Carrington (film)

Carrington is a 1995 British biographical film written and directed by Christopher Hampton about the life of the English painter Dora Carrington (1893–1932), who was known simply as "Carrington". The screenplay is based on biographies of writer and critic Lytton Strachey (1880–1932) by Michael Holroyd.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byChristopher Hampton
Produced by
  • John McGrath
  • Ronald Shedlo
Screenplay byChristopher Hampton
Based onLytton Strachey
by Michael Holroyd
Music byMichael Nyman
CinematographyDenis Lenoir
Edited byGeorge Akers
Distributed by
Release date
  • 22 September 1995 (1995-09-22) (United Kingdom)
  • 10 November 1995 (1995-11-10) (United States)
Running time
120 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • France
Box office$3,242,342[1]


The film, starring Emma Thompson in the title role, focuses on her unusual relationship with the author Lytton Strachey, played by Jonathan Pryce, as well as with other members of the Bloomsbury Group.

The film is divided into 6 chapters.

  1. Lytton & Carrington 1915: During the Great War, Lytton Strachey is travelling to the country and staying at Vanessa Bell's house. There he meets Carrington for the first time but initially thinks she is a boy and does not hide his disappointment when disabused. Lytton is due to face a hearing with the military due to his refusal to enlist. While taking a countryside hike, he tries to kiss Carrington but she refuses him. Early the next morning, she walks into his bedroom intending to cut his beard off in retaliation for the kiss, but stops in contemplation of him sleeping and falls in love with him.
  2. Gertler 1916–1918: Mark Gertler tries to have sex with Carrington, but she refuses, since she thinks that he is only interested in her sexually. Gertler turns to Lytton for aid in wooing her. Carrington falls more deeply in love with Lytton and although he does not fully requite her, he does have feelings for her. While on a trip to Wales, he proposes that they live together: acting on this, Carrington searches for a house and finds and refurbishes Mill House in Tidmarsh. When Gertler finds out that Carrington and Lytton are moving in together, he attacks them.
  3. Partridge 1918–1921: Carrington meets Ralph Partridge, who has come back from the war. During their first dinner, Ralph expresses his contempt of pacifists; nevertheless the rugged man has great appeal to Lytton. Lytton is successful in the publication of Eminent Victorians. Lytton goes on vacation to Italy. Ralph has made clear his intent of either marrying Carrington or emigrating to Bolivia to run a sheep farm. Knowing that, if Ralph is no longer with him, Lytton will move out of Mill House, Carrington marries Ralph and writes Lytton a poignant letter confessing her love for him and her knowledge that it is hopeless. On their honeymoon, Carrington and Ralph meet with Lytton in Venice.
  4. Brenan 1921–1923 Ralph introduces his friend Gerald Brenan to Lytton and Carrington. Brenan is planning to leave for Spain in order to improve his education and takes a liking to Carrington, which is mutual. He demands she leave Lytton to be with him. She refuses but they continue the relationship until they get caught by Ralph. Lytton manages to persuade Ralph not to leave Carrington and secretly Carrington and Brenan to continue their affair until it ends by itself.
  5. Ham Spray House 1924–1931: Lytton, now wealthy and famous, buys Ham Spray House and moves in with Carrington and Ralph. Ralph has begun a relationship with Frances Marshall, and Lytton is in one with Roger Stenhouse, a younger man from Oxford, while Carrington is having an affair with Beacus Penrose, a strapping seaman with little to say who tries to change Carrington to fit his fantasies, although he admits he is not attracted to her sexually. Carrington becomes pregnant by Beacus but has an abortion. Lytton takes an apartment in London where he intends to live with Roger, but it becomes clear that the relationship will not last.
  6. Lytton 1931–1932: Roger and Lytton break up. During a tea party Lytton becomes ill; Carrington initially is optimistic but it becomes evident that his illness is terminal. Carrington tries to commit suicide by locking herself in the garage with the car motor running but is rescued by Ralph. When Lytton finally dies, attended by Ralph, Carrington and Gerald, he states "If this is dying, I don't think much of it." Carrington is devastated but manages to convince Ralph and Frances that she is all right and simply needs to be alone. Once they have left, she burns all of Lytton's personal possessions, and shoots herself.



Soundtrack album by
  • 1 September 1995 (1995-09-01) (UK)
  • 3 October 1995 (1995-10-03) (US)
Recorded10–11 November 1994, Abbey Road Studios, London
GenreSoundtrack, Contemporary classical, Minimalist music
ProducerMichael Nyman
Michael Nyman chronology
Noises, Sounds & Sweet Airs
The Diary of Anne Frank

The score of the film was composed by Michael Nyman. It was primarily based upon his String Quartet No.3, with which Hampton created a temp track, and wanted as a leitmotif for Lytton Strachey. The score is also based on Schubert's String Quintet in C, D. 956, whose Adagio is played during a scene in the film. However, there is also newly composed material for the film, including "Virgin on the roof," which was incorporated into the String Quartet No. 4, and the theme for Mark Gertler, which is derived from 3 Quartets, which was composed at roughly the same time.

  1. "Outside Looking In" - 9:14
  2. "Opening Titles" - 1:21
  3. "Fly Drive" - 1:40
  4. "Cliffs of Fall" - 2:00
  5. "Every Curl of your Beard" - 2:24
  6. "Virgin on the Roof" - 1:40
  7. "Gertler" - 3:15
  8. "Leaving Gertler" - 1:27
  9. "Painting the Garden of Eden" - 1:59
  10. "Partridge" - 1:54
  11. "Floating the Honeymoon" - 2:45
  12. "Brenan" - 6:53
  13. "Beacus" - 2:58
  14. "Leaving Brenan" - 1:59
  15. "Ham Spray House" - 1:39
  16. "The Infinite Complexities of Christmas" - 4:18
  17. "Something Rather Impulsive" - 1:48
  18. "If This is Dying" - 1:46
  19. Franz Schubert: String Quintet In C: Adagio – Amadeus Quartet/Robert Cohen (1987 recording-Polydor/Deutsche Grammophon) - 15:11


Critical reception

Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes retroactively gave the film an approval rating of 52% based on 23 reviews, and an average rating of 6.2/10.[2]


1995 Cannes Film Festival
1995 National Board of Review
1996 Evening Standard British Film Awards


  1. Carrington at Box Office Mojo
  2. "Carrington (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  3. "Festival de Cannes: Carrington". Retrieved 2 September 2009.
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