THE MIDDLE AGES ON FILM
April 11 – June 9
This spring, in collaboration with medieval scholar Martha Driver, Anthology presents Parts 1 & 2 of a multi-part series focusing on films that depict the Middle Ages. A chronologically and geographically diverse selection – from SANSHO THE BAILIFF (1954) to JOAN THE MAID (1994), and from SALADIN (Egypt) and LEGEND OF SURAM FORTRESS (Georgia) to ROBIN AND MARION (UK) and THE VIRGIN SPRING (Sweden) – this survey demonstrates the rich history of the cinema’s encounters with this fascinating era, one that is near enough for its people, societies, and cultures to be in some ways recognizable, but remote enough that depictions of them can be as strange as something out of science fiction.
One way or another, the Middle Ages have inflamed the imaginations of a wide variety of filmmakers, who have been inspired to create some of their most extraordinary films. The plethora of worthy medieval-themed works has meant that we’ve split the series into multiple parts – this calendar we’ll be devoting one section (April) to films that portray historical figures or events, and another to movies adapting medieval myths or works of literature (May). And stay tuned for more this fall, including a focus on King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable!
“To characterize the fluid content of medieval texts, the critic Paul Zumthor used the term ‘mouvance’. The team means, alive, ‘moving’, unfixed. Zumthor described medieval literature as a ‘sequence of productions’. Like retellings of stories of the Crusades or of Joan of Arc or Tristan and Isolt on film, medieval texts are multi-valenced and often open-ended, familiar tales told and retold in a range of versions across time, in many cultures and in many languages. Like film, medieval literature and art were collaboratively produced, with authors like Geoffrey Chaucer and Giovanni Boccaccio drawing on rich sources of folktale and earlier narrative to tell their stories. In 1934, the art historian Erwin Panofsky famously compared the making of movies to the building of a medieval cathedral, noting that both enterprises were the product of group effort: ‘It might be said that a film, called into being by a cooperative effort in which all contributions have the same degree of permanence, is the nearest modern equivalent of a medieval cathedral; the role of the producer corresponding, more or less, to that of a bishop or archbishop; that of the director to that of the architect in chief; that of the scenario writers to that of the scholastic advisors establishing the iconographical program; and that of the actors, cameramen, cutters, sound men, makeup men and the divers technicians to that of those whose work provided the physical entity of the finished product.’ The films with medieval themes in the first two series presented this spring at Anthology Film Archives are monuments, too, some of them seldom seen but all well worth a visit.” –Martha W. Driver, Pace University
Curated in collaboration with Martha Driver, Distinguished Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at Pace University, and the co-editor (with Sid Ray) of THE MEDIEVAL HERO ON SCREEN and SHAKESPEARE AND THE MIDDLE AGES (McFarland & Co.).
Special thanks to Sara Driver, Brian Belovarac (Janus Films), Chris Chouinard (Park Circus), Marine Goulois (Les Films du Losange), Florence Hugues (Pierre Grise Productions), Christopher Lane & Michael Horne (Sony), Mona Nagai & Jon Shibata (Pacific Film Archive), Gary Palmucci (Kino), John Poole, Jr. (Corinth Films), Caitlin Robertson & Joe Reid (20th Century Fox), Jerome Rudes (LVT Laser Subtitling), Delphine Selles-Alvarez & Laura Pertuy (Cultural Services of the French Embassy), and John Sinno (Arab Film Distribution).
Unless otherwise noted, all film descriptions are by Martha Driver.