Ken Russell tv video
Ken's most beautiful work, about creativity and sacrifice. The composer Delius had become paralysed and blind by syphilis and could no longer compose. Eric Fenby volunteered to help him write down his music over the next five years. As with many of Russell's films the opening seconds are an attention-grabber- Laurel and Hardy, and as the camera pulls back we see Fenby playing piano in the cinema. This short scene is sadly omitted from the re-release of the film.
Max Adrian as Delius, Maureen Pryor as his wife Jelka and Christopher Gable as Fenby are totally convincing in their roles "I can't reconcile such hardness with such lovely music".
Gable was a dancer who was going to appear in Nijinsky as the Russian dancer until it fell through. Yet another non-actor Russell is able to turn into a natural actor. Gable also later appeared in Women in Love, The Rainbow and other films and Adrian appeared in The Music Lovers, The Devils and The Boyfriend.
Elizabeth Erzy is superb as the maid. There is some good subtle writing by Ken Russell. While Fenby goes to bed his voice-over says there is no-one of his own age. The next scene he is woken by the maid, clearly his own age. It says a world about the society and the mental state he lived in
Some scenes are haunting: after the meal the servant putting Delius over his back like a bag of coal to take him to bed, the scenes of Fenby playing to the irritated Delius´ instructions.
The film was the first time the taboo subject of syphilis was mentioned.
Fenby was involved in the shooting and said Russell's filming was totally convincing. "I have often been asked whether or not the sprinkling of rose petals over his body was a touch of Ken Russell's fantasy. No, that actually happened at daybreak that morning. Strange, perhaps, to English ways, but it was Jelka's wish, and she did it herself from a wheel-chair. " The same image was copied later in The Year of Living Dangerously.
When Fenby left Delius he became paralysed, like Delius. He only recovered months later.
Ken Russell has a cameo role as the priest.
The death of Delius (top) is repeated in Kubrick´s 2001: A Space Odyssey (below) and Russell's Altered States.
The music in the film:
There are two Percy Grainger pieces- Country Garden when Grainger first appears, and Handel in the Strand when Fenby and Grainger race.