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Women In Love: On location at Kedleston Hall


Shooting Women in Love's confrontation scene
Billy Williams Film-maker
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When we went to Switzerland and we had this marvellous location at the foot of the Matterhorn, which of course Ken Russell couldn't resist using as a phallic symbol, and the...this Matterhorn rising up in so many scenes, and of course this complete change of light, going from, you know, all the greens of... of England and the scenes in the water and the wrestling scenes and candlelight scenes, we're now in this area of white and I'd done... previously I had done quite a bit of shooting in the snow in Finland and I realised that the best way to shoot snow scenes, particularly with mountains, was either with a cross light or a three-quarter back light, especially if it's sunny. Now as it happened we got a lot of sunny weather and... so I... I used this... this cross light and three-quarter backlight to give some depth to the mountains, because if... if you photograph mountains with flat light with the sun behind you, they look like a backing; you... you don't get any perspective to it. And so it was very important to shoot it at the right time of day and... and Ken was... was, you know, he was all for getting the best out of the location. And I remember we had a little... we had a little crane arm that you could put on the Elemac dolly and it... you could go up to about a height of about 9ft, so we were able to take this crane arm and the Elemac up to about 10,000ft, just under the... the Matterhorn, and that proved very useful in getting some movement into the shots. It was a crane you couldn't sit on, so if you wanted to go from a... a high position to a low position, the operator had to arrange a series of boxes so as the jib came down he climbed down the boxes. But that... it... it worked well and it gave us that additional flexibility.

Now the climax to this... these scenes in the snow is where... is a final confrontation between Oliver Reed and Glenda Jackson, in which, you know, he tries to strangle her. It's the end of their relationship, which has been tormented for some time. He tries to strangle her and... and just leaves her in the snow and walks away... and he just walks away and keeps walking and walking and walking. And he's got these big snowshoes on, it’s very deep snow and he's obviously intent on committing suicide. And so we have these series of shots, which we shot just as it was... as the light was going and the snow turned from being white to very... very blue in the shadows. It was a wonderful mixture of... of white and pale blue and dark blue, and we used the zoom lens. We had a zoom lens, which at times we overused, but what had happened was that because the Mitchell didn't have a mirrored shutter, you know, you were always looking through the view finder and you couldn't use a zoom lens until Angenieux — the Angenieux Company — bought out a 10:1 with a side finder. So you could put the 10:1 on and look through this long view finder rather than looking through the lens that... as you would in the Arriflex or a mirrored shutter camera, you looked through this long viewfinder and you'd got a 10:1 zoom. The only thing was that you had to get it to 5.6 in order to get reasonable quality; it still didn't match the prime lenses. But this was a new toy and Ken was very enamoured with it and looking at the movie years afterwards, you realise that we... we overused it because it was... it was the new thing and it... it sometimes saved you tracking, and so we did a lot of shots with this 10:1 zoom.

Well the best shot that we did with the zoom was of Oliver Reed, having walked about a mile I suppose, amongst all this frozen landscape, leaving his footprints, and we started off with him, sort of a tight full-length, trudging through the snow, sinking in about a foot with his footmarks, and zooming slowly back to... to reveal this magnificent snowscape with all the footprints where he'd wandered around and staggered. And finally he collapses into the snow and he takes off his hat, and he lies down in the snow and he dies... and it was such a moving moment. Then the... the following scene is of him in the chalet — of where they were staying beneath the Matterhorn — in the chalet, lying there dead... the very blue-grey skin quality, and candles are burning, and Alan Bates is there and Jennie Linden, who's by now married to Alan Bates, and Alan's crying because he's lost his friend. It was really a marvellous scene.

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: 5 minutes, 54 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008