Written and directed by Academy AwardÂ(r) winner* Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons) and starring two-time Academy AwardÂ(r) winner** Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility) and Jonathan Pryce (Evita), Carrington is an... more » "emotionally complex, moving" (Los Angeles Times) tale of lifelong love with unorthodox compromises, that is utterly enthralling entertainment! Amid the trendy, bohemian scene of London's famed Bloomsbury group, DoraCarrington (Thompson), a talented young artist, first meets bon vivant and writer Lytton Strachey (Pryce). The two creative souls are instantly attracted, although Strachey's desires clearly lie elsewhere. The unlikely pair joyously spends colorful days pursuing their artsand discovering that love works in mysterious ways. But their blissful existence hangs in the balance when Carrington brings home a lover and they suddenly find themselves caught within a bizarre love triangle. As conflicting passions heat to a boiling point, will true love triumph or will Carrington lose her one and onlysoul mate forever? *1988: Adapted Screenplay, Dangerous Liaisons **1995: Adapted Screenplay, Sense and Sensibility; 1992: Actress, Howard's End« less
""How do you spell `intangible'?" Dora Carrington asks of Lytton Strachey midway through this film as she sits writing at her desk. How do you spell intangible, indeed. Carrington tells the story of people who tried, in their own way, and at a time when society did not encourage such experiments, to acknowledge openly what most of us are aware of but still reluctant to discuss: that a great many differences exist between love and desire.Carrington is one of the great epic romances, but a romance where sexual congress between the two who are passionately in love with each other has nothing whatever to do with the deep wells of feeling they share with each other. Like The Unbearable Lightness Of Being and Out of Africa, Carrington is a film that dares to examine the difference between desire and love, and looks at an adult subject in an adult way. As opposed to Hollywood's usual matter-of-fact insistence that love is a game with a win/lose dialectic simplistically painted in broad stokes, Carrington traces, rather, the fact that love is indeed a mystery which must be acknowledged and honored for the way that it can bring out the best in both people rather than a way of keeping emotional score.Emma Thompson is able to bring out the awkward, self-effacing aspects of Dora Carrington all the way down to the pigeon-toed stance the way the real life Carrington apparently stood. With all the impatience of a little girl who wishes that one day she'll wake up and finally find herself to be a sophisticated woman, she worships Lytton for his "cold and wise" attitude, his ability to see straight through the conventions of the time, and adopts him as her emotional mentor. She's an artist whom everyone in the Bloomsbury set knew, even though she never really considered herself a part of the circle, unlike Lytton, whom everyone swarmed around for his scorched earth policy of anti-Victorian insights and rapier wit. Carrington, it would appear, spent her whole life trying to figure herself out, like any true artist, and Thompson very ably transmits that lost quality throughout the film: even as she gains her confidence socially, sexually and artistically, the motivations of her heart she would never let be pressured, no matter how much physical affection and attention she needed. Which I think is an important distinction to make. There's a subtle, yet significant difference between "having sex" and "having a warm body next to yours," a bed buddy. So many women believe that the only way men want to appreciate their intimate worth is through their sexuality rather than their tenderness, which Carrington becomes all too consciously aware of, and one of the reasons why she is so drawn to the homosexual Lytton is not simply because he isn't a testosterone threat, but because his passive strength and appreciation of emotional fragility is so antithetical to traditional masculinity that she finds it very easy to forge a bond with someone who feels like a woman yet still thinks like a man. A virgin many years past the point of reason, it is as if Carrington bought in to the sexual revolution of the flapper era between the world wars and the way it tried to repeal the oppressiveness of Victorian morals, learning how to cultivate and appreciate the sensual needs of the body, but deep down realized that a healthy, vigorous sex life with a plethora of partners does not necessarily mean more love, but simply more sex. As Carrington points out in the film, with Lytton she was able to be herself in all her confusion and joy, and without the obligatory pressures of regular sexual performance was able to find in Lytton the only person she ever really felt emotionally comfortable with. Echoing that great line of TS Eliot's in Four Quartets, of a "love beyond desire." Jonathan Pryce, as Lytton Strachey, has the honor of portraying one of the best screen roles of all-time. Like Rex Harrison's Henry Higgins, or Liza Minnelli's Sally Bowles, his performance as Lytton is so fully realized that his character becomes unprecedented. Incorporating the attitude of, say, a bearded Oscar Wilde, Pryce's Lytton takes no prisoners and is disgusted by what he sees around him: the behaviour of the upper classes he finds himself eventually skirting is embarrassingly inexcusable to his ethically conscientious grounding. English boys are dying, he scowls, for their right to shamelessly frolic on the lawns of garden parties. When Lytton moves in with Carrington they both want commitment (with a small c), but also personal freedom. This ambiguity toward each other is parallel to their ambiguity toward the concept of fame, which they both courted in a very teasing way, but soon grew to realize that there is a lot more to be said for secure domesticity (no matter how loosely defined) than their behaviorally adventurous artistic peers. Because Carrington is intelligently written, directed, and acted, however, we do not see the behavior of each of them as simply willful and spoiled, but as part of the contradictions they need to stay individuals in a culture, and at a time, where the conventional notions of love and sex were strictly regimented. Jonathan Pryce plays Lytton with a sort of detachment that is supposed to come from the character's distaste for commitment. What's most surprising about this epic romance is that given the amount of territory it traverses (seventeen years) at an almost leisurely pace, it clocks in at only a hair over two hours, but when those two hours are over, you certainly feel as if you've been somewhere, seen something, been privy to so many more truths and realizations than you'll see in any other standard film about a romance. What we have here is a paradox: an old-fashioned story about an avant-garde arrangement. An intelligent, thoughtful love story, told with enough care and attention that we really get involved in the passions between the characters, not the algebra surrounding them."
Who was Carrington?
Malcolm Lawrence | 02/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"No one, it is fairly certain, would have been more dismayed by the present hoopla about Dora Carrington than Carrington herself. She was an extremely reclusive artist, described by a friend as being "as self-deprecating as a domestic pussy cat, almost incapable of self-praise." Yet here she is, the subject of a major film. What kind of artist was she? And, ultimately, how good? The first point to emerge is that, except socially and amorously, she had very little to do with "Bloomsbury."In art Bloomsbury was a Matissy outpost of Paris represented by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Carrington, on the other hand, was part of a distinguished generation at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, who graduated just before the First World War. Her contemporaries included Stanley Spencer, Mark Gertler-whose long and painful affair with Carrington is reduced to knockabout farce in the film-and C R W Nevinson. The Nash brothers, Paul and John, were also associates. It is with these more independent and, for the most part, more romantically English painters that she belongs. In sheer raw talent, Carrington was probably as well endowed as any of them. Her celebrated portrait of Lytton Strachey from 1916 is a wonderful picture-vivacious and subtle at the same time. It makes an interesting comparison with Gertler's (even stronger) portrait of Carrington herself. In both cases, of course, the painter was amorously obsessed with the sitter.The pictures she executed at Hurstbourne Tarrant in 1916 have that sense of a mysterious revelation in landscape that goes back to Samuel Palmer. The sharp contours of her masterpiece, Tidmarsh Mill (1918), remind one of John Nash and Stanley Spencer. This does not mean Carrington was a derivative artist, just that they were all working on parallel lines. The difference between her and the others is that she didn't sustain her promise. The later paintings tail off and some-for example the portrait of Julia Strachey from 1925 -- are decidedly weak.In the final years before her suicide in 1932, she seems almost to have given up painting-although it is a little hard to tell, as one of the many sad things about Carrington's life is that so much of her work has disappeared. Clearly she was a little lost in the world. Perhaps she lacked the necessary confidence and drive to push forward as an artist. Perhaps the difficulties of being a woman painter in those days and the complication of her private life wore her down. Maybe she suffered from a combination of all these factors. It is not in any case unusual for a talented artist to founder like this. To succeed needs character and luck as well as talent. A `Triangular Trinity of Happiness' was the way Dora Carrington described her early life with her husband Ralph Partridge and the writer Lytton Strachey. But, as Virginia Woolf foretold, Carrington's marriage was riskier than most, the boundaries of the menage shifted, like ice floes, to accommodate lovers who came and went, but the pivotal focus of Carrington's life remained her all-abiding passion for Lytton. The tale of their lives together is one of the most fantastic and poignant love stories this century. Against all odds `Carrington' (as she preferred to be known) and Lytton formed a platonic allegiance which weathered intensifying complications and became a `marriage' for life. Each had an aura about them and each helped shape the age in which they lived. When they met in 1915, Lytton was thirty-five and physically frail; Cambridge-educated and one of the group of friends that came to be known as old Bloomsbury. He was a writer, but yet to publish `Eminent Victorians' - an iconoclastic set of satirical biographical essays which would make his name; and his friends considered him the most brilliant of them all. He was also homosexual. Carrington had been a prize-winner, and one of the most popular and conspicuous students, at the Slade School of Fine Art. She was twenty-two, in rude health, and the first woman in London to crop her corn- coloured hair short enough to reveal the furrow in the nape of her neck. She was also involved in a volatile relationship with the painter Mark Gertler; their reputations went before them and art students of the time considered them a God and a Goddess. But in loving Gertler there was an innate menace to Carrington's freedom and it became the first of her troublesome relationships. Lytton first met Carrington at Asheham House, the Sussex country home of Virginia Woolf, and was instantly attracted by her androgynous appearance. Asheham was sunk in its own mysterious, little hollow in the Downs and was an oddly beautiful house with tall Gothic windows. It was here that the start of their mutual fascination began. They discussed physical relations, even gave them a try, but Carrington could never really resemble a well-nourished youth of sixteen; Though she was petite, several heads shorter than Lytton and had a quirky way of dressing. Lytton was bohemian-looking and emaciated. They were stared at in the street, whether together or apart. Carrington's short hair excited hostile yells and Lytton's unfashionable beard provoked `goat' bleatings. They were undoubtedly a curious looking couple but as Lytton described, their relationship testified to the fact that there are "A great deal of a great many kinds of love" and that they had found a kind that suited them. That they formed a loving relationship astonished even their non-conformist friends. Virginia would later joke to her sister Vanessa about one evening at Tidmarsh Mill (where Carrington and Lytton set up their first home together in 1917) when they quietly withdrew, "ostensibly to copulate," but were found to be reading aloud from Macaulay. These friends, most of whom had known each other from university days at Cambridge, became known as the Bloomsbury Group-comprising among other-Keynes, E M Forster, Roger Fry and Duncan Grant: economists, philosophers, writers and artists. They continued to meet in Thoby Stephen's house in Bloomsbury's Gordon Square and came to include Thoby's sisters, Vanessa and Virginia. Many years later, Carrington puzzled over the "quintessence" of Bloomsbury and concluded: "It was a marvelous combination of the highest intelligence, and appreciation of literature combined with a lean humour and tremendous affection. They gave it backwards and forwards to each other like shuttlecocks, only shuttlecocks multiplied as they flew in the air." She might have added that their code for life depended upon pacifism, personal relationships and aesthetic sensibilities; life based on freedom, idiosyncrasy and sexual libertinism. Carrington's ability for "plural affections" came to include the writer Gerald Brenan, with whom she began an intimate correspondence when he moved to Spain. Brenan was her husband Ralph's best friend; he also later became her lover. Carrington told Brenan that she was in love with the romantic life of Shelley. Within six months of demobilization Brenan had found himself a peasant house in the Andalucian mountains where he could eke out his war bonus and work his way through the 2000 books he had shipped in tea chests and so, for Carrington, Shelley lived on in Gerald. But although Brenan's philosophy was that love shared needn't mean love divided, he came to want Carrington conclusively and he, like Gertler, was capable of aping Othello. Forced to choose, Carrington chose Lytton and looked to satisfy her Shelley-like cravings for adventure elsewhere, experiencing some of the most perfect pleasure she had known with the seafaring Beacus Penrose on his Brixham trawler, the `Sans Pareil'. In Lytton, Carrington had found a light of mind she reverenced but, more importantly, he was the only person with whom she need never be anything other than herself. In the winter of 1932, after months of anxiety, Lytton died of an inoperable stomach cancer. Lytton had always been Carrington's `moon' and with his death, Carrington's own light went out. For some years Carrington had spiritually existed in a maelstrom. CARRINGTON: The Actors and Their Roles "Carrington loved painting people...and there were as many ways of painting portraits as there were faces." - Jane Hill, "The Art of Dora Carrington." The art of casting CARRINGTON was to capture the essence of the people in Dora's world: as the painter herself took liberties, transforming the spirit of her subjects from one artist's medium to the next, so the film makers were able to take theirs. But first, of course, came the casting of the mercurial Dora Carrington herself. And only one actress, Emma Thompson, was seriously considered for the role. Christopher Hampton calls it "a completely logical choice," having wanted her from the very first time the project was mooted with Mike Newell at the helm. "I think Emma has a sort of candour and openness which is not distant from Dora's character but aside from that it is also something completely different for her," he says. "I was just so happy"
Christopher Hampton's Carrington
Charles Tatum | 05/31/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A young female artist falls in love with a known homosexual and the two spend their remaining years in each other's lives. No, this is not a romantic comedy starring Julia Roberts, but "Carrington" is an emotional drama that is a triumph for Emma Thompson and Jonathan Pryce, and less than perfect for writer/director Christopher Hampton.The film is good. It takes place in the years 1914-1932 in England. Thompson is Dora Carrington, a troubled artist who falls for homosexual writer Lytton Strachey, played by Pryce. Strachey is a bit of a dramatic, suffering from "old age" and other infirmities, although he would be considered a young man. Strachey is first attracted to Carrington, thinking she is a young boy thanks to her pageboy haircut and lack of makeup.The two fall in love the only way they can: unphysically. They share a bed, but have no real sexual relationship and pursue the kind of physical love they cannot find with each other. Virigin Carrington falls for an angry artist who cannot understand their four year relationship with no sex. She is simply not attracted to his body, but gives in anyway, finding she does not enjoy sex anyway. She breaks it off with him, using her impending cohabitation with Strachey as a reason. She then brings home uptight army soldier Ralph, played by Steven Waddington. He is a man's man who does not understand all these artists and conscientious objectors (to WWI), but beds Carrington and, the film implies, Strachey. Ralph and Carrington marry and Ralph brings home friend Gerald for Strachey to "get to know." Gerald then suddenly falls in love with Carrington. The two have an affair. Strachey finds and loves a younger man named Roger, and Carrington dumps Gerald, later finding a guy with a boat who really likes his sex on the high seas. Ironically, he is not sexually attracted to Carrington, the very reason she broke up with the angry young artist. Strachey and Carrington end up back together in their strange living arrangement, and both meet their fates.Thompson and Pryce are so good here it hurts. The main problem I had was with Hampton's choice of subject matter. He based the film on a book about Strachey, titled the film after Carrington, and I kept noticing a real lack of focus as to the film's main character. Hampton also writes Strachey like he is a poor man's Oscar Wilde, coming up with pithy sayings in between heartbreaks. Carrington comes across as flighty and confused, but we do not see how disturbed she is until after Strachey's death, and Hampton could have elaborated on that a little more. More scenes about Carrington and Strachey's work might have helped as well. The two hour movie feels like compressed images from a long running soap opera. Why should the viewer care so much about these characters?Hampton the director is wonderful. In one scene, Carrington sits on a stump and, through a giant bank of windows, watches her husband and his live in mistress, Carrington's own new lover, and Strachey and Roger, all getting ready for bed. Hampton keeps the scene sad without becoming voyeuristic, as Carrington seems to be silently questioning all these men who have brought her to this place in time. Carrington's death is also handled tactfully.I would recommend "Carrington," but with the reservations about the script. I definitely would recommend it on the performances alone, if nothing else.This is rated (R) for mild physical violence, mild gun violence, profanity, some female nudity, brief male nudity, strong sexual content, strong sexual references, and adult situations."
Jonathan Pryce - never better
ivan1138 | Tallahassee,FL USA | 08/05/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you care at all about great acting, you must see this film. The story of Lytton Strachey and Dora Carrington, two characters you will never forget, will stand as one of the great love affairs of the last century. That their's was not a sexual affair, only serves to expand our understanding of what love is and can be. Emma Thompson equals or betters all of her previous film work, while Jonathan Pryce is a revelation as the openly gay Strachey. If you are a fan of Merchant/Ivory, or Terence Davies, or Marleen Gorris, you will love this handsomely crafted film biography."
Pryce and Thompson in a true tale of a great platonic love
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 10/25/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There is probably some profoundly deep irony to the idea that the writer Lytton Strachey was informed by Virginia Woolf that the ravishing young boy he had his eye on was really a woman, the painter Dora Carrington, but it remains outside of my grasp at this point. However, I am not surprised that this story of a profound platonic love between two people is taken from the pages of history, because Hollywood is rarely inclined of the consummations it routinely wishes (remember, the classic tale of Cyrano de Bergerac comes from a play and was not written directly for the screen). Strachey, Carrington, Woolf and most of the other characters in this 1995 film were members of the Bloomsbury Group, all of whom were eccentric British geniuses who explored the dynamics of human relationships in strange ways when they were not busy exorcising their artistic impulses. In a masterful understated performance Jonathan Pryce plays Lytton, who was a quiet, dry witted, reserved homosexual in his thirties when he met Carrington, played by Emma Thompson, who was 15 years younger and still a virgin. Their first meetings and the strange attraction that would bind them for the rest of their lives are sketched out in the first several scenes. The explanation for why they would live together while loving others is developed throughout the rest of the film. What becomes clear is that no matter who Lytton and Carrington took into their respective beds, or shared between them for that matter, no one mattered more to them. Ultimately, the tragedy of their relationship is not the absence of the physical dimension, but, as is often the case with most relationships, the failure of both to articulate the depth of their feelings to the other until fate cruelly rectifies that error.Thompson's character is on a par with the other victims of unrequited love she has played with great success in "Howard's End" and "The Remains of the Day." Writer-Director Christopher Hampton, working from Michael Holroyd's book on Lytton Strachey, expands her character through Carrington's art: she must have painted every corner of Ham Spray House, where they lived in Berkshire. She is the film's title character, not only because she survives Lytton, but because after they met and became friends (pure understatement, I assure you) she continued to pursue other interests and people while he was remarkably contempt to enjoy those she brought into their small circle.Still, it is Pryce's Lytton who is the captivating character. Like most British eccentrics he was a natural epigramist, but with a great sense of restraint, picking his moment for his one rapier thrust (even if it is on his own death bed). Carrington is the one who actively engages in the acts of intimacy between them while we have to remind our selves that Lytton's passive acceptance of it is out of a sense of propriety and not a lack of deep feelings. I have always had a strong affection for love stories that never enter the realm of the physical (is there a sexier scene in movies that the dance in "The King and I"?), and "Carrington" is a film in that tradition, especially for those with an affection for British period dramas."