I finished teaching the magical, ongoing online international class of the Jungian Coaching School at 11 pm. The teaching experience always brings me such an adrenaline rush that I find myself reluctant to turn it in. I crawled over to Netflix where I saw Lady Chatterley’s Lover (2022), directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre and starring Emma Corrine and Jack O’Connel. Well, I’d love to share some Jungian associations that popped up while watching the movie.
The sexual tension held between the tragic, frustrated beautiful young wife, lady Chatterley, and the forest’s guard requires some explanation. Unlike “Freud’s instinct,” which is confined merely to a biological drive for survival, C.G. Jung sees the instinct as the nuclear psychic cell of the archetype, meaning for instance the unconscious internal spontaneous motivation for the appearance of the Lover Archetypes. This instinctual motive is presented right at the beginning of the movie through the Pheasant’s expected chicks. When the childless Lady Chatterley is exposed to them, she falls into a joyful panic attack. In Lady Chatterley Lover this strong sexual instinct sprouts in the deep forest (a symbol for unconsciousness).
The conflict is not only on personal level, but as always in Jungian Psychology it has a collective root. It is based on a collective pre-conscious social class conflict between the proletariat and the archaic British nobility. Those are presented in the movie on the one hand by the war veteran officer who found himself reluctantly employed by the victim of the same war, the paralyzed impotent wheelchaired Lord Chatterley (both belong to the two sides of the war hero archetype), and on the other hand by the decadent noble-class, helpless lady, the fragile opinionated lady Chatterley. All three are merely “tiny tragical puppets” – victims of the first world war’s horrifying puppet show.
or the “Jungians” amongst us, it is not surprising to realize how the story (written by the gifted D.H. Lawrence) is based on two undeveloped Anima and Animus personalities who gradually unfold as their erotic relationships evolve. In “If Crowley had met Lawrence and Lawrence had met Jung,” Richard Boyle writes, “Now let’s move on to the curious, incongruent trio of the aforementioned Crowley, together with C.G. Jung and D.H. Lawrence. Jung, the 20th-century’s master physician of the soul, interpreter of symbols, and intrepid explorer of the human mind, visited Ceylon in 1938. Six years later he suffered a near-death experience in which, as he reported in his autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections, he found himself floating in earth orbit above the island. Crowley admits he was influenced by Jung’s Psychology of the Unconscious in writing his voluminous autobiography, which, ironically, Jung described as being “beastly beyond words”.
When Jung went to Taos in New Mexico in 1925 he had the same Indian guide as D.H. and Frieda Lawrence the previous year. D.H. Lawrence has been described as “the perennial searcher after pre-industrial wisdom,” yet he was one visitor to Ceylon who failed to value the experience. “It transpired that the paths of Jung and Lawrence were destined never to cross, which is perhaps just as well, for it is unlikely they would have got on since Jung regarded Lawrence as a Freudian in all but name. Jung wrote: “D.H. Lawrence exaggerated the importance of sex because he was excessively influenced by his mother. He over-emphasised women because he was still a child and was unable to integrate himself with the world.” This statement, incidentally, came from a psychoanalyst whose unconscionable professional ethics permitted him to seduce many of his female patients.
So, although we do not have proof that the two (Laurence and Jung) met, we do know that they knew each other’s works quite well. I find Lady Chatterley’s Lover full of Jungian symbols. Take for example the Gate. The threshold between the instinctual nature (feminine principle) and the disciplined, well-mannered castle (masculine principle). If the forest’s guard had not crossed the threshold, the passionate romance would have endured. Once the guard had passed the gate the story turned into a disaster. This is the same threshold gate that appears in the story of Eden when Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden of Eden while God positions angel guards at the threshold to prevent their return. It is the same threshold to hell guarded in Greek mythology by the three-headed dog Cerberus.
The maid, (like the frog who lives at the threshold between ground and water, day and night) is an intermediator figure in the plot. She is the one who is the closest companion to the crippled Lord Chatterley, yet she is mingling at the same time with ordinary people down the village and serves as a mediator to the poor lady Chatterley.
We, the witnesses, are shackled between polarities and find ourselves striving to balance, obtaining wholeness, and trying to embrace the righteous arguments of all opposing parties. This relates to the Jungian archetype of Equilibrium which we wish to obtain in the story. Lady Chatterley’s devoted sister represents the archetype of “Sisterhood”, well known from Apuleius’s mythological legend “Amor and Psyche.” The sisters who are bonded by devotion yet are condemned to jealousy as with Cinderella’s stepsisters.
Another topic rounds with the Lady’s need for “a room of her own.” She invades the forest guard’s lodge and designates Virginia Wolf’s archetypal idea well described in “A Room of One’s Own”. At the time when both novels were published women started to struggle for their rights. Laurence and Woolf served as the voice of the free liberated Animus opposing the muting feminine voice of their time. When a woman lacks contact with her Animus, as brightly explained by I. Claremont de Castillejo in “Knowing Woman” (1973), she develops twinship relationships with a sister-soulmate until she develops her own Animus not without suffering.
It is indeed a story about “Individuation” in the Jungian sense. The highlight of the movie in my opinion occurs during the tough, direct and overtly conflicting dialogue between Connie (Lady Chatterley) and her husband Clifford (Lord Chatterley). Here we get a clear demonstration of an Animus developed wife with her underdeveloped Anima-husband. After she leaves the room asking “let me go,” he bursts into tears not knowing how to emotionally handle the tragic situation. An echo to Lady’s Chatterley’s monologue to her husband is expressed, by the end of this conflictual scene, through the faithful maid Mrs. Bolton, who intermediates Lady’s Chatterley’s message to the servants, a group of laundry-ladies, summarizing the whole speech with a one sentence, “This is a love story!”