which really makes them unsuitable for adaptation. No contemporary viewer can feel the visceral cognitive dissonance Lawrence’s original readers may have felt about the across-the-divide love.
Without such a codified class system, it’s a little hard to appreciate the melodrama (Yes, my wife spends a lot of time with our groundskeeper and, now you mention it, I’m not sure why a three bedroom terraced house in Marino needs a groundskeeper, but that’s a totally different situation).