La coquille et le clergyman (The Seashell and the Clergyman)

Germaine Dulac

Amiens, France, 1882 - Paris, France, 1942
Antonin Artaud - Marseille, France, 1896 - Ivry-sur-Seine, France, 1948 (Script)
  • Date: 
  • Edition/serial number: 
  • Media description: 
    35 mm film, also transferred to video (Digital Betacam and DVD)
  • Duration: 
    40 min.
  • Colour: 
    Black and white
  • Sound: 
    No sound
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Although directed by Germaine Dulac, there is a case for crediting this film with dual authorship, as it is based on an Antonin Artaud script. Dulac’s career was built on an underlying theoretical foundation that approached feminism, based on cinema’s separation from the theatrically inspired literary model, and a desire to express what she termed a new “art of vision”. Here, she coincides with the tenets of Surrealism and with the poet Antonin Artaud, who was temporarily associated with the movement. However, during the film’s production a number of disagreements arose between the scriptwriter and the director, since subjected to reinterpretation in recent studies. While Dulac’s symbolism-influenced cinematic aesthetic approached the film as a series of metaphors with their own internal logic, Artaud saw it as a juxtaposition of images invoking displacement and dissociation, a search for the incongruous, to challenge the established value system. The radicality of the script – and indeed his other writings – showed that Artaud was perhaps the first person to realise film’s ability to plug directly into the audience’s psyche. The final version of La coquille et le clergyman (The Seashell and the Clergyman) created a new breakaway language through the unconscious.

Lola Hinojosa