Henri Gaudier (Scott Antony) is 18 years old and a poor but talented student of art when he meets Sophie Brzeska (Dorothy Tutin) in the reading room of the St Genevieve Library in Paris early in 1910.
Sophie is Polish, 38 years old and highly strung, and she imagines herself a writer.
The conflict which is to mark their relationship begins on their first walk. Henri impulsively asks Sophie to marry him and then – undismayed by her indignant refusal – asks her to live with him. Although Sophie again refuses, their friendship grows.
In spite of Sophie’s refusal to become Henri’s mistress, their love deepens, and on an idyllic country weekend, they decide to seal their love by giving one another their names. Thus they become Henri and Sophie Gaudier-Brzeska.
On this high note, they leave France for London, where they live as brother and sister.
In London, life is hard. Sophie is forced to beg in the streets, and Henri works as a road navvy. Their abrasive relationship continues until Sophie says she must have her life to herself and goes to work as a governess in Portland, Dorset, where she is visited by Henri and they have an ecstatic day out.
Henri has just learned that an exhibition of his work has been arranged and he is thrilled by the vast areas of Portland stone crying out for a sculptor.
While Sophie is away, Henri meets a pretty young suffragette called Gosh Boyle (Helen Mirren). The couple are in Henri’s studio when Sophie returns unexpectedly, and after a row, she leaves to live in a room nearby.
At the start of the 1914-1918 war, Henri at first refuses to join the army, but – torn between art and the war – he finally does so. He makes one last effort to get Sophie to marry him, but again she says no.
So Henri goes to fight in the trenches, and his exhibition opens in London. It arouses conflicting opinions, some coming to praise, others to damn. But history has confirmed that Henri Gaudier-Brzeska as one of France’s most important artists and sculptors.
Henri was killed in action at Neuville-Saint-Vaast, France, on 5 June 1915. The deep, haunting relationship – fraught by conflict – which had begun five years earlier in the St Genevieve Library in Paris was ended in the trenches of a battlefield.
This loose biopic – with surprisingly humourous as well as haunting overtones – was directed by Ken Russell for MGM.