The French Lieutenant's Woman

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  • Drama, Period, Postmodernism, Romance , produced in 1981 UK
  • Actors: Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons
  • Directed by: Karel Reisz
  • Rating: 6.80 out of 10 (4199 votes)
  • Plot Summary: In this dramatic film, director Karel Reisz and screenwriter Harold Pinter adapt the complex romantic novel by John Fowles, THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN. Set in 1867, Sarah Woodrough (Meryl Streep), a beautiful young woman, is condemned by society and driven into a deep melancholy because of her tragic affair with a French lieutenant. Fowles adds depth and texture to the story by including direct historical asides and scientific lessons by Charles Smithson (Jeremy Irons), a wealthy amateur paleontologist and follower of Charles Darwin. In addition, there is a film within the film in which modern-day (1981) characters Anna (Streep) and Mike (Irons) provide comments on the characters they're portraying, and a little history, but primarily provide a parallel story as they enter an adulterous affair of their own. The contrast between the Victorian and the contemporary affairs, at first jarring, is beautifully staged and photographed. Streep's two performances, as the passionate Sarah, with her beautiful head of pre-Raphaelite hair and as the cool, modern Anna, never converge; the distinctness of the division between the two characters symbolizes the almost unconscious perception that however distant a person feels from his repressed Victorian sexuality, it's still connected to him, as Darwin would say.
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