In 1923, Artaud wrote that ‘the cinema involves a total reversal of values, a complete revolution in optics, perspective and logic’. Artaud appeared in twenty-three films, including Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), Abel Gance’s five-and-a-half hour epic Napoléon (1927), as well as Lucrèce Borgia (1935). He wrote several theoretical texts on film, as well as a series of film scenarios, before abandoning the cinema in 1935, writing that it was ‘dead, illusory, and fragmented’ and ‘a closed world, without relation to existence’. Nonetheless, Artaud’s writing on film has had a lasting impact, and his onscreen presence permeated his entire work.
This lecture explores Artaud’s engagement with film, discussing themes of vibration, contagion and shock as they pervade Artaud’s acting, gesturing and writing body, and looking in detail at his abandoned film scenarios, gesturing towards a cinema never came into being.
Ros Murray is a Lecturer in the French Department at Kings College London. Her current book project focuses on feminist film and video in post-1968 France, and she has published articles in Camera Obscura, Film-Philosophy, Feral Feminisms and Studies in European Cinema on the French avant-garde, feminist video, queer film and transgender documentary. Her book Antonin Artaud: The Scum of the Soul came out with Palgrave McMillan in 2014.