Join us, by proxy!  Here’s one of our classes, and some of what we’ll be reading, hearing and seeing:



Objective: the purpose of this class is to immerse students, teachers and standers-by alike in some of the events and expressions and experiences that have made the UK what it is today. And what is that? We may not be too concerned with finding a definitive answer to that question. There are lots of theories and positions, most with value and validity. But since we’re here for only a short time, and since we’ll have a lifetime of melancholic post-London years for sorting things out, for now we just want to read and run, and rest as little as possible.

Methodology: here’s how we’ll go about it. Everyone signs up to read five (5) books. Everyone signs up to visit seven London sites. Everyone reports everyone’s findings to everyone else. Everyone else gets enthused and ends up reading and visiting what everyone else read and visited. Then we go home.

Reading list: students will pick one book (non-fiction, play, novel, collection of poems, etc.) from five of the following six groups. Please note that sort of representative/rather random musical and cinematic titles are also included, for orientation and information’s sake. A few similarly wayward importantevents are also listed.


Group One—Foundations

Defoe, Daniel, Journal of the Plague Year (1722)

Swift, Jonathan: Gulliver’s Travels (1726)

Fielding, Henry, Tom Thumb (1730)

Johnson, Samuel, Rasselas (1759)

Goldsmith, Oliver, She Stoops to Conquer (1773)

Wollstonecraft, Mary, Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792)

Wordsworth and Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads, 1800 [2nd,] ed.)

Scott, Walter, The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805)

Lamb, Charles and Mary, Tales from Shakespeare (1807)

Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice/ Persuasion (1813/1818)

Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein (1818)

Hogg, James, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)

Dickens, Charles, Oliver Twist (1837-8)

Darwin, Charles, Voyage of the Beagle (1839)

Carlyle, Thomas, On Heroes (1841)

Engels, Friedrich, The Conditions of the Working Class in England (1844)

Bronte, Charlotte, Jane Eyre (1847)

Bronte, Emily, Wuthering Heights (1847)

Marx, Karl, and Engels, Friedrich, The Communist Manifesto (1848)

Trollope, Anthony, The Warden (1855)

Mill, John Stuart, On Liberty/ Utilitarianism (1859/1863)

Eliot, George, Silas Marner (1861)

Kingsley, Charles, The Water Babies (1863)

Queen Victoria, Highland Journal (1868)

Arnold, Matthew, Culture and Anarchy (1869)

Carroll, Lewis, Through the Looking Glass (1871)

MacDonald, George: At the Back of the North Wind /The Princess and the Goblin (1871/1872)

Pater, Walter, Studies in the Renaissance (1873)

Sewell, Anna: Black Beauty (1877)

Gilbert, W.S. and Sullivan, Arthur, HMS Pinafore/The Mikado (1878/1885)

Stevenson, Robert Louis, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde/ Kidnapped (1886/1886)

Conan Doyle, Arthur, A Study in Scarlet (1887)

Hardy, Thomas, Wessex Tales/Tess of the D’urbevilles (1888/1891)

Morris, William, News From Nowhere (1890)

Wilde, Oscar, The Picture of Dorian Gray/Lady Windermere’s Fan/An Ideal Husband/The Importance of Being Earnest (1891/1892/1895/1895)

Pinero, Arthur, The Second Mrs. Tanqueray (1893)

Yeats, William Butler, The Celtic Twilight (1893)

Jacobs, Joseph, English Fairy Tales (1894)

Kipling, Rudyard, The Jungle Book (1894)

Shaw, G.B., Arms and the Man (1894)

Grahame, Kenneth, The Golden Age (1895)

Wells, H.G., The Time Machine(1895)

Kipling, Rudyard, Stalky and Co. (1899)


Group Two—The Edwardian Era and the First World War

The Zeroes:

Elgar, Edward, Enigma Variations (1900)

Wells, H.G., Love and Mr. Lewisham (1900)

Kipling, Rudyard, Kim /Just So Stories (1901, 1902)

Barrie, J.M., The Admirable Crichton/Peter Pan (1902/1904)

Brown, George Douglas, The House with the Green Shutters (1902)

Shaw, G.B., Mrs. Warren’s Profession/Major Barbara/Pygmalion (1902/1905/1912)

Yeats, W.B., Cathleen ni Houlihan/Dierdre (1902/1907)

Death of Queen Victoria

Boer War ends

London, Jack, People of the Abyss (1903)

Gregory, Lady, The Spreading of the News/Kincora and the White Cockade (1904/1905)

Abbey Theatre founded

Sinn Fein party founded in Dublin

Synge, J.M., Riders to the Sea/The Playboy of the Western World (1904/1907)

Granville-Barker, Harley, The Voysey Inheritance (1905)

Munro, Neil, The Vital Spark (1906)

Nesbit, E., The Railway Children (1906)

Everyman’s Library begun

Conrad, Joseph, The Secret Agent (1907)

Boy Scouts founded

Chesterton, G.K., The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)

Forster, E.M., A Room With a View, Howard’s End (1908/1910)

Ross, Martin, and Somerville, Edith, The Further Experiences of an Irish RM (1908)

Strife, John Galsworthy (1909)

Girl Guides founded


The Teens:

Barrie, J.M., Peter Pan (1911)

Burnette, Frances Hodgson, The Secret Garden (1911)

Lloyd George introduces National Health Insurance bill

Suffragette riots in Whitehall

Bentley, E.C., Trent’s Last Case (1912)

Houghton, Stanley, Hindle Wakes (1912)

Sowerby, Githa, Rutherford and Son (1912)

Commons reject franchise bill

Sinking of the Titanic

Lawrence, D.H., Sons and Lovers (1913)

Joyce, James, Dubliners (1914)

Vaughan-Williams, Ralph, The Lark Ascending (1914)

Break-out of WWI

Buchan, John, The Thirty-Nine Steps, Greenmantle (1915/1916)

Holst, Gustav, The Planets (1915)

Brighouse, Harold, Hobson’s Choice (1916)

Easter Rebellion

Balfour declaration (1917)

Brooke, Rupert, Collected Poems (1918)

Strachey, Lytton, Eminent Victorians (1918)


Vote extended to women 30 years and older

Elgar, Edward, Cello Concerto (1919)

Maugham, W. Somerset, The Moon and Sixpence (1919)

Sassoon, Siegfried, War Poems (1919)

Lady Astor is first female Member of Parliament


Group Three—In-Between

The Twenties:

Christie, Agatha, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920)

League of Nations founded

Maugham, W. Somerset, The Circle/The Constant Wife (1921/1927)

BBC established

Irish Free State established

Eliot, T.S., The Waste Land and Other Poems (1917-1922)

Forster, E.M., A Passage to India (1924)

Wodehouse, P.G., The Inimitable Jeeves (1924)

First Labour government

O’Casey, Sean, Juno and the Paycock/ The Plough and the Stars (1924/1925)

Coward, Noel, Hay Fever/Private Lives (1925/1930)

Woolf, Virginia, Mrs. Dalloway/To the Lighthouse/A Room of One’s Own (1925/1927/1929)

Hitchcock, Alfred, The Lodger/Blackmail (1926/1929)

Lawrence, D.H., The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd, 1926)

McDiarmid, Hugh, A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle (1926)

General Strike

John Logie Baird Television demonstrated

Milne, A.A., Winnie-the-Pooh/The House on Pooh Corner (1926, 1928)

Lonsdale, Frederick, On Approval (1927)

Waugh, Evelyn, Decline and Fall (1928)

Hughes, Richard, A High Wind in Jamaica (1928)

Suffrage for women 21 one years and up

Graves, Robert, Goodbye to All That (1929)

Green, Henry, Living (1929)

Grierson, John, Drifters (1929)

The Thirties:

Bridie, James, The Anatomist (1930)

Auden, W.H., Poems

Grassic Gibbon, Lewis, Sunset Song (1932)

Huxley, Aldous, Brave New World (1932)

Compton-Burnett, Ivy, More Women than Men (1933)

Korda, Alexander et al, The Private Life of King Henry VIII/ Rembrandt/The Four Feathers (1933/1937/1939)

Orwell, George, Down and Out in Paris and London/The Road to Wigan Pier (1933, 1937)

Fields, Gracie, Sing as We Go! (1934)

Gow, Ronald and Greenwood, Walter, Love on the Dole (1934)

Hilton, James, Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1934)

Priestley, J.B., English Journey (1934)

Sayers, Dorothy, The Nine Tailors (1934)

Travers, P.L.: Mary Poppins (1934)

Hitchcock, Alfred, The Man Who Knew Too Much/The Thirty-Nine Steps/Sabotage/The Lady Vanishes (1934/1935/1936/1938)

Bagnold, Enid, National Velvet (1935)

Eliot, T.S., Murder in the Cathedral (1935)

Muir, Edwin, Scott and Scotland (1936)

Abdication of Edward VIII

Allen Lane founds Penguin Books

Gunn, Neil, Highland River (1937)

Hay, Will, Oh, Mr. Porter! (1937)

Tolkein, J.R.R.: The Hobbit (1937)

du Maurier, Daphne, Rebecca (1938)

Greene, Graham, Brighton Rock (1938)

Hamilton, Patrick, Gaslight (1938)

White, T.H.: The Sword in the Stone (1938)

Williams, Emlyn, The Corn is Green (1938)

Godden, Rumer, Black Narcissus (1939)

Household, Geoffrey, Rogue Male (1939)

Isherwood, Christopher, Goodbye to Berlin (1939)

Powell, Michael, and Pressburger, Emeric, The Spy in Black/Contraband/ The Forty-Ninth Parallel/The Life and Death of Col. Blimp/A Canterbury Tale/I Know Where I’m Going/A Matter of Life and Death/Black Narcissus/The Red Shoes (1939/1940/1941/1943/1944/ 1945/1946/1947/1948)

Reed, Carol, The Stars Look Down (1939)


Group Four—The Second War and the End of Empire

The Forties:

Day-Lewis, Cecil, Poems in Wartime (1940)

Koestler, Arthur, Darkness at Noon (1940)

Thomas, Dylan, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog (1940)

Battle of Britain

Watt, Harry, Target for Tonight (1941)

Jennings, Humphrey, Listen to Britain/Fires Were Started/A Diary for Timothy (1942/ 1943/1945)

Lean, David and Coward, Noel, In Which We Serve/This Happy Breed/Brief Encounter (1942/1944/1945)

Lewis, C.S., The Screwtape Letters (1942)

Markham, Beryl, West with the Night (1942)

Gilliat, Sydney and Launder, Frank, Millions Like Us (1943)

Olivier, Laurence, Henry V/Hamlet (1944/1948)

Boulting, John and Roy, Desert Victory (1945)

Britten, Benjamin, Peter Grimes (1945)

Calvalcanti, Alberto et al, Dead of Night (1945)

Green, F.C., Odd Man Out, (1945)

WWII ends

Clement Atlee forms Labour government

Lean, David, Great Expectations/Oliver Twist (1946/1948)

Peake, Mervyn, Titus Groan (1946)

Priestley, J.B., An Inspector Calls (1946)

Rattigan, Terence, The Winslow Boy/The Browning Version (1946/1948)

Stewart, Ena Lamont, Men Should Weep (1946)

Larkin, Philip, A Girl in Winter (1947)

Mackenzie, Compton, Whiskey Galore (1947)

Indian independence

Reed, Carol, The Fallen Idol/The Third Man (1948/1949)

End of Britain’s Palestine mandate

Mackendrick, Alexander, Whiskey Galore/The Man in the White Suit/The Maggie/The Ladykillers (1949/1951/1954/1955)

Iron and steel industries nationalized

Eire recognized; Northern Ireland’s place in the UK reaffirmed

The Fifties:

Lewis, C.S., The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950)

Greene, Graham, The End of the Affair (1951)

Christie, Agatha, The Mousetrap (1952)

Norton, Mary, The Borrowers (1952)

Beckett, Samuel, Waiting for Godot/End Game/Krapp’s Last Tape/Happy Days (1953/ 1957/1958/1961)

Fleming, Ian, Casino Royale (1953)

Hartley, L.P., The Go-Between (1953)

Wilson, Sandy, The Boyfriend (1953)

Coronation of Elizabeth II

Amis, Kingsley, Lucky Jim (1954)

Golding, William, The Lord of the Flies, The Inheritors (1954/1955)

Thomas, Dylan, Under Milk Wood (1954)

Moore, Brian, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1955)

Osborn, John, Look Back in Anger/The Entertainer (1956/1957)

Suez crisis

Braine, John, Room at the Top (1957)

Wyndham, John, The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)

Behan, Brendan, The Hostage (1958)

Delaney, Shelagh, A Taste of Honey (1958)

Fisher, Terence, The Horror of Dracula (1958)

Hoggart, Richard, The Uses of Literacy (1958)

Murdoch, Iris, The Bell (1958)

Pearce, Phillipa, Tom’s Midnight Garden (1958)

Pinter, Harold, The Birthday Party (1958)

Silitoe, Alan, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning/The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1958/1959)

Sutcliff, Rosemary: Warrior Scarlet (1958)

Clayton, Jack, Room at the Top (1959)

MacInnes, Colin, Absolute Beginners (1959)

Opie, Iona and Peter, The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren (1959)

Waterhouse, Kieth, Billy Liar (1959)


Group Five—Swinging and Post-Swinging

The Sixties:

Bart, Lionel, Oliver! (1960)

Bolt, Robert, A Man for All Seasons (1960)

Powell, Michael, Peeping Tom (1960)

Naughton, Bill, Alfie (1960)

Storey, David, This Sporting Life (1960)

Dearden, Basil, Victim (1961)

Prebble, John, Culloden/Glencoe (1961/1966)

Spark, Muriel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961)

Britten, Benjamin, War Requiem (1962)

Burgess, Anthony, A Clockwork Orange (1962)

Chilton, Charles, Oh! What a Lovely War (1963)

Le Carré, John, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963)

Losey, Joseph, The Servant/The Accident (1963/1967)

Richardson, Tony, Tom Jones (1963)

Lester, Richard, A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Mortimer, Penelope, The Pumpkin Eater (1964)

Beatles, Rubber Soul/Revolver/Sgt. Pepper’s…/The White Album/Abbey Road (1965/1966/1967/1968/1969)

Orton, Joe, Loot (1965)

Watkins, Peter, The War Game (1965)

Grierson, John, Grierson on Documentary (1966)

Kinks, Face to Face/Something Else/Are the Village Green Preservation Society/ Arthur/Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround/Muswell Hillbillies (1966/1967/1968/1969/1970/1971)

Loach, Ken, Cathy Come Home/Kes (1966/1969)

Rhys, Jean, The Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)

Rolling Stones, Aftermath/Beggars’ Banquet/Let it Bleed/Sticky Fingers/Exile on Main Street (1966/1968/1969/1971/1972)

Thompsen, E.P., The Making of the English Working Class (1966)

England wins World Cup

Brown, George Mackay, Calendar of Love/Magnus (1967/1972)

Garner, Alan, The Owl Service (1967)

Nichols, Peter, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1967)

Stoppard, Tom, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead/Travesties (1967/1974)

Who, the, The Who Sell Out, Tommy, Live at Leeds, Who’s Next, Quadrophenia (1967/1969/1970?1971/ 1973)

Anderson, Lindsay, If… (1968)

Hamilton, Richard, Swinging London (1968)

Hines, Barry, A Kestrel for a Knave (1968)

Hughes, Ted, The Iron Man (1968)

End of theatre censorship in Britain

Booker Prize established

Monty Python’s Flying Circus launched (1969-1974)

Rupert Murdoch buys The Sun

The Seventies:

Hughes, Ted, Crow (1970)

Priestley, J.B., The Edwardians (1970)

Shaffer, Anthony, Sleuth (1970)

Beatles break up

Greer, Germaine, The Female Eunuch (1971)

Naipaul, V.S., In a Free State (1971)

Roeg, Nicholas, Walkabout (1971)

Adams, Richard, Watership Down (1972)

Ayckbourn, Alan, Absurd Person Singular/The Norman Conquests/Absent Friends/Bedroom Farce (1972/1973/ 1974/ 1975)

Bowie, David, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars/Hunky Dory/Aladdin Sane (1972/1972/1973)

Herriot, James, All Creatures Great and Small (1972)

Direct rule in Northern Ireland

Tutankhamen exhibition at British Museum

UK joins EEC

McGrath, John, The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black, Black Oil (1973)

Jones, Terry, et al, Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974)

Berkoff, Steven, East (1975)

Jhabvala, Ruth Prawer, Heat and Dust (1975)

Le Carré, John, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1975)

Sussex, Elizabeth, The Rise and Fall of the British Documentary Film Movement (1975)

First British North Sea oil

Clash, The Clash/London Calling (1977/1979)

Leigh, Mike, Abigail’s Party (1977)

McIlvanney, Wiliam, Laidlaw (1977)

Pym, Barbara, Quartet in Autumn (1977)

Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols (1977)

Hare, David, Plenty (1978)

Norris, Leslie, Sliding (1978)

Rice, Tim and Lloyd-Weber, Andrew, Evita (1978)

Pinter, Harold, Betrayal (1978)

Potter, Dennis, Pennies from Heaven (1978)

Attenborough, David, Life on Earth (1979)

Carter, Angela, The Bloody Chamber (1979)

Churchill, Caryl, Cloud 9/Top Girls (1979/1982)

Shaffer, Peter, Amadeus (1979)

Sherman, Martin, Bent (1979)

Margaret Thatcher elected


Group Six—Thatcher and Labour and everything

The Eighties:

Edgar, David, Nicholas Nickleby (1980)

Harwood, Ronald, The Dresser (1980)

Joy Division, Closer (1980)

Mackenzie, John, The Long Good Friday (1980)

Motorhead, Ace of Spades (1980)

Reid, Lynne Banks, An Indian in the Cupboard (1981)

Rushdie, Salman, Midnight’s Children (1981)

Rupert Murdoch buys the Times

Forsyth, Bill, Gregory’s Girl/Local Hero (1981/1983)

Frayn, Michael, Noises Off (1982)

Roxy Music, Avalon (1982)

Falklands War

New Order, Power, Corruption and Lies (1983)

Lean, David, A Passage to India (1984)

The Jewel in the Crown (1984)

Prince Charles criticizes Modern Architecture

Apted, Michael, 28 Up/35 Up/42 Up (1985/1992/1999)

Hampton, Christopher, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1985)

The Pogues, Rum, Sodomy & the Lash (1985)

The Smiths, The Queen is Dead (1986)

The Cure, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987)

McGuiness, Frank, Observe the Sons of Ulster… (1987)

Jacques, Brian, Redwall (1987)

Crichton, Charles, A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Davies, Terence, Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988)

Frears, Stephen, Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

Norris, Leslie, The Girl From Cardigan (1988)

Pratchett, Terry, Wyrd Sisters (1988)

Branagh, Kenneth, Henry V (1989)

Ishiguro, Kazuo, Remains of the Day (1989)

Le Carré, John, The Russia House (1989)

Sheridan, Jim, My Left Foot (1989)

Woo, John, The Killer (1989)

The Nineties:

Byatt, A.S., Possession (1990)

Craig, David, On the Crofter’s Trail (1990)

Bennett, Alan, The Madness of King George III/Talking Heads (1991/1992)

Pratchett, Terry, Reaper Man (1991)

Rushdie, Salman: Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1991)

Hornby, Nick, Fever Pitch (1992)

Jordan, Neil, The Crying Game (1992)

Morton, Andrew, Diana: Her True Story (1992)

Ondaatje, Michael, The English Patient (1992)

Hare, David, Racing Demon, Murmuring Judges, The Absence of War (1990/1991/ 1993)

Blur, Parklife (1994)

Brown, George MacKay, Beside the Ocean of Time (1994)

Kelman, James, How Late it Was, How Late (1994)

Shields, Carol, The Stone Diaries (1994)

Doyle, Roddy, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (1995)

PJ Harvey, To Bring You My Love (1995)

Kane, Sarah, Blasted (1995)

Boyle, Danny, Trainspotting (1996)

Leigh, Mike, Secrets and Lies (1996)

Pullman, Philip, Northern Lights/The Subtle Knife/The Amber Spyglass (1995/1997/2000)

Von Trier, Lars, Breaking the Waves (1996)

Roy, Arundhati, The God of Small Things (1997)

Frayn, Michael, Copenhagen (1998)

Pulp, This is Hardcore (1998)


Sites: as threatened, here are several dozens of worthwhile London places or events. Class members will be assigned to officially visit and make a report on one per week. Program members will be invited and encouraged to see as many of them as humanly possible.

Barbican Theatre

Battersea Park

Berwick St. Market

Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood

British Library

British Museum

Buckingham Palace

Camden Lock Market

Charing Cross Road

Chelsea Flower Show

Chelsea Old Church

Chelsea Physic Garden

Commonwealth Institute

Covent Garden Market

Cutty Sark

Design Museum

Dickens House Museum

Dr. Johnson’s House

Duke of York Theatre

FA Cup

Fenton House

Florence Nightingale Museum

Garrick Theatre

Globe Theatre

Goethe Institute

Greenwich Park


Hayward Gallery


Holland Park

Imperial War Museum

Institute Française

Kensington Gardens

Kew Gardens


London Aquarium

London Toy and Model Museum

London Transport MuseumMuseum of Garden History

Museum of London

National Film Theatre

National Gallery

National Maritime Museum

National Portrait Gallery

Natural History Museum

Palace Theatre


Pollock’s Toy Museum

Portobello Road Market

Queen’s Gallery

Regent’s Park

Royal Albert Hall

Royal National Theatre

Royal Opera House

Science Museum


Sir John Soane’s Museum

Southwark Cathedral

St. James Church

St. Martin’s in the Fields

St. Paul’s

St. Paul’s, Covent Garden

Tate Gallery

Tate Modern

Theatre Museum

Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Theatre Royal Haymarket

Tower of London

Victoria and Albert Museum

Wallace Collection


Westminster Abbey

Westminster Cathedral

William Morris Gallery




This essay, which profiles a very important man with a ton of a lot of consonants in his first name, was also published in Wintle, ed., New Makers of Modern Culture (Routledge, 2007).

Like the last long half century of his nation’s history, the cinema of Polish film director Krzysztof Kieslowski (1941-1996) has had a grey and hard aspect, as well as a subversive and insistent hopefulness. Poland’s difficulties have been reflected in his films.  At one point this was a major impediment to the wider dissemination of his work: if Kieslowski effectively described issues of national interest, then he was also dismissed for being basically a local artist.  By the end of his life, however, the intensity and vividness of this local look, together with the fortuitous success of his final films, movingly demonstrated the interdependence of small and big, and revealed how effectively and completely the part can illuminate the whole.

Kieslowski’s upbringing was attended by a sense of uncertainty and impermanence.  War privation and the constraints of Communism left their mark; he became accustomed to limitation and wary of orthodoxies, of the person or the system that claimed to know the answers.  Here was skepticism, but not the defeatism he would later be accused of.  Kieslowski saw in the lives of his compatriots a malaise that was due to more than just poverty or politics.  His work would reflect this hardship and sorrow, but also the hopeful conviction that painful experience can create compassion, that it is not only tolerable, but necessary.

Graduating from the Lodz film school, Kieslowski’s first work was primarily in the documentary film.  He used it to make a record, to fashion, often indirectly, a counter to the official view and the party line.  Kieslowski would come to know the double edge of that sword; documentaries, in Poland, could get real people in real trouble.  The dangers are dramatized in his 1979 film Camera Buff.  Like its protagonist, Kieslowski came to see that documentaries could remove people’s protective anonymity, subject them to potentially dangerous scrutiny, leaving filmmakers unwilling, or even just unable to deal with the consequences.

A prize-winner at Moscow, Camera Buff seemed to be a figurative withdrawal from documentary engagement, and was seen in some quarters as an apology for the regime.  This was in part because of the film’s complex and finally sympathetic portrayal of party officials’ motivations and administrations.  The root of this difficulty lay not in any collaborationist impulse, but rather in Kieslowski’s humanism, in the idea that everyone has his reasons, and that if no one is wholly justified, then neither are they completely blameworthy.  “All my films…are about individuals who can’t quite find their bearings, who don’t quite know how to live, who don’t really know what’s right or wrong and are desperately looking.”

These ideas were incompatible with the hard lined caricature of so much political discourse, and they put off ideologues of various stripes.  Kieslowski was briefly inactive during the first Solidarity period and its aftermath.  At that point he became skeptical, even despairing about the efficacy of politics, at least as conventionally practiced.  His return to (almost exclusively fictional) filmmaking in the early and mid-1980s was perceived by some as a turn from social commitment.  Further, a dramatic increase of formalist, metaphorical, and metaphysical elements in the films introduced what detractors would characterize as an opaqueness bordering on incomprehensibility.

Critical incomprehension, especially in the face of new and difficult work, has its roots and reasons, and should perhaps be understood and forgiven.  However hindsight and the perspective of a couple of decades makes it clear that at this point Kieslowski was issuing to his audiences both challenge and invitation, and inaugurating one of cinema’s most striking stretches of creativity, relevance and beauty.

The alleged flight from social relevance now seems a characteristic rejection of the moral polarities of melodrama and partisanship. Challenging work (as in the narratively adventurous and very Polish Blind Chance [1981] and No End [1984]) was a reminder that a national (regional, sub-cultural) voice needs to be taken on its own terms, with humility and some dedicated effort on the part of the viewer.  The elusive spirituality of a film like The Double Life of Veronique (1991) exemplifies what had basically become a phenomenological cinema, in which audiences were invited to probe what lay within them, to actually collaborate in the making of meaning and the application of principle.

Kieslowski’s crowning achievements combine all these things, and more.  The Decalogue (broadcast on Polish television in 1988) consists of ten one hour films about each of the Ten Commandments.  Written in collaboration with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, this monumental series couches Kieslowski’s longstanding ethical concerns in the terms of parable, but a parable rendered with a detail and authenticity of documentary proportions.  Decalogue is an inquiry into the nature of goodness and decency, and into the impediments thereto.  Here Kieslowski demonstrates how film can help us to articulate, establish and responsibly inhabit our moral positions.  In this he does not prescribe, but rather catalyzes, again leaving the viewer the freedom and the duty to absorb and translate according to need and circumstance.

Three Colours (White, Blue and Red, 1993-4) continued to explore this rich vein.  In contemplating with these fictions the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity, Kieslowski accomplished the very difficult trick of being a moralist and an ironist simultaneously.  With his feeling for paradox, his combination of caution and charity, he managed to avoid both the heavy didacticism of the Sunday School teacher and the cheap sarcasm of the mere skeptic.  The films avoid the sectarian and meld precept with searing relevance; with these international co-productions Kieslowski, after his definitive immersion in and exploration of a multi-faceted Polish reality, speaks just as authoritatively for his continent.  There are few films that can say as much about the European Union at its dawn, and about human possibility beyond borders.

The Three Colours trilogy was a tremendous international success. After its release Kieslowski unexpectedly announced his retirement from film direction.  He declared himself weary of the whims of fortune, the shallowness of success, its relative insignificance, the often baselessness of both indifference and praise. Mere months later he died on the operating table while undergoing open heart surgery.


Kickasola, Joseph G., The films of Krzysztof Kieslowski : the liminal image /New York : Continuum, 2004.

Zizek, Slavoj. The fright of real tears : Krzysztof Kieslowski between theory and post-theory /London : BFI Pub., 2001

Insdorf, Annette, Double lives, second chances : the cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski / New York : Miramax Books, c1999

Kieslowski, Krzysztof, and Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Three colours trilogy: blue, white, red /

translated by Danusia Stok/London : Faber and Faber, 1998.

Kieslowski, Krzysztof, Kieslowski on Kieslowski / edited by Danusia Stok.

London ; Boston : Faber and Faber, c1993

Kieslowski, Krzysztof, and Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Decalogue : the Ten Commandments / translated by Phil Cavendish and Suzannah Bluh/London ; Boston : Faber and Faber, 1991.


From the City of Lodz (1969)

Workers ’71: nothing about us without us (1972)

First Love (1974)

Hospital (1976)

The Scar (1976)

From a Night Porter’s Point of View (1977)

Camera Buff (1979)

Talking Heads (1980)

Railway Station (1980)

Blind Chance (1981)

No End (1984)

The Decalogue, in 10 parts (1988)

Including A Short Film About Killing, A Short Film About Love (extended versions of two of the films, released theatrically)

The Double Life of Veronique (1991)

Blue (1993)

White (1994)

Red (1994)

The following essay appeared in New Makers of Modern Culture, ed. Justin Wintle, Routledge, 2007.

The Danish film director Carl Theodor Dreyer (1889-1968) is one of the cinema’s great figures, a man set apart by his single-minded devotion to artistry and to humanity.  The magnitude of Dreyer’s accomplishments and of his reputation—at his death director Jean Renoir characterized him as an artist-saint—has at times made it difficult to clearly consider the actual man and his actual work.

There are intractabilities enough in both.  From the beginning of his extraordinarily long career, Dreyer demonstrated a single-minded, even intransigent devotion to his medium, to his craft, and to the promptings of artistic conscience.  He abominated the compromises filmmakers made for the sake of security, a demanding producer, or a passive audience.

“All art is a single person’s work.  But a film is created by a collectivity and a collectivity cannot create art unless an artistic personality stands behind it and acts as its driving force.”  “No considerations other than the purely artistic and aesthetic ones should come into play.”  “I only think of working my way to a solution that satisfies my own artistic conscience.” (Skoller, 1973, 128, 181, 146)  Here is the contradiction, almost the impossibility of Dreyer’s career, which was full of travail, and of long periods in the figurative wilderness.  His was a personal vision, an artisanal, hand-made methodology and an artist’s sensibility, all in a thoroughly and incontrovertibly industrial/commercial setting.

Dreyer was single-minded in his devotion to these ideas, and his devotion took him into increasingly rarefied places.  From his most celebrated film, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), his work would mark an increasingly rigourous and solitary path.  The severity that for many characterizes Dreyer’s cinema is found precisely in this rigour and solitude.  Paradoxically, here also is the root of the other most celebrated quality in the films, which is a great loving regard for characters and, complicatedly, for audiences as well.  That which envelops these seemingly contradictory terms is also what many have found at the very root of this oeuvre, which is holiness.

Dreyer called the technique that most strikingly reconciles these apparent poles “realized mysticism.”  The idea, which evolved and increased from its first articulation in 1929, was that things spiritual were actually made up of things factual, and physical. Most obviously, but not exclusively in his patently religious subjects (cf.“Passion” and Ordet [1955])—Dreyer treated the miraculous matter-of-factly, and he rendered the everyday with reverence.  All this is evident in the famous resurrection, or really in the remarkable series of linked miracles that concludes Ordet, in the documentation of the emblems and stages of Joan’s martyrdom, and elsewhere besides (as in a mother’s response to a baby’s rising in Master of the House [1925], a superb Passover sequence in an unproduced screenplay about Jesus Christ).

Here was a deeply materialistic, almost clinical treatment of the ineffable, what David Bordwell refers to as the “foregrounding of the minute.” (1981, 165)  The most striking and controversial manifestation of Dreyer’s aims is contained in the increasingly slow pace of his later films.  In contrast to the rush of conventional protagonists in conventional narratives, Dreyer wished to use time in a way that would makes the viewer feel the weight of its portentous passing, to go beyond the frivolous objectives of films, film characters, film industries.  Here is the root of Dreyer’s daring, and of his profundity.  His detail, his “wide, quiet rhythm” (Skolker, 134), appropriate to the monumentality of the subject, increases in the audience what Bordwell referred to as “the threshold of significance.” (Bordwell, Ibid.)  Dreyer’s rigour has a refining effect; our eyes see, and our ears hear.

Not all of Dreyer’s cinema is religious; The Parson’s Widow (1920) contains much sharp if affectionate satire of pastoral types, and in Day of Wrath (1943) he powerfully uses religion as a symbol of totalitarian rule.  Current biographical evidence actually suggests that Dreyer had not in his own life any especially powerful conviction or sense of calling.  (Drouzy, 1982)  Far from diminishing the possibility or the accessibility of holiness, these facts may make it all more immanent.

In his adaptation of Kaj Munk’s play Ordet, Dreyer makes a brief and seemingly facetious reference to what might actually be a key source, a key clue to his methodology and his mindset. A passing joke in the film suggests that the key character of Johannes went mad from studying too much Soren Kierkegaard in divinity school.  Of all the things that this might mean, it is particularly telling to note that existentialism, in the Christian or Kierkegaardian sense, is not at all to reject the notion of immanence or the transcendent.  Rather, it is to require that transcendental possibility be considered in light of the here and the now, of the ethical requirements of personal and community relations.  (With regard to Dreyer’s aesthetic, note Kierkegaard’s references to magnitude and duration in Fear and Trembling [trans. Alistair Hannay, Penguin, 1985, pp. 64 and 80].)

There is an opaqueness in Dreyer’s cinema, but it is not at all vague, or ill-defined.  In this there is a suggestion of the rigours and satisfactions a great and difficult man’s great and difficult art, not to mention of religion itself.  Taken together (and including the largely unavailable, unjustly underseen and surprisingly diverse silent films), Dreyer’s output contains and suggests multitudes: there is directness, intensity, eccentricity, difficulty, multiplicity.  All of these things—combined, contemplated, integrated—suggest a rare and surprising thing.  Carl Theodor Dreyer becomes, cinematically and culturally speaking, most all things: an index of and model for cinematic possibility, perceptual opportunity, and even ethical and moral application.


The following films, by the following major/Major Japanese directors, are available from the Criterion Collection, and/or they are streaming on the Criterion channel at Hulu Plus.

Keisuke Kinoshita (1912-1998):

The Living Magoroku (1943)

The Army (1944)

Jubilation Street (1944)

Morning for the Osone Family (1946)

The Girl I Loved (1946)

Phoenix (1947)

The Portrait (1948)

Apostasy (1948)

Here’s to the Young Lady (1949)

Yotsuya Kaidan I (1949)

Yotusya Kaidan II (1949)

A Broken Drum (1949)

Wedding Ring (1950)

The Good Fairy (1951)

Boyhood (1951)

Fireworks Over the Sea (1951)

Carmen’s Innocent Love (1952)

Tragedy of Japan (1953)

The Garden of Women (1954)

Twenty-Four Eyes (1954)

You Were Like a Wild Chrysanthemum (1954)

The Tattered Wings (1955)

Farewell to Dream (1956)

The Rose on His Arm (1956)

Danger Stalks Near (1957)

The Ballad of Narayama (1958)

Farewell to Spring (1959)

Snow Flurry (1959)

Thus Another Day (1959)

The River Fuefuki (1960)

Spring Dreams (1960)

Immortal Love (1961)

Legend of a Duel to the Death (1963)

Sing, Young People! (1963)

Oh, My Son! (1979)

The Young Rebels (1980)

The Children of Nagasaki (1983)

Big Joys, Small Sorrows (1986)

Father (1988)


Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998):

Sanshiro Sugata (1943)

The Most Beautiful (1944)

Sanshiro Sugata, pt. 2 (1945)

The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail (1945)

No Regrets for Our Youth (1946)

One Wonderful Sunday (1947

Drunken Angel (1948)

Stray Dog (1949)

Scandal (1950)

Rashomon (1950)

The Idiot (1951)

Ikiru (1952)

Seven Samurai (1954)

I Live in Fear (1955)

The Lower Depths (1957)

Throne of Blood (1957)

The Hidden Fortress (1958)

The Bad Sleep Well (1960)

Yojimbo (1961)

Sanjuro (1962)

High and Low (1963)

Red Beard (1965)

Dodes’ka-den (1970)

Kagemusha (1980)

Ran (1985)

Madadayo (1993)


Kenji Mizoguchi (1898-1956):

Osaka Elegy (1936)

Sisters of the Gion (1936)

The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (1939)

The 47 Ronin, 1 (1941)

The 47 Ronin, 2 (1942)

Utamaro and his Five Women (1946)

Women of the Night (1948)

The Life of Oharu (1952)

Ugetsu Monogatari (1953)

Sansho the Bailiff (1954)

A Story from Chikamatsu (1954)

Street of Shame (1956)


Mikio Naruse (1905-1969):

Flunky, Work Hard! (1931)

No Blood Relation (1932)

Apart From You (1933)

Every Night Dreams (1933)

Street Without End (1934)

Ginza Cosmetics (1951)

Yearning (1951)

Mother (1952)

Wife (1953)

The Sound of the Mountain (1954)

Late Chrysanthemums (1954)

Floating Clouds (1955)

Flowing (1956)

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960)

Yearning (1964)


Yasujiro Ozu (1903-1963):

Days of Youth (1929)

I Graduated, But… (1929)

A Straightforward Boy (1929)

That Night’s Wife (1930)

The Lady and the Beard (1931)

Tokyo Chorus (1931)

I Was Born, But… (1932)

Passing Fancy (1933)

A Mother Should Be Loved (1934)

A Story of Floating Weeds (1934)

An Inn in Tokyo (1935)

The Only Son (1936)

The Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family (1941)

There Was a Father (1942)

Record of a Tenement Gentleman (1947)

A Hen in the Wind (1948)

Late Spring (1949)

Early Summer (1951)

The Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice (1952)

Tokyo Story (1953)

Early Spring (1956)

Tokyo Twilight (1957)

Equinox Flower (1958)

Good Morning (1959)

Floating Weeds (1959)

Late Autumn (1960)

The End of Summer (1961)

An Autumn Afternoon (1962)


Kaneto Shindo (1912-2012):

The Naked Island (1960)

Onibaba (1964)

Kuroneko (1968)

You can’t just watch scary stuff.   You’ve got to read scary stuff!  Here are the assignments:



Go to the library, or to the bookstore.  Go online.  Find yourself a couple of anthologies featuring horror stories, tales of the supernatural, etc.  (I think the following are pretty good: Classic Ghost Stories, ed. Grafton; Great Tales of Terror, ed. Joshi; Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, ed. Wagner and Wise.  There are lots of others besides.)

Having gone to the library, bookstore, internet, you are now invited/expected to choose your own set of readings from these various collections.  You might go for range and breadth, or you could alternatively key on a theme or type that is of particular interest.  Your choices should also be informed by the essays that you will be reading (qv.), and by your own researches.  The point is to read some enjoyable stories, but you should also be trying to connect and categorize a bit.

You should be reading some 25-40 pages per week from these sources.  You are to submit a bibliographically correct record (any recognized/standardized format will do) of each week’s reading by the beginning of each class period.  Include page counts, please.

Fiction is fabulous, but it’s the critical material that keeps us honest, and makes us smart.  You should also, during the courses of the semester, read the following essays.

Freud, “The Uncanny”

Lovecraft, “Supernatural Horror in Literature”

Oates, “Reflections of the Grotesque”

Schatz, “Genre Films”

Sontag, “Notes on ‘Camp”

These essays are available all over the place, or they may require some uncovering.  You should know how to use the library, or be resourceful.  Find them.

In addition to the short stories and the essays, you should also read three of the novels listed in the following great big list.  One should be short (less than two hundred pages), one should be medium (between two hundred and three hundred pages), and the last long (more than three hundred pages). 

Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart

Richard Adams: Watership Down

Uneda Akinara: Ugetsu Monogatari

Kingsley Amis: The Green Man

H.C. Andersen (trans. Haugaard), Selected Stories: “Little Claus and Big Claus,” “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” “The Snow Queen,” “The Red Shoes,” “The Neighbors,” “The Shadow,” “Under the Willow Tree,” “The Bog King’s Daughter,” “In the Duckyard,” “The Ice Maiden”

Hannah Arendt: Eichmann in Jerusalem

Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey

Honoré de Balzac: The Fatal Skin

James Barrie: Peter Pan

Charles Baudelaire: Les Fleurs du Mal

Samuel Beckett: Waiting for Godot, Endgame, The Unameable

Ambrose Bierce: Can Such Things Be?

Algernon Blackwood: Incredible Adventures

William Peter Blatty: The Exorcist

Robert Bloch: Psycho

Giles Blunt: Forty Words for Sorrow

Jorge Luis Borges: Labyrinths

Ray Bradbury: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre

Emily Bronte: Wuthering Heights

John Buchan: Witch Wood

Georg Büchner: Woyzeck

John Bunyan: The Pilgrim’s Progress

Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange

Lord Byron: Manfred

James M. Cain: Double Indemnity

Albert Camus: The Plague

Truman Capote: In Cold Blood

Angela Carter: The Bloody Chamber

Robert Chambers: The King in Yellow

Leonard Cline: The Dark Chamber

Arthur Conan Doyle: A Study in Scarlet

Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness

Susan Cooper: The Dark is Rising

Robert Cormier: I Am the Cheese

Roald Dahl: The BFG/The Witches

Dante: Inferno (trans. Ciardi)

Walter de la Mare: The Return

Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist

Fyodor Dostoievsky: Notes from the Underground, Crime and Punishment

T.S. Eliot: The Wasteland and Other Poems

Guy Endore: The Werewolf of Paris

Euripides (trans. Teevan): Bacchae

Jack Finney: Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Alan Garner: The Owl Service

J.W. von Goethe: The Bride of Corinth

William Golding: Lord of the Flies

Maxim Gorky: My Childhood

Alasdair Gray: Poor Things

J.&W Grimm (trans. Zipes), Selected

Stories: “A Tale About the Boy Who Went Forth To Learn What Fear Was,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “The Fisherman and his Wife,” “Cinderella,” “The Singing Bone,” “The Devil with Three Golden Hairs,” “The Magic Table, the Donkey, and the Club in the Sack,” “The Robber Bridegroom,” “Herr Korbes,” “The Godfather,” “Mother Trudy,” “Godfather Death,” “Thumbling’s Travels,” “The Juniper Tree,” “Sweetheart Roland,” “The Two Brothers,” “The TwoTravelers”

H. Rider Haggard: She

Dashiell Hammett: Red Harvest

Thomas Harris: Red Dragon

Jaroslav Hasek: Good Soldier Schweik

Nathaniel Hawthorne: House of the Seven Gables

Seamus Heaney (trans.): Beowulf

Joseph Heller: Catch-22

Ernest Hemingway: A Farewell to Arms

Patricia Highsmith: The Talented Mr. Ripley

James Hogg: The Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

Geoffrey Household: Rogue Male

Richard Hughes: A High Wind in Jamaica

Ted Hughes: Tales from Ovid

Eugene Ionesco: The Lesson

Henry James: The Turn of the Screw

M.R. James: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary

Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House

Norton Juster: The Phantom Tollbooth

Franz Kafka: The Metamorphosis, The Trial

Georg Kaiser: From Morn to Midnight

F.H. Karl: Undine

Stephen King: The Shining

Arthur Koestler: Darkness at Noon

Alfred Kubin: The Other Side

Thomas Kyd: The Spanish Tragedy

Andrew Lang: The Arabian Nights

Sheridan Le Fanu: Carmilla

Ira Levin: Rosemary’s Baby

Matthew Lewis: The Monk

H.P. Lovecraft: At the Mountains of Madness

Lois Lowry: The Giver

Malcolm Lowry: Under the Volcano

George MacDonald: The Princess and the Goblin

Christopher Marlowe: Dr. Faustus

Richard Matheson: The Incredible Shrinking Man, I Am Legend

Charles Maturin: Melmoth the Wanderer

Cormac McCarthy: Blood Meridian, The Road

Wilhelm Meinhold: The Amber Witch

Herman Melville: Typee, Benito Cereno

Gustave Meyrink: The Golem

Allan Moore: From Hell

Frank Norris: McTeague

Flannery O’Connor: Wise Blood

George Orwell: 1984

Thomas Owen: The Cave of the Toads

T.L. Peacock: Nightmare Abbey

E.A. Poe: Tales of Mystery and Imagination

Terry Pratchett: Reaper Man

Phillip Pullman: The Golden Compass

Ann Radcliffe: The Mysteries of Udolpho

Lynne Reid-Banks: Angela and Diabola

E.M. Remarque: All Quiet on the Western Front

Jean Rhys: Wide Sargasso Sea

Ann Rice: Interview with a Vampire

J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Dorothy L. Sayers: Whose Body?

Arthur Schnitzler: Leutnant Gustl/Fräulein Else

Walter Scott: The Bride of Lamermoor

Wm. Shakespeare: Titus AndronicusMacbeth

Mary Shelley: Frankenstein

I.B. Singer: Satan in Goray, The Last Demon

Alexander Solzhenitsyn: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

E.G. Speare: The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Art Spiegelman: Maus, I & II

R.L. Stevenson: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,

Bram Stoker: Dracula

Jim Thompson: The Killer Inside Me

Leo Tolstoy: The Kreutzer Sonata

Mark Twain: The Mysterious Stranger

Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse Five

Horace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto

John Webster: The Duchess of Malfi

H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds

Nathanael West: The Day of the Locust

Donald Westlake: The Ax

Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Elie Wiesel: Night

Ursula Moray Williams: The Three Toymakers/Malkin’s Mountain/The Toymaker’s Daughter

John Wyndham: The Day of the Triffids, The Midwich Cuckoos

W.B. Yeats: Irish Fairy and Folk Tales

Emile Zola: Therese Raquin, L’Assomoir

Gazetteer: this syllabus works as follows.  First comes the week’s topic, then what we’ll be watching (clips coming first, followed by the features, bolded), and finally a list of titles that further explore, illustrate, or complicate the theme.

NB: buyer beware!  You’ll all have your own convictions about what is and isn’t appropriate in the media.  With the horror genre, the trash/treasure axis is especially mutliple and various and subjective.  Viewers will want to inform themselves about each title, before actually viewing said title.


TMA 492, Winter 2014

Class Objective: to learn a bunch of stuff, read a ton of stories, and see a load of films relating to the broad topic of horror (terror, suspense, the uncanny, the weird, etc.).  We will also learn about some of the cultural and historical factors that have informed horror narratives, as well as some of their many and evolving styles and conventions.



View: Leopard Man, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), Dream of a Rarebit Fiend; A Nightmare/The Devil and the Statue/The Witch’s Revenge/Blue Beard; One A.M.; Drag Me To Hell


View: Menilmontant; The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, Faust; The Unknown, Frankenstein

Supplemental: J’Accuse (1919), Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler (1922), Häxan (1922), The Hands of Orlac (1924), Waxworks (1924), The Cat and the Canary (1927), Vampyr (1932), The Ghost Goes West (1935), Fury (1936), I Married a Witch (1942)


View: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), The Mummy (1932); Freaks, Mad Love

Supplemental: Dracula (1931), Dr. X. (1932), The Most Dangerous Game (1932), White Zombie (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), King Kong (1933), Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), The Black Cat (1934), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), The Son of Frankenstein (1939)


View: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man; Cat People, Devil

Supplemental: The Walking Dead (1936), I Walked with a Zombie (1943), The Seventh Victim (1943), Curse of the Cat People (1944), The Body Snatcher (1945), The Picture of Dorian Grey (1945), Curse of the Demon (1957), Le Boucher (1969), Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), The Orphanage (2007)


Screen: Night and Fog; Dead of Night, Queen of Spades; The Uninvited, Ugetsu Monogatari

Supplemental: Topper Returns (1940), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), Diabolique (1955), The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966), Kuroneko (1968), Poltergeist (1982), Lady in White (1988), The Frighteners (1996), Stir of Echoes (1999), Paranormal Activity (2007)


View: Them, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Curse of the Demon; The Thing from Another World, The Host

Supplemental: The House of Wax (1953), Invaders from Mars (1953), Gojira (1954), The Quatermass Experiment (1955), Fiend Without a Face (1958), Fail-Safe (1964), Planet of the Apes (1968), Altered States (1980), Tetsuo, The Iron Man (1989)


View: Water, Water, Every Hare; Tales of Hoffmann, The Fall of the House of Usher; Night of the Hunter, Spirit of the Beehive

Supplemental: The Golem (1920), The Phantom Carriage (1921), A Page of Madness (1926), Ghost Ship (1943), The Seventh Seal (1957), Eyes Without a Face (1959), The Elephant Man (1980), The Company of Wolves (1984), The Sixth Sense (1999), A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)


View: The Indian Tomb, Psycho; Carnival of Souls, The Vanishing

Supplemental: M (1931), Bigger Than Life (1956), Dracula (1958), Village of the Damned (1960), Peeping Tom (1960), The Birds (1963), Onibaba (1964), Winter Soldier (1972), Martin (1976), Eraserhead (1977)


View: The Blob, The Nutty Professor; The House of Usher, Kill, Baby, Kill

Supplemental: The Blob (1958), The House on Haunted Hill (1959), Black Sunday (1960), The Innocents (1961), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Haunting (1963), Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), Sisters (1973), It’s Alive (1974), Piranha (1978)


View: Black Sabbath, The Lamp; Repulsion, Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell

Supplemental: Jikoku (1960), The Last Man on Earth (1963), Kwaidan (1964), The Hour of the Wolf (1967), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Witchfinder General (1968), The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), Mr. Vampire (1985), Dead Ringers (1988), Audition (1999)


View: Easy Street, The Fearless Vampire Killers; Targets, Land of the Dead

Supplemental: Day of Wrath (1943), The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Night of the Living Dead (1968), Macbeth (1971), Deliverance (1972), The Crazies (1973), The Exorcist (1973), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Trainspotting (1996), Frailty (2001)


View: Phantom of the Paradise, Jaws, Taxi Driver, Don’t Look Now, Alien, The Evil Dead; Deep RedThreads

Supplemental: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), The Theatre of Blood (1973), The Wicker Man (1973), House (1977), Suspiria (1977), Blow-Out (1981), The Evil Dead (1981), Poltergeist (1982), Hellraiser (1987), Braindead (1992)


View: Return to Oz, The Evil Dead II, Clint Malarchuk, Gremlins, Grave of the Fireflies, Lightning Over Water; Dark Water, Shaun of the Dead

Supplemental: The Big Mouth (1967), Play Misty for Me (1971), Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), Carrie (1976), The Shining (1980), The Fly (1986), Cronos (1993), Ring (1998), Inland Empire (2006), The White Ribbon (2009)


View: Scream, 28 Days Later; Peter and the Wolf (2006), The Mist, Mama

Supplemental: The Beguiled (1971), Blacula (1972), Gremlins (1984), Day of the Dead (1985), The Blair Witch Project (1999), The Others (2001), Pulse (2001), Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary (2002), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Let the Right One In (2008)


… Titicut Follies (1967), Gimme Shelter (1970), The Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), Shoah (1985), Hotel Terminus (1987), The Thin Blue Line (1988), The Exorcist III (1990), Blue Velvet (1986), Dead Ringers (1988), The Silence of the Lambs (1990), Crumb (1994), Event Horizon (1997), Mr. Death (1999), Mulholland Drive (2001), Stevie (2002), A History of Violence (2005), War of the Worlds (2005), Wolf Creek (2005), The Descent (2005), Bug (2006), Ghosts of Abu Graib (2007), [Rec] (2007), Cloverfield (2008), Martyrs (2008), The Ghost Writer (2010), Shutter Island (2010), Trollhunter (2010), The Interruptors (2011), The Act of Killing (2012), The Bay (2012), Cabin in the Woods (2012) …

Continued from pt. 5:


…Many things seem significant and deserve mention in this long closing.  From the early 1960s through to his exile from the Soviet Union and death in the early 1980s, Andrei Tarkovsky’s mystical cinema not only expressed its own elusive religious faith, but it also stood clearly as a counter to and refutation of state religion.  Less clearly, but just as certainly the humanism of the Czech New Wave in the mid-1960s constituted a similar response, as would affirmations of individual expression and worth in the Chinese cinema of the 1980s and 1990s.  From 1968 (The Night of the Living Dead), the modern horror film emerges with intermittent effectiveness as a kind of negative image of conventional religious questioning, with its deep anxieties and pessimism attending and invigorating discussions of the usual issues.

Denominational cinema, productions made by and distributed to religious adherents by their chosen institutions, marked an important departure from and alternative to the impositions of film industries.  It also identified an important point of rupture, as embattled believers found it more and more difficult to find themselves, their concerns and their consolations, in an increasingly boundary breaking-and secular cinema.  A whole range of pointed, ever more explicit investigations illuminate that gap.

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s contradictory parts—Marxist, provocateur (cf. the antic blasphemy of the “La Ricotta” episode in RoGoPaG [1963]), activist homosexual, dabbling agnostic—had combined to produce, in The Gospel According to Matthew (1964), one of cinema’s most effective and moving Jesus films.  Later, these contradictions contributed to a tragic and terminal spiritual progression, or rather declension.  Pasolini’s path from the compassionate naturalism of the Dante-esque Accatone (1961) to the unbridled carnality of his last films, and of his last days (culminating in his brutal murder), would trace a poignant pattern that would be powerfully repeated in the 1970s.

Most pointedly in the individual works and collaborations of Paul Schrader and Martin Scorcese, transcendental impulse and aspiration would collide with an increasingly intransigent, often sordid naturalism.  In films like Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1975), American Gigolo and Raging Bull (both 1980), the result would be an operatic, even ecstatic treatment of sin and suffering intermingled.  This cinema of mortification effectively rendered the aspiration and the emptiness of the age, and it was not without its powerful hints of salvation.  John 9:25, the coda to Raging Bull, provides the intended rationale, and a great measure of justification for these films and their damaged protagonists.  “Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.”  This hard, clear vision also widened the gulf and inverted longstanding relationships between secular and sectarian constituencies.  If in the 1920s Sunday School cinema unduly caricatured the sin and the sinners that it sincerely tried to portray, then fifty and sixty years later a substantial and sin-ridden cinema could make little connection with many of the believing members of an alienated audience.

The controversy over Schrader and Scorcese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1987) exemplifies this alienation.  It is a brave film, full of deep conviction, as well as significant lapses in decorum and taste.  The hostility with which it was met may in part have reflected the high-handed philistinism of which the religious right is capable, but it also raised real and legitimate issues.  This was not just conservatism, but conservation, not just intolerance, but an awareness of the potential dangers of its opposite.  Faithful factions would have it that the over-inclination to take offense has to be factored against an opposite danger, which is the inability to be offended.  The Western believer’s call, occasionally answered by films like Tender Mercies (1983), Places in the Heart (1984) and Robert Duvall’s historic The Apostle (1997), echoes a basic idea of the documentary film movement.  Artistry and individual expression are essential, and need to be subordinated to a sense of social responsibility, and the pursuit of the public good.

Again, as always, there are international responses, resistances, and independent developments.  Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (1987) and Faraway, So Close (1993) reinvent Hollywood’s intervening angel fantasy, using mythological suggestiveness and metaphor, irony and a degree of humour to step back from the literalism and sometimes vulgarity of their least successful models.  Set and beautifully shot in Berlin, the films also provide a preternatural preview of the fall of communism, and of the geopolitical challenges and opportunities that would follow.  There is mythological metaphor, some irony and humour in this utilization of heavenly tropes.  Still, for all their careful distancing, these are also graceful, informed parables about sorrow and salvation, testimonies to the power of cinema’s loving look, and finally, especially in the conclusion of the second film, expressions of gratitude and belief.  Here, amidst frequent divisive rhetoric, is encouraging evidence that popular artists and high modernists can meet and be edified on the rich, still common ground of religious film.

Nearby, Gabriel Axel’s exquisite Babette’s Feast (1987), featuring strategically cast and utilized actors from the ouevre of Carl Theodor Dreyer, provides a contemplation of and a lovely reconciliation between the abundant inclinations of Hollywood religion and the severities of the art film, as well as between the satisfactions of substantial secular pursuit and the more pressing needs of the spiritual life.  Folk (minkan) Shintoism is essential to the delights and substance of recent animated films from Japan’s Studio Ghibli (Hiyao Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro [1988], Princess Mononoke [1997] and Spirited Away [2001], Isao Takahata’s The Racoon War [1994]).  Following ample precedent, these films’ value-specific manifestations— environmentalism, the refusal of good/bad polarities in its characters, a reverence for the domestic sphere—resonate outside that value system and have an inclusive, in-gathering effect, notwithstanding, or even because of their cultural and religious specificity.

Finally, and without doubt most important to contemporary film-religious discussion, the Iranian cinema of the 1990s and 2000s recapitulates many of the issues considered here, as well as providing new challenges and opportunities for productive discussion.  Nowhere is the ease and danger of intra-faith incomprehension, nowhere is the necessity of generous effort and mutual appreciation more evident than in the interactions between Islam and the Judeo-Christian world.  The tradition of Muhammad’s forbidding the artistic representation of human form has contributed to a paucity of artistic production generally, and film production particularly in the Muslim world.  Production there has been however, and in the case of Iran, it has become some of the most bracing and challenging in world cinema.

Clichés must be considered, and may have some bearing in the truth.  Conservative, repressive forces in Iran are real, are substantially religious, and have insured that free expression in the cinema has been substantially circumscribed.  (It might also be justly argued that repressive forces in the US—cf. a well-publicized refusal in 2002 to offer Abbas Kiorastami an entry visa to attend the New York Film Festival—have equally circumscribed the dissemination and celebration of this essential material.)  A resulting inclination to find coded subversivities in Iranian film is appealing, and will bear some fruit.  But it may not be the most productive approach to the material, particularly with regard to the current conversation.  As in Hollywood’s heyday, as well as in numerous other politically restricting circumstances, limitation has sometimes served as a spur to creativity, and to urgency.  There are depths beneath the seeming serene surfaces that bear investigation.

More importantly, it must also be granted that Iranian cinema is a diverse embodiment of a simple reality: perhaps uniquely in film history, this national cinema unequivocally constitutes the collective expression of a community of faith.  Its formal elements are challenging, even groundbreaking.  If there is here a great diversity—the homiletic cinema of Majid Majidi, the realist activism of Jafar Panahi, the diverse ministrations of the Makhmalbaf collective, the rigours, generosities and comparative secularism of Abbas Kiorostami’s intellectual art films—then it is partly a confirmation of the range of problem and possibility that religion, now too frequently caricatured as a uniformly constraining influence, can stimulate.

Inevitably there are gaps in this discussion.  Where is realism, with its reverence for the everyday, its respect and patience and calls to action?  Where is activist modernism, with its echoes of the medieval, its investments in issues of ultimate concern?  Why so many individual names and film titles?  Where are the women?  What of all the other unmentioned nations and traditions?  And what of the film activity falling out of the conventional systems of production and distribution?  It may be the ultimate and most powerful religious film tradition will grow out of the increasing availability of digital media, and the opportunity it gives more and more people, in their homes and with their families, to record and commune gratefully over their own value-informed, loving interactions.

Through the course of its history film has consistently demonstrated its power to hold and to hog our attention.  The lacunae in a summary like this, necessary in this setting and with this format, may actually resist its often unhealthy hypnotism.  Films, filmmakers, even traditions and the rest, even and especially when religion is at issue, should only serve as the beginning and as a part of a greater, more challenging exchange of precept and principle, one which expands one’s outward comprehension and appreciation at the same time that it intensifies that which adheres, and abides, inside.