Priest of Love (1981)

Priest of Love (1981)


Tired of fighting British’s censorship, controversial author, D.H. Lawrence (Ian McKellen, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), and his wife, Frieda (Janet Suzman, Nicholas and Alexandra), move to Mexico where they are supported by Miss Luhan (Ava Gardner, Mogambo), an eccentric patron of arts. Later, the couple returns to Europe where the writer begins work on his most famous novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Priest of Love, written by Alan Plater based on Harry T. Moore’s 1974 book The Priest of Love: A Life of D H Lawrence and directed by Christopher Miles (The Virgin and the Gypsy), is a handsome, but a bit untidy exploration of the private life of a literary giant.

I thought that the film tried to cover too much ground in little screen time. Priest of Love does get better as the story narrows its focus on Lawrence’s struggle to finish Lady Chatterley’s Lover — this is by far the best section of the film.

I’m not sure why the film was shot on real locations, over four countries, because we see little of the beautiful locales. I would have loved to see the film make a correlation between Lawrence’s endless mood swings and the local milieu.

But Priest of Love is filled with wonderful performances. Ian McKellen is excellent as the mercurial Lawrence (the actor has an uncanny resemblance with the author). Janet Suzman is his match as the author’s German wife. Ava Gardner, in her last theatrical film, seems to be enjoying herself. John Gielgud’s (Arthur) tongue-in-cheek “villain” is fun to watch. Sarah Miles (Ryan’s Daughter) has an amusing cameo (she’s the director’s sister).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts: 

Flawed, but interesting bio-pic. Shot by Oscar-winner cinematographer Ted Moore (A Man For All Seasons and Dr. No) — it was his last movie. Anthony Powell (Travels with My Aunt and Death on the Nile), who is known for his obsession with authenticity, designed the beautiful wardrobe. Color, 99 minutes (director’s cut runs 125 minutes), Rated R.

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