a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Women in Love: filming the drowning


The dangerous cattle scene in Women in Love
Billy Williams Film-maker
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

Now in the summer of 1968 Ken Russell asked me to photograph Women In Love, from the novel... the classic novel by DH Lawrence, and an American, Larry Kramer, had adapted the... the screenplay and was a producer also, and when I read the script and I read the book I realised that it had the most incredible variety of different photographic moods and opportunities to... to do different things, which I'd dabbled with a little bit in commercials. I'd shot some commercials with... with Richard Lester a couple of years before in which we used a variety of coloured filters for some commercials for Grant whisky, and I'd got the flavour of... of trying to use different colours to express a certain mood and times of day, and there was an extended sequence in Women In Love in which this presented a marvellous chance to... to really use colour in a way that it hadn't been used very much before, to capture the time of day and the mood.

And this sequence starts with a day exterior sequence in a wood with the two sisters, played by Glenda Jackson and Jennie Linden. They're having a picnic and Glenda gets up when a herd of highland cattle appear and they look quite frightening, these cattle with their long curly horns, and she proceeds to dance amongst them and it becomes like a ballet with her waving her arms about and bending her body, just like a dancer, and she mingles amongst the cattle and the cattle are all tossing their heads around and these great long horns are making wonderful arcs. And we chose to shoot it with a handheld camera and... and David Harcourt was in amongst these cattle; it... it looked quite dangerous. In fact there weren't any mishaps, but it looked quite dangerous with these cattle, and he and Glenda were right in amongst the cattle and Ken shot so much material of this and I... I thought: when are we going to finish shooting these cattle.

But he... he had it in his mind how he was going to edit it and also how he would use the music, because Ken was... you know, he was... great... great knowledge of music and I think he had a certain rhythm in his mind when we were shooting. And the final result was that it's like a ballet and it finishes up with these cattle becoming so terrified that they all run away and at that point, Oliver Reed and Alan Bates appear and Oliver Reed is infuriated because they're his cattle and there then develops a... a scene between Ollie and Glenda about these cattle, but it leads up to a kind of confrontation in which she finishes up slapping his face, and a little later he confesses to being in love with her. And they're in this forest with a brilliant lake behind them and there's a tight two-shot where they're both looking at each other in profile and... they're almost in silhouette, and there... there's a certain point where he moves a lock of hair from her face and I thought: that is so dark that I don't think it'll register, but I wasn't quite sure. So I tried to light the scene to give a bit more light on the faces so that this gesture — which was quite important — was apparent, and... and I put up a lamp and it looked dreadful. And so I thought: this isn't going to work, I’ll... I'll take a chance and... and go with... with the available light, and I suppose they must have been about four stops under-exposed on the skin tone and so... but it was only just there. But in fact it worked and... and the mood of it... it helped the mood of the scene so much that... that they were very dark figures against this beautiful shimmering lake behind them.

Billy Williams, London-born cinematographer Billy Williams gained his first two Oscar nominations for the acclaimed “Women in Love” and “On Golden Pond”. His third nomination, which was successful, was for the epic “Gandhi”. He was President of the British Society of Cinematographers, and was awarded the Camera Image Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.

Listeners: Neil Binney

Neil Binney began working as a 'clapper boy' in 1946 on spin-off films from steam radio such as "Dick Barton". Between 1948-1950 he served as a Royal Air Force photographer. From 1950 he was a Technicolor assistant technician working on films such as John Ford's "Mogambo" (photographed by Freddie Young), Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (Bob Burke), and Visconti's "Senso" (G.R. Aldo/B. Cracker). As a camera assistant he worked on "Mind Benders", "Billy Liar" and "This Sporting Life". Niel Binney became a camera operator in 1963 and worked with, among others, Jack Cardiff, Fred Tammes and Billy Williams. He was elected associate member of the British Society of Cinematographers in 1981 and his most recent credits include "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Fierce Creatures".

Duration: 4 minutes, 34 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008