Having made a name for himself in the early sixties as a small-screen documentarian, British director Ken Russell achieved a new degree of success—and notoriety—with his third feature film, the sensual and boldly stylized Women in Love (1969). An envelope-pushing adaptation of a landmark D. H. Lawrence novel, set in the modernizing world of 1920s England, the movie revolves around two independent-minded sisters (Glenda Jackson and Jennie Linden) and the men they fall for (Oliver Reed and Alan Bates)—close friends who turn out to share an erotic bond of their own.
Despite the controversy generated by its unbridled sexuality, Women in Love earned considerable acclaim: Jackson went on to take home the best actress Oscar for her brilliantly extravagant performance, and the film received three other nominations, including one for Billy Williams’s lush and earthy photography. Our bounteous edition of Women in Love, out this week, includes a new interview with the now-eighty-eight-year-old Williams about his experience working on the film nearly half a century ago. In the excerpt above, the acclaimed cinematographer recalls the expressive freedom he felt during production—Williams found Russell “always willing to push things a bit further”—as well as his then-unusual use of color filters in translating the emotional textures of the script to the screen.