Wicker Man - Robin Hardy

Wicker Man - Robin Hardy - Studio Canal

Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film

Between 26 February - 8 March, the British Council, in collaboration with Istanbul Modern Cinema and the British Film Institute celebrates the shadowy world of gothic film by presenting a selection of gothic stories burning with lust, drenched in gore and dread, and feeding on our darkest desires and fears. From vampires and werewolves to ghosts and tormented souls, the program reveals how the archetypes of Gothic horror and romance have endured, reflecting our deepest fears back at us. Gothic literature was born in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries with phenomenal novels by authors such as Mary Shelly and Bram Stoker. Film brought the ominous skeleton of this genre to life, putting flesh on its bones. Turning characters such as Dracula and Frankenstein into cult figures, Gothic film found its way from its origins in the silent era into today’s twilight world. 

The selection includes films such as Dead of Night (1945) made up of five ghost stories; Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (1973), a psychological thriller shot in the dark streets of Venice; and David Lynch’s The Elephant Man, which tells the story of John Merrick, a freak said to have actually lived in 19th century London.

The programme and the films:

Film Schedule

Thursday 26 February

Saturday 28 February

Sunday 1 March

(13.00) The Innocents (13.00) Night of the Demon  
(15.00) Dracula
(+ The Mistletoe Bough)
(15.00) The Elephant Man (15.00) The Innocents
(17.00) Don't Look Now (17.00) The Queen of Spades (17.00) Dead of Night
(19.00) Talk: Gothic Film 
Fatih Özgüven, Selim Eyüboğlu



Thursday 5 March

Saturday 7 March

Sunday 8 March

(13.00) Dead of Night (13.00) The Queen of Spades  
(15.00) Don't Look Now (15.00) The Elephant Man (15.00) Night of the Demon
(17.00) The Wicker Man (17.00) The Company of Wolves (17.00) Dracula
(+The Misletoe Bough)
(19.00) The Elephant Man    

Dead Of Night, 1945

UK | Blu-ray, Black & White, 104’ | English
Directors: Robert Hamer, Basil Dearden, Charles Crichton, Alberto Cavalcanti
Cast: Robert Wyndham, Anthony Baird, Mervyn Johns

During the time he works at a country farmhouse, architect Walter Craig realizes that the nightmare he has had every night is gradually turning into reality. He knows how it will end and starts waiting in suspense while he is forced to listen to the other house guests and their own hair-raising tales of the supernatural. Comprising five dark and terrifying stories, “Dead of Night” offers a nightmare in which dream and reality, science and the supernatural, and reason and hysteria mingle. The film was the first post-war production released by Ealing Studios, who are best known for their comedies, and its tales of neurosis and obsession seem to be the perfect response to the trauma of the war years.

Don’t Look Now, 1973

UK | Blu-ray, Color, 110’ | English
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Cast: Donald Sutherland, Julie Christie, Hilary Mason

Laura and John, a married couple, grieve the loss of their daughter who died in a tragic accident. While strolling in the streets of Venice they come across a blind woman who claims to be psychic. She informs them that their daughter is trying to contact them. Though John resists the idea, he too starts having mysterious visions that lead him to slowly lose his mind as he is dragged into grave danger. An innovative psychological thriller by Nicolas Roeg, with its enigmatic narrative, mysterious and chilling atmosphere, and fine acting.

Dracula, 1958

UK | Blu-ray, Color, 88’ | English
Director: Terence Fisher
Cast: Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, Peter Cushing

After being attacked by Jonathan Harker, the vampire Dracula abandons his castle and travels to the village where Harker’s fiancée lives. Realizing his family is in danger, Harker and his close friend Dr. Van Helsing do everything they can to destroy Dracula. In this adaptation of Bram Stroker’s cult novel, Christopher Lee, the most charismatic of Draculas in the history of cinema, is memorable with his portrayal of a feral yet civil, raging yet brooding character.

Night Of The Demon, 1957

UK | DCP, Black & White, 95’ | English
Director: Jacques Touneur
Cast: Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummings, Shay Gorman

John Holden, a scientist who does not believe in supernatural forces, intends to expose Julian Karswell, the leader of a satanic cult. One day he receives an invitation to Karswell’s estate. However, during his visit, a parchment slipped into Holden’s books leads to strange incidents that make him reconsider his beliefs regarding witchcraft and supernatural powers. With dialogues woven between belief and skepticism, and reality and fantasy, this classic is an important landmark in horror cinema and a highly poetic example of gothic film.

The Company Of Wolves, 1984

UK | DCP, Color, 95’ | English
Director: Neil Jordan
Cast: Terence Stamp, Stephen Rea, Brian Glover, Angela Lansbury

A young girl dreams that she is in a fairytale forest. But this forest is not as it appears; girls are led astray by strange-looking men with heavy eyebrows and disappear at each full moon. And the young girl ends up falling in love with one of these men, putting her life into great danger. Hovering between reality and fantasy, “The Company of Wolves” is replete with gothic imagery and draws on a variety of characters ranging from werewolves to Little Red Riding Hood. Neil Jordan creates an otherworld that is intensely visual and rich in symbolism. The film, which is essentially a coming-of-age story, has an uncanny, hypnotic and nightmarish effect.

The Elephant Man, 1980

UK | Blu-ray, Color, 124’ | English
Director: David Lynch
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft

London in the 1880s. Doctor Treves discovers a grotesquely deformed man called John Merrick in a travelling freak show. He wants to take him in his care and succeeds in doing so. As Treves gets to know this horrendous-looking man who has been shunned by society, he realizes how sensitive and intelligent Merrick actually is and helps him regain his dignity. Based on a true story, David Lynch’s film captures the grim atmosphere of Victorian England on the screen. John Hurt’s dignified and courageous portrayal of Merrick is impressive.

The Innocents, 1961

UK | Blu-ray, Black & White, 100’ | English
Director: Jack Clayton
Cast: Deborah Kerr, Peter Wyngarde, Megs Jenkins

An orphaned niece and nephew are left under the care of a governess in a sumptuous mansion in Victorian England. But during the time she spends there the governess starts seeing human silhouettes and when the children behave oddly she concludes that they are possessed by a demon. She must convince them and rescue them from this possession. Based on the novella The Turn of the Screw (1989) by Henry James, and citedby Martin Scorsese as “immaculately shot and very scary”, this ghost story is a forerunner of the psychological horror genre. It was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival the year it was released.

The Mistletoe Bough, 1904

UK | Blu-ray, Black & White, 9’ | English
Director: Percy Stow

During a game of hide and seek at her wedding a bride is locked in a chest where she waits to be found for years. Based on a traditional folksong from the 18th century, this short film is accepted as one of the first examples of gothic cinema. Music by Pete Wiggs of Saint Etienne accompanies “The Mistletoe Bough”, which is one of the oldest horror films in history.

The Queen Of Spades, 1949

UK | DVD, Black & White, 85’ | English
Director: Thorold Dickinson
Cast: Anton Walbrook, Edith Evans, Anthony Dawson

Herman is a soldier who is spurned by his wealthy friends. In order to gain acceptance he seeks to make his fortune in gambling. When he hears that an old countess has struck a bargain with the devil and gave her soul in exchange for the ability to always win at card games, he does everything he can to learn her secret. Exposing the things humans are willing to do for wealth and recognition, this creepy gothic romance was nominated for the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival the year it was released.

The Wicker Man, 1973

UK | DCP, Color, 88’ | English
Director: Robin Hardy
Cast: Christopher Lee, Edward Woodward, Diane Cilento

Police sergeant Howie is sent to a Scottish island to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. The islanders attempt to thwart the investigation by claiming that such a girl never existed. But Howie persists in tracking down the missing girl by entering a pagan cult who practices unusual rituals. Hailed as “the best British horror film ever made”, The Wicker Man is among the cult classics of the history of cinema, both with Christopher Lee’s performance and its treatment of the theme of paganism. Also of note are the songs, which give the film an eerie musical feel.

External links