home films tv biog best scene shop news discussion download interviews more all the sites send mail русский

KenRussellfilms
classicperiod2

 

 

The Music Lovers, 1971

  Ken Russell's famous quote "If I hadn't told United Artists it was a film about a homosexual who fell in love with a nymphomaniac it might never have been financed".

Ken Russell The Music Lovers Ken Russell The Music Lovers

Not simply a biography of Tchaikovsky, but also looking at the people around Tchaikovsky, the music lovers though few of whom love the music.  Tchaikovsky cannot handle the contradictions in his life and turns his haunted thoughts into music. The music lovers drag Tchaikovsky down to their own fantasies.

 Ken Russell The Music Lovers Kenneth Colley in The Music Lovers Ken Russell The Music Lovers

The film is packed with images and excitement, the life story providing a common link. Music, gay forbidden love, a mother dying of cholera, a sponsor who never wants to meet Tchaikovsky and who suddenly ended the sponsorship, critical failure and death by cholera, just like his mother.

 

Richard Chamberlain in The Music Lovers

The drink of life, early in the film, and death by cholera from infected water at the end.

Richard Chamberlain in The Music Lovers

Glenda Jackson in The Music Lovers

Initially Nina looks to an uncertain future, and after her marriage with Tchaikovsky she looks at no future.

Glenda Jackson in The Music Lovers

Glenda Jackson The Music Lovers

The famous scene of unrequited sex on the train shows the influence of painter Egon Schiele (right).

Egon Schiele

Ken Russell The Music Lovers Tchaikovsky in a mask (compare with Wicker Man) and as a Christ figure. Richard Chamberlain The Music Lovers
Richard Chamberlain The Music Lovers Tchaikovsky and Madame von Eck tasting the juices of the same peach.  They would never meet though she would fantasise over him. Isabella Telezynska The Music Lovers
Glenda Jackson The Music Lovers Glenda Jackson, superb throughout, as she goes from the lonely whore searching for love and sensuality to life in a mental asylum. Glenda Jackson The Music Lovers

The working titles were The Lonely Heart (from a Tchaikovsky song None but a Lonely Heart) and Opus 74 (the number of  the symphony Pathétique).

I saw the film when it came out in Edinburgh. I saw it on Wednesday and before it had moved on (Saturday) I had seen it another three times. My introduction to Ken Russell.

Ken Russell The Music Lovers    Ken Russell The Music Lovers    Ken Russell The Music Lovers

 

people

Richard Chamberlain and Glenda Jackson star.  Kenneth Colley as Modeste Tchaikovsky, Max Adrian as Rubinstein and Isabella Telezynska as Madame von Meck are excellent.  Childrens´ roles are played by Russell's family. Costumes are by Shirley Russell.

The screenplay is by Melvyn Bragg. Bragg later became an arts presenter and sponsored a number of Russell documentaries.  Photography is by Douglas Slocombe (who later worked in the Raider of the Lost Ark films) and the editor is Michael Bradsell.

The film cost £1.6M.

best image Glenda Jackson in the mental asylum being fondled and abused by the prisoners: "I have lots of lovers".

Ken Russell The Music Lovers

best scene The cholera scene with the mother dying is harrowing (and is similar to the play Marat/Sade in which Glenda Jackson acted).

The 1812 Overture scene bursts with kitsch joy.

The premiere of the first piano concerto and the critical backlash. The scene benefits from Chamberlain actually playing the piano, rather than requiring cutting from long shot to hands. Although he plays in the visuals, the music is dubbed on (the actual pianist was Rafael Orozco).

Drinking the glass of water infected with cholera.

Tchaikovsky trying to commit suicide by drowning but the river is too shallow.

themes The train scene with Glenda Jackson is pivotal. It was filmed with music (Shostakovich's The Execution of Stepan Razin) played to establish rhythm. The music does not appear in the film. Tchaikovsky sees her naked body not as sexual but as rotting flesh.

The unconsummated marriage, and the relationship with his sister.  Says Russell "the sister was the ideal woman he could worship, and wouldn't have to have sexual relations with" from Films and Filming July 1970.

Ken Russell The Music Lovers

The dream sequence of Tchaikovsky conducting to the crowds and eventually becoming his own statue has references to Fritz Lang's Metropolis (right). Metropolis

 

films Other films released in the same year include A Clockwork Orange, The French Connection and two more Russell films- The Devils and The Boyfriend.

 

 

More films

click for previous films click for films index click for next films

 


home films tv biog best scene shop news discussion download interviews more all the sites send mail русский