I rewatched Carrington the other night on DVD. I had watched it ages ago, but for some reason or other just wanted to see it again. The film is about the artist Dora Carrington‘s relationship with the writer Lytton Strachey. As a painter Carrington was quite selective in her subject matter, painting her immediate background and her closest friends. She hardly ever signed her work and hardly ever exhibited.
Her relationship with Strachey is both passionate and tender. Strachey himself, a self-confessed homosexual thought a great deal of her. Carrington is played very well by Emma Thompson and Strachey mesmerisingly by Johnathan Pryce. The photography is very beautiful: the days drenched in sunshine. Of course the Bohemian Bloomsbury group were non plussed by Carrington’s and Strachey’s relationship – in that circle, anything went. The menage de trois which Carrington finds herself in often is quite tragic, though she tries to deal with it in a ‘mature’ fashion. Through it all her heart belongs to the unattainable Strachey.
Before her involvement with Strachey, (who really does prove to be the true love of her life), Carrington had a relationship with artist Mark Gertler. Gertler proves a temperamental, erratic almost hysterical figure in the film. He was a conscientious objector like Strachey. It soon becomes clear that Gertler and Carrington are not suited as partners.
Carrington’s art is reduced to decorating cupboards and painting lamp shades, making a quirky but brilliantly original home for herself, Strachey and usually a third-party. She first moved with in with Strachey to Tidmarsh Mill in Berkshire, then on to Ham Spray in Wiltshire making both houses highly individual with her artistic flourishes. But it does seem that Carrington gave more than she actually got back in this film. She seems to support Strachey more than he supports her. Sometimes she is in dire straits with no money coming in, he hardly thinks to help her and the upkeep of their home, though he is a famous author.
Carrington married an athlete Ralph Partridge whom she didn’t love, then moved on to his friend a timid sort of man, Gerald Brenan who she did adore, though Strachey would always have all her heart.
The saddest part of the film is towards the end when she attempts suicide and at the second attempt is successful. Her pain at losing Strachey is heartbreaking and very moving. This is a haunting film, and some of the scenes are indelibly imprinted upon my mind. If you get a chance to see it – please do and you will not be disappointed.
I shall be writing about Carrington’s art later on my Echostains art blog
Dora Carrington website here