Special Screening of The Danish Girl (Mon. 29th Feb)

In collaboration with the Rethinking Sexology Project, Screen Talks will be hosting an exciting discussion panel before a screening of The Danish Girl (2015) on Monday 29th February, 6pm, at the Exeter Picturehouse. The film tells the story of Lili Elbe (1882-1931) a trans woman living in early 20th century Denmark.

Dr Jana Funke, English and History scholar at the University of Exeter, will discuss the role of sexual science in developing ideas about transgender identities in the 1920s and 1930s.

Wendy Benstead, costumier of stage and screen, will discuss her role in making costumes for The Danish Girl and depicting gender in historical film and theatre.

Book your tickets here!:

The event is part of LGBT History Month 2016.

Dr João Florêncio introduces Derek Jarman’s Blue


To coincide with World Aids Day, and in conjunction with The Terence Higgins Trust, Screentalks presents Jarman’s 12th, and final, feature film, Blue filmed in 1993, the year before he succumbed to AIDS-related complications.

The 79-minute film is inspired by Yves Klein’s 1961 painting ‘Blue Monochrome’, and features a single ‘blue’ frame with voiceover narration. The film has screened at museums, galleries and film retrospectives ever since its release, evoking sensory and contemplative response. Jarman created Blue to reflect on his increasing loss of sight – blue-tinged as a side-effect of his medication – and heightened sense of mortality. Autobiographical, anecdotal, experimental, affecting, uplifting and metaphysical, this is a viewing experience not to be missed.

Dr Florêncio is a lecturer in History of Modern and Contemporary Art and Visual Culture. His short (spoiler free!) introductory talk will introduce you to Jarman and his innovative work. Screen Talks invites you to join João in the Picturehouse bar afterwards to share your thoughts and reactions to the film. Come along to find out more about Jarman’s films and the legacy of Blue in the context of World Aids Day 2015. We will be fundraising at the screening for the Terrence Higgins Trust:

The talk will begin at 6.30pm at the Exeter Picturehouse, Bartholomew Street West

Book tickets here:

Image from Derek Jarman's Sketchbooks  http://www.thamesandhudson.com/Derek_Jarmans_Sketchbooks/9780500516942

Image from Derek Jarman’s Sketchbooks

The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum at the University of Exeter holds the archive of James Mackay, the producer of many Derek Jarman films including Blue. Don Boyd’s archive also holds material relating to Jarman. If you are interested ion accessing the archives email bdc@exeter.ac.uk.

The Headless Woman – Lucrecia Martel – Screentalk by Dr Sally Faulkner 23/11/2015


Next week’s Screentalk introduces a masterpiece of Argentinian suspense, Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman (2008).


Veronica is driving in northwestern Argentina when her mobile phone distracts her and she runs over something—but drives on. The police confirm that there was no accident, but Veronica begins to have a meltdown, thinking she may have killed someone. Was it an animal? A child? Or nothing at all?

We hope you can join us for the screening, and for film chat in the bar afterwards.

Click for the trailer here:

Trailer – The Headless Woman

Screentalks Blog Spotlight: Like Someone in Love – A Review by Ebba Wester and Angus Henderson

Like Someone in Love
A review by Ebba Wester and Angus Henderson
Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love is a quiet, moving force. It is the calm before the storm. It moves flexibly and lazily through urban Tokyo, and gently strings and stretches out time like a rubber band – slowly but with increasing pressure. We do not realize the inevitability of an abrupt snap until it’s already happened.

The film follows Akiko (Rin Takanashi), a young woman living in Tokyo working part time as an escort whilst completing her studies at university. When one night she is placed in a cab and sent to an ‘important’ client living outside the city, the elderly ex-professor Takashi (Tadashi Okuno) turns out to be her welcoming customer. In many ways it is a familiar story; one about the everyday melancholy and loneliness of modern/urban life, the yearning for human affection and the awkward struggle for intimacy. Yet Kiarostami’s communicates with such subtlety that the film transcends its deceptively simple narrative.

The film favours ambiguity over clarity and thin sheets of mystery seem to constantly layer and overlap, yet the mood remains contemplative rather than confusing. Often opting for more distant and still/ objective cinematography, the camera asks us to observe and not to judge – we are encouraged to empathise with the characters, but not overtly manipulated into doing so.

Kiarostami draws on the thematic occupations of Ozu in Like Someone in Love, familiarity and distance between generations is observed and critiqued. The sense of an overbearing morality tale is dispelled by the lack of a flawless character. And a feeling of the incomplete surrounds the film. We never truly discover the fate of the characters developed in the film, it is certainly brought to a swift end, but the possible consequences linger in the mind long after. The effect garnered is one of elegant intrusion.

Truth and falsehood in the film builds interesting characters not at qualms with deceit. Although as the story progresses we come to understand why moments of deception are necessary or preferable to the truth. Kiarostami therefore weaves the audience into Akiko and Takashi’s complicity and makes it tasteful. This subtlety guides us towards the odd couple at the centre of the narrative who may at first seem cold or insincere in the first third of the film. We are not forced to like Akiko and Takashi but instead are drawn to them, through Kiarostami presenting a phenomenological puzzle, which can widely ignore the morality of truth in pursuit of safety. This intelligence of direction and combination of storytelling makes for a beautifully complex Tokyo that seems so unwilling to give up its mystery.

Our new programme for Sept-Nov 2015 is now live!

Screen Talks is returning this September with an exciting new programme of screenings and talks with experts in global cinema.

Our new Global Art Cinema programme features a selection of contemporary films from Abbas Kiarostami, Xavier Dolan, Mani Akbari, Mark Cousins and Rachid Bouchareb, introduced by Exeter academics and special guest speaker – director, writer and producer Don Boyd.

Take a look at our ‘What’s on When’ section for complete listings.

Come join us for great films and great discussion!

Peeping Tom: Intro by Dr Felicity Gee — Mon. 18th May, 2015, 6.30pm

Our second screening in the new Screen Talks programme will take place this coming Monday 18th May with Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960), introduced by Dr Felicity Gee, Lecturer in English and Film at the University of Exeter.peeping-tom-karlheinzJoin us at the Picturehouse at 6.30pm to hear Dr Gee’s intro (in place of the usual film trailers). Join the event on Facebook to find out more!
Book online, call the Box Office (0871 902 5730) or buy tickets on the door (half price for students on Mondays).

Black Narcissus: Intro by Dr Lisa Stead – Mon. 4th May, 2015, 6.30pm

Our next Screen Talk sees the launch of the new four part programme for May-June 2015, foregrounding classics of British cinema and an Italian neo-realism film to finish out the season.

The new programme kicks off with the Powell and Pressburger film Black Narcissus (1947), introduced by Dr Lisa Stead, Lecturer in British and American Cinema at the University of Exeter. Join us at the Picturehouse at 6.30pm on Monday 4th May for the launch of the new programme and to hear Dr Stead’s brief intro in place of the usual film trailers. Join the event on Facebook to find out more!

Book online, call the Box Office (0871 902 5730) or buy tickets on the door (half price for students on Mondays).


Tabu: intro by Prof Sally Faulkner – 14th April, 2015 8.45pm

Our next Screen Talks is a special event as part of the Association of Hispanists Conference, hosted at the University of Exeter, April 14th-15th 2015.

Professor Sally Faulkner, one of the conference organisers, researches Hispanic cinema, and she will intro TABU (Miguel Gomes, 2012) on Tuesday April 14th 8.45 pm at Exeter Picturehouse.  Book tickets here.

Sally has written an article about this film, which can be accessed here: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/TSGQvSM64K2QCSbZWSEe/full


The Lunchbox: intro by Dr Florian Stadtler, Mon 9th March 6.15pm

Our next Screen Talks event will be on Monday 9th March, 6.15pm at Exeter Picturehouse. Dr Florian Stadtler, Lecturer in Global Literatures and Cultures, Dept of English and Film Studies at the University of Exeter) will introduce The Lunchbox (Ritesh Batra, 2013). Join the event on Facebook and find out more here. Booking Information: Book online, call the Box Office 0871 902 5730 or buy tickets on the door (half price for students on Mondays). Florian has written a guest-blog post for us on the film: The_Lunchbox_poster What happens when a lunchbox delivery from a housewife’s kitchen in the suburbs of Mumbai/Bombay into the bustling business district of the city goes wrong? This is the premise of Ritesh Batra’s evocative 2013 film, The Lunchbox. This unusual mis-delivery leads to the unexpected connection of Saajan (Irrfan Khan, known to many in his roles in Slumdog Millionaire and Life of Pi), a reclusive and bad-tempered office worker close to retirement, and Ila (Nimrat Kaur), an unhappily married suburban housewife. Both are pleasantly surprised. Ila sees her food appreciated by this stranger, putting into sharp relief the indifference of her husband. Saajan, still in mourning for the death of his wife, too, discovers a new perspective on life, which is facilitated by the exchange of notes delivered in the lunchbox. The premise for the film is an unlikely one. As a 2010 Harvard Business School Study led by Stefan Thomke revealed, the error rate in a lunchbox delivery going wrong is one in six million. But the film imagines this ‘what if’ moment.


THE LUNCHBOX_1.jpglunchbox 2

The film is marked by tender performances, particularly by Khan and Kaur, but the film also distinguishes itself through a documentary sensibility that evokes the intermediary role fulfilled by the dabbawallahs, the men who provide the daily lunchbox delivery service. They bridge the space of the domestic urban with the public open-plan office in the heart of the city. These cross-flows that traverse the private space of the home and the public spaces of the city and the office workspace reveal the intensity of the city with great sensitivity and attention to detail. The dabbawallah’s position in-between is underscored by an observing, detached camera eye. They remain almost a voiceless presence, except for the end, when Saajan listens in on their singing on the train, and for a brief exchange between Ila and her dabbawallah. The LunchboxThe Lunchbox - main image Indeed, this depiction of the dabbawallahs is not accidental. Ritesh Batra began researching the lunchbox delivery service in Mumbai in view of making a documentary in 2010. He developed the script for this fictional story concurrently. In the event the documentary did not get made. Yet their service is key to the unfolding of the story. The dabbawallah’s work and their presence in the film is marked by a deliberate switch from narrative driven fiction film-making into documentary to offer a close-up on Mumbai’s everyday middle-class city life, characterised by suburban train journeys and office work. Mumbai – one of the largest cities in South Asia and the financial capital of India – is almost a character in her own right in the narrative and the film manages to give a sense of the city, particularly through its depictions of crowds and the individual’s navigation of spaces.

While the lunchbox delivery service is a crucial plot point around which the narrative revolves, the film is centred on its three main protagonists who are all faced with a crisis in their life. Ila seeks solace in her cooking to change her life; Saajan dreads his imminent retirement and plans to move to Bhutan and the orphaned Shaikh seeks guidance from Saajan to find his place with his new wife as a new arrival in the city. This is a film of ideas. Unfolding its narrative slowly, Batra seeks to think through the different possibilities, life choices and regrets that the three main characters have to confront and relies on the imaginative truth incorporated by the actors in their performances.

It is marked by a local specificity, reminiscent of the novels of Orhan Parmuk’s Istanbul, and the film, at moments, almost seems like a poetic and literary love song to Mumbai. Batra has cited both Parmuk and Czech novelist, Milan Kundera as important influences on his work. But Batra’s script and filmic sensibility also owes much to the literary sensibility of Latin America, particularly, Argentinian writers, Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar. The narrative is character- as well as story-driven and dramatizes the conflicts between tradition and modernity, individuality and family that arise in new configurations and opportunities created by living in the city.

Linguistically, the films navigates the axis of Hindi and English, which remains true to the educated, professional middle-class milieu the film describes. The film at times almost achieves poetic qualities, through the way in which the camera frames the domestic homes and workspaces. The axis on which this is developed is the position of Ila whom we see for the majority of the film inside her kitchen and the home, virtually imprisoned. This position is only enhanced by her relationship with the anonymous ‘Aunty’, who lives above her, whom we only encounter as a disembodied voice. The emerging relationship between Ila and Saajan flourishes through their shared feeling of entrapment. Saajan is imprisoned by his past; Ila, by her marriage. Ila, though perhaps a victim of her circumstances, is a strong character and the epistolary relationship between the two works because of their shared experience of loneliness at different stages in their life. What we witness, then, is two people sifting through the baggage of their lives who are brought together by the impromptu exchange of notes triggered by the miracle of the mis-delivered lunchbox that connects these two people. Shaikh partakes in their story and his own life is one of reinvention and survival, against the odds, and of making the best of the opportunities offered to him. His resilience is characterised by his ability to change and evolve, much like the city of Bombay has over the centuries. The film is knitted together by the strong connective bind that are the dabbawallahs and their extraordinary delivery system, a system that is organic to the city, that works by an intricate code of numbers, letters and colours so that the lunchbox arrives at the right place, at the right time.

The Lunchbox and its national and international success reflect the burgeoning scene of independent filmmaking in India, which has experienced a resurgence in recent years. It is a wide-ranging co-production that includes financial backing from Bollywood production houses as well as international backers from France and Germany. It involved DAR Motion Pictures, Rohfilm, Cine Mosaic Productions, ASAP Films, Sikhya Entertainment, ARTE France Cinéma, National Film Development Corporation (India), Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and was distributed in India through Bollywood film producer and director Karan Johar’s production company Dharma and the Disney-owned UTV. It launched in Britain at the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival in 2013 and enjoyed a UK-wide release in Spring 2014.

Dr Florian Stadtler researches Indian Popular Cinema/Bollywood, South Asian writing in English, particularly the work of Salman Rushdie, and British Asian Literature and History. He has published in these areas.  Find out more about Florian’s research here.

The Elephant Man: Victorian Monstrosities – Celluloid Gothic – intro by Dr Corinna Wagner, Mon 26th Jan

Our next Screen Talks event will be on Monday 26th January, 6.00pm at Exeter Picturehouse. Dr Corinna Wagner, Senior Lecturer in C18th Literature, Visual Culture and Medical Humanities, Dept of English and Film Studies at the University of Exeter) will introduce The Elephant Man (David Lynch, 1980).

This event is the first of three ‘Celluloid Gothic’ special events, and ties in with the Art & Soul: Victorians and the Gothic Exhibition at Exeter’s RAMM,

Join the event on Facebook and find out more here.

Booking Information: Book online, call the Box Office 0871 902 5730 or buy tickets on the door (half price for students on Mondays).

Corinna has written a guest-blog post for us on the film:

The Elephant Man: Victorian Monstrosities

There is so much to say about this brilliant film: about the methods and choices of the director David Lynch, about the music, about the uses of the Victorian past, and about how Lynch built his narrative on the memoirs of the Victorian surgeon Dr. Frederick Treves, who wrote the medical account of the tragic life of the ‘The Elephant Man,’ Joseph Merrick.

But we can talk about those things (and more) next week at the Screening. For now, I want to focus on some particular issues surrounding medicine, ‘monstrosity’ (to use a 19th century term), and spectacle.

The Normal and the Pathological

‘The showman — speaking as if to a dog — called out harshly: ‘Stand up!’ The thing arose slowly and let the blanket that covered its head and back fall to the ground. There stood revealed the most disgusting specimen of humanity that I have ever seen. In the course of my profession I had come upon lamentable deformities of the face due to injury or disease, as well as mutilations and contortions of the body depending upon like causes; but at no time had I met with such a degraded or perverted version of a human being as this lone figure displayed. He was naked to the waist, his feet were bare, he wore a pair of threadbare trousers that had once belonged to some fat gentleman’s suit.’

This is Treves first encounter with Merrick, as recorded in his 1923 memoirs. Merrick was exhibited in a Victorian freak show. Treves’s language is shocking to us: we expect more objectivity, professional distance, and perhaps care and understanding from our medical practitioners. Yet Treves’s straightforward account underscores our discomfort, our horror at the sight of bodies that don’t fit definitions of normal. Perhaps this seems obvious, but our visceral repulsion to ‘abject’ bodies calls attention to the way we have historically divided the world into categories of normal and abnormal/pathological.  Medical science, as Paul Youngquist points out, has built ‘the proper body’ and those who fall outside this category are destined never to experience the privileges that come with being ‘normal.’

Atavism, Degeneration and the Monstrous

Victorian society was anxious about the idea that human society could degenerate, rather than progress. What better genre to express these fears than the gothic?  Fears about the tentative nature of civilization and progress produced in gothic literature what Kelly Hurley describes as “new models of the human as abhuman, as bodily ambiguated or otherwise discontinuous in identity” (5). These abhumans or ambiguous, often monstrous characters include Robert Louis Stevenson’s primal Mr. Hyde, Sheridan Le Fanu’s Mr. Jennings and his tormenting monkey-spirit, and H. G. Wells’ human-animal mutants in The Island of Doctor Moreau. We could also include in this list the urban poor who populated Victorian London’s East End, who were often represented as atavistic, animalistic creatures. These figures are all types of animal-human hybrids; they are abject, uncanny beings who we may fear or we may have sympathy for, but who always prompt us to consider the traits that make us human and the qualities that make us civilized. Invariably, they also remind us of how fragile our ordered world is. Among these figures, the Elephant Man looms large: yes, he was Joseph Merrick, a real life individual, but he has also became a character.

elephant 1

Tracing a Tradition

The Elephant Man could be ranked too, among those visually different individuals that defied the ordinary, the normal, the typical. One of the reasons these individuals cause anxiety is because they trouble the categories and distinctions that give us such comfort and security.

According to many observers, historically this became much more the case in the Victorian era. Previously, ‘monsters’ were figures of wonder, but in an enlightened age, they became figures of deviance and dysfunction. The direction of historical change in the ways we see the anomalous body, as Rosemary Garland-Thomson puts it, ‘can be characterized simply as a movement from a narrative of the marvellous to a narrative of the deviant.’ ‘As modernity develops in Western culture,’ she argues, ‘what was once sought after as revelation becomes pursued as entertainment; what aroused awe now inspires horror; what was taken as portent shifts to a site of progress. In brief, wonder becomes error’ (3). Thus, you get the Victorian Freak show.

elephant 2elephant 3

 How do Freaks operate in Culture—then and now?

Rosemary Garland-Thomson also describes ‘freaks’ or the ‘monsters’ as ‘magnets,’ because we attach whatever events or questions we have at any given historical moment to them.

So, where are we now? And where were we in 1980, when David Lynch made this film? What anxieties are betrayed in this version of Merrick’s life? What events stimulated Lynch’s interpretation? In what way has he approached and represented bodily monstrosity? How has he represented the ‘normal’? Is this an overly sentimentalized portrait of Merrick?

And how are we representing ‘monstrosity’ now? In recent years there was a Channel 4 documentary called I am the Elephant Man, about a 31-year-old Chinese man Huang Chuncai. This ‘BodyShock’ special also outperformed BBC2’s Clowns, an examination of the lives of four children’s entertainers, which drew an audience of 1.3 million and a 6% share at the same time. However, I am the Elephant Man wasn’t the biggest performing BodyShock of this year, losing to the portrait of the world’s fattest woman, called Half-Ton Mum, which picked up 4.8 million viewers and an 18% share in January.

 Works Cited:

Rosemary Garland-Thomson. Freakery: Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body. New York: NYUP, 1996.

Kelly Hurley. The Gothic Body: Sexuality, Materialism, and Degeneration at the Find de Siecle. Cambridge: CUP, 1997.

Treves, Frederick. The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences. London: Cassel, 1923.

Paul Youngquist. Monstrosities: Bodies and British Romanticism. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2003.

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