Close Up

17 - 29 November 2015: Superstition, Witchcraft, Body without Organs and the Occult


"Murnau's screenplay of Nosferatu comprises about 180 scenes in 5 Acts, each scene typed out on an individual page. In my facsimile copy of the script there are annotations in the margins and in the body of the text as well as the occasional sketch or diagram indicating movement, scene setting, etc. But the most striking feature of this edition is the emphatic X scrawled across the text of every single page. This X in its haunting repetition is an invitation to look beyond it and must therefore be viewed as a reminder of the short season of films at Close-Up during the latter part of November. Each film promises to glide into port on Sclater Street like a ghostly schooner, bearing its unholy anxiety, filled with primal shadows of a fear that threatens to release its cargo of plague-ridden rats on the streets – like in the movies – but in reality will deliver (I promise) ethereal images of undead, pre-dead, post-dead, dead-dead and living moving images of what we call Superstition, Witchcraft, Body without Organs and the Occult... or what we sometimes refer to as life in the zigzag esoteric lane." – Gad Hollander

The Phantom Carriage
Victor Sjöström
1921 | 107 min | B/W | Digital

The last person to die on New Year’s Eve before the clock strikes twelve is doomed to take the reins of Death’s chariot and work tirelessly collecting fresh souls for the next year. So says the legend that drives The Phantom Carriage, directed by the father of Swedish cinema, Victor Sjöström. The story concerns an alcoholic, abusive ne’er-do-well (Sjöström himself) who is shown the error of his ways, and the pure-of-heart Salvation Army sister who believes in his redemption. This extraordinarily rich and innovative silent classic is a Dickensian ghost story and a deeply moving morality tale, as well as a showcase for groundbreaking special effects. read more

Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages
Benjamin Christensen
1922 | 104 min | Tinted | Digital

Grave robbing, torture, possessed nuns, and a satanic Sabbath: Benjamin Christensen’s legendary film uses a series of dramatic vignettes to explore the scientific hypothesis that the witches of the Middle Ages suffered the same hysteria as turn-of-the-century psychiatric patients. But the film itself is far from serious – instead it’s a witches’ brew of the scary, gross, and darkly humorous. read more

F.W. Murnau
1922 | 93 min | Tinted | Digital

When Bram Stoker's widow refused to grant Murnau the rights to Dracula, Murnau and his screenwriter Henrik Galeen simply changed the characters' names and went ahead with the film, creating one of the greatest horror movies, not just of the silent screen, but of all time. Murnau's visionary direction and the chilling performance of Max Schreck in the title role make Nosferatu nothing less than a masterpiece. read more

Carl Th. Dreyer
1932 | 72 min | B/W | Digital

With Vampyr, Dreyer’s brilliance at achieving mesmerizing atmosphere and austere, profoundly unsettling imagery was for once applied to the horror genre. Yet the result – concerning an occult student assailed by various supernatural haunts and local evildoers in a village outside Paris – is nearly unclassifiable, a host of stunning camera and editing tricks and densely layered sounds creating a mood of dreamlike terror. With its roiling fogs, ominous scythes, and foreboding echoes, Vampyr is one of cinema’s great nightmares. read more

Day of Wrath
Carl Th. Dreyer
1943 | 110 min | B/W | 35mm  

Day of Wrath is generally regarded to be one of Dreyer's greatest works, dealing with all his prime concerns: religious faith, the supernatural, social intolerance, innocence and guilt, and the clash between society and the individual especially the individual woman. In early seventeenth-century rural Denmark an old woman is hunted down and burned as a witch, despite the efforts of the parson's young wife, Anne, to save her. Anne (whose own mother had been suspected of being a witch), is possessed by a secret passion for her stepson, a young man of her own age, and when her elderly husband dies she finds herself accused of using witchcraft to cause his death. read more

Mother Joan of the Angels
Jerzy Kawalerowicz
1961 | 101 min | B/W | Digital

One of the landmarks of Polish cinema, this film is based on the documented story of the "possession" of a group of nuns that led to the burning of a priest at the stake in Loudun, France in 1634. Mother Joan of the Angels is a spare, visually rigorous, and profoundly disturbing exploration of faith, repression, fanaticism, and Eros. read more

Elias Merhige
1990 | 72 min | B/W | 16mm  

Presenting birth, life and death as an endless procession of the damned, crawling through filth to a new aeon, Elias Merhige's haunting, atavistic Begotten has been described by Susan Sontag as "one of the 10 most important films of modern times". These 16mm film screenings will be accompanied by The Begotten’s live, improvised soundtrack for guitar, voice and electronics. The Begotten are William Fowler, Justin Harries, Mark Pilkington, Jo Fisher Robertsread more