1915. A World War rages off stage, but the world of the artists and writers of Bohemian London carries on its merry way, rejecting Victorian propriety in living, pomposity in politics and prettiness in the arts. Lytton Strachey, subtly undermining the great and the good, a tall, thin, bearded, bachelor, apparently a committed gay, goes to visit Virginia Woolf’s sister Vanessa on the South Coast of England. Here a bombshell hits his life - Dora Carrington, a wild, boyish young painter, fresh from Art School. As they walk along the cliff-tops, they hear the rumble of guns in France, and to that music form a bond of deep affection that will mark their lives for the next seventeen years.
While Lytton flirts with young men, Carrington resists all the burning young lovers who pursue her. Mark Gertler, a fellow painter, is driven to distraction by her refusals, and tries to force the issue. Lytton meanwhile is forced to appear before a Conscription Tribunal to explain his refusal to go to war, which he does graphically. He and Carrington spend a weekend at Lady Ottoline Morrell's country house. Carrington declares her love for Lytton, but Ottoline tries to persuade her to give in to Gertler. Lytton, however, takes her to Wales, where they share a bed. The remorseless Gertler also takes her away for a weekend in the country, with less than enjoyable results In the end she tells him she loves Lytton. But it is a love not likely to be consummated.
Lytton and Carrington begin an idyllic, passionate relationship; they rent a mill house together, to write and paint; they survive Gertler's wild assault on Lytton when he finds out; they defiantly break all the taboos of the old England in their desire to live freely and honestly.
Another young man, Ralph Partridge appears on the scene. Lytton falls in love with him, and threatens to break up their odd ménage-a-trois if Partridge goes to live in London. Carrington can't bear to lose Lytton: she marries Partridge to keep him and herself in Lytton's world. When she and Ralph go to Venice on their honeymoon, Lytton is there to greet them, both.
Enter also Gerald Brenan, Partridge's best friend, back from his travels in Spain. He soon becomes Carrington's lover, encouraged by Lytton, who sees no harm. Ralph and Gerald confront each other, but life goes on, as does the affair. But Carrington can take no man seriously except Lytton.
1920's. Lytton becomes very famous, or infamous, buys a bigger house in the country, and pursues more young men. Ralph pursues a sweet young woman, Frances. Lytton finds the young refreshing: they have no morals and they never speak. Carrington finds a balance in her life: she paints, looks after Lytton and finds sexual solace where she may.
1932. Lytton falls ill, and very soon dies. Carrington can's see the point of living without him: "What is the use of adventures now without you to tell them to?" The final entry in her diary reads:
"He first deceased, she for a little tried
To live without him, liked it NOT, and died".
Cast & Crew
Directed by: Christopher Hampton
Written by: Christopher Hampton
Produced by: Ronaldo Shedlo, John Mc Grath
Main Cast: Emma Thompson (Dora Carrington), Jonathan Pryce (Lytton Strachey), Steven Waddington (Ralph Partridge), Samuel West (Gerald Brenan), Rufus Sewell (Mark Gertler)
Nominations and Awards
- EFA Feature Film Selection 1995