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The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)

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1:59 | Trailer
A film is being made of a story, set in 19th century England, about Charles, a biologist who's engaged to be married, but who falls in love with outcast Sarah, whose melancholy makes her ... See full summary »

Director:

Karel Reisz

Writers:

John Fowles (novel), Harold Pinter (screenplay)
Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 9 wins & 15 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Meryl Streep ... Sarah and Anna
Jeremy Irons ... Charles and Mike
Hilton McRae Hilton McRae ... Sam
Emily Morgan Emily Morgan ... Mary
Charlotte Mitchell Charlotte Mitchell ... Mrs. Tranter
Lynsey Baxter ... Ernestina
Jean Faulds Jean Faulds ... Cook
Peter Vaughan ... Mr. Freeman
Colin Jeavons ... Vicar
Liz Smith ... Mrs. Fairley
Patience Collier ... Mrs. Poulteney
John Barrett ... Dairyman
Leo McKern ... Dr. Grogan
Arabella Weir ... Girl on Undercliff
Ben Forster ... Boy on Undercliff
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Storyline

A film is being made of a story, set in 19th century England, about Charles, a biologist who's engaged to be married, but who falls in love with outcast Sarah, whose melancholy makes her leave him after a short, but passionate affair. Anna and Mike, who play the characters of Sarah and Charles, go, during the shooting of the film, through a relationship that runs parallel to that of their characters. Written by Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

She was lost from the moment she saw him.

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 January 1982 (Netherlands) See more »

Also Known As:

La amante del teniente francés See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$22,600,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Juniper Films See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In "Harold Pinter's The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981): A Masterpiece of Adaptation" from the book "The Films of Harold Pinter" (2001), author Steven H. Gale states that "Acton's Report" which is mentioned in the film by Meryl Streep, when she says in the journal "The Lancet" that there were estimated in 1857 to be 80,000 working prostitutes in the County of London and that one house in sixty functioned as a brothel, references the work "Prostitution, Considered in Its Moral, Social, and Sanitary Aspects" (1857) by William Acton. See more »

Goofs

When Charles visits the garden and his bride to be is firing arrows, as she sees him she loads a new arrow - then there is a cut to a closer shot and she is loading the new arrow again. See more »

Quotes

Sarah: I have long imagined a day such as this. I have longed for it. I was lost from the moment I saw you.
Charles Henry Smithson: I too.
See more »


Soundtracks

Adagio from Sonata in D, K 576
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (as Mozart)
Played by John Lill
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
A multi-chambered Nautilus shell fossilized in stone.
24 January 2003 | by budmasseySee all my reviews

This movie opens with a scene of an archaeologist chipping at a multi-chambered Nautilus shell fossilized in stone. The image is apropos, as the story itself opens from chamber to ever larger chamber as it weaves two seemingly disparate stories with a clever ending.

Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep are impressive as the leads in two different time lines. In one, Streep is a woman of poor reputation who ensnares a gentleman (Irons) in the black hole of her own guilt and loss. In the other, they are the romantically involved actors making a movie about a woman of poor reputation who ensnares a gentleman. And if that sounds a little too clever, it nonetheless has more creativity and insight than typical plot-twist movie, including the most contrived and overrated movie of all time, Memento (not good enough to be called bad).

There is a scene, in which Streep and Irons are rehearsing a scene from the movie, and, according to the story, it just isn't working. Then, all at once, Streep gets a look on her face, and we are transported into the past time line with a single glance from the greatest working actress and second only to Katherine Hepburn as the greatest actress of all time.

The cinematography, costumes and set designs are legendary, and come from the same team that gave us The Count of Monte Christo, which featured Guy Pearce, who was in the above-mentioned Memento (it still stinks, but how's that for six degrees?). And speaking of legends, the screenplay was written by none other than Nobel laureate Harold Pinter, and it shows.

It is a sublime movie experience to watch the delicately chambered story open up, and there are scenes that are so memorable, like Streep on the misty pier, that you would swear this movie comes from the Golden Age of cinema, not the go-go eighties. The movie is emotionally draining, and Streep gives a typically high concept performance. Irons lacks something, but it's not clear what, but in the end it helps support the story by making him appear flawed enough to have been trapped in the intricate web of The French Lieutenant's Woman.


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