Writer and director Jed Mercurio tells BBC Countryfile Magazine about the filming of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which airs on BBC One at 9pm this Sunday.
Which locations did you choose for filming, and why?
The production required three main locations with the right attributes for the story: a small stately home, an adjacent wood, and a colliery. We found these in South Wales. Most of the filming for the Chatterley’s Wragby Hall took place in and around Merthyr Mawr near Bridgend, while the mine and mining town were in and around the Rhondda Heritage Park.
How important is the landscape and the environment to the story?
Lawrence wrote vivid descriptions of a grimy, coal-blackened industrial town (the fictional Tevershall) separated from the unspoiled beauty of Wragby Wood. This juxtaposition is essential to the themes of the story: the class division but also the conflict between nature and industrialisation.
Does DH Lawrence’s tale have relevance in today’s Britain?
Social class and the environment remain talking points. Clearly the former has evolved into a different debate regarding social mobility, and most of us would agree that environmental issues are much more keenly debated than they were in Lawrence’s day. In that sense he was ahead of his time.
How important was the countryside and the wilderness to DH Lawrence?
Lawrence’s poetry makes clear his devotion to flora and fauna, and, as a young scholar, he was most interested in botany. For a writer of his period, he was exceptionally close to nature and an advocate of environmental issues. In order to tell the story just a vividly on film, we chose a house (Merthyr Mawr House) set in its own woodland. That allowed us to show Lady Chatterley torn between her duty to remain within the confines of the family home and her longing to escape to the woods where her lover resides.
Has the countryside changed since Lawrence’s time, in your opinion?
Lawrence feared industrialisation because he worried it was dehumanising. I imagine he would have been displeased by the manner in which the look of the countryside has been changed by industrial features.
Can people visit the locations in which you have filmed?
The Rhondda Heritage Park is a fascinating museum of coal-mining open to the public. Unfortunately Merthyr Mawr House is a private home.
Did any amusing or peculiar incidents occur while filming outdoors?
Naturally a production will encounter the unwanted intrusion of modern life while endeavouring to film a period piece. I lost count of the number of times I had to shout “Cut!” as a white van or a 4×4 shot through the background of a take!
Lady Chatterley’s Lover stars Richard Madden and Holliday Grainger and airs on BBC One at 9pm on Sunday 6th September.