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The Medieval Remake

January 11, 2008 - February 16, 2008

Alexander Nevsky, January 13

“It seems that people like the Middle Ages.”—Umberto Eco

“People started dreaming of the Middle Ages from the very beginning of the modern era,” Umberto Eco once claimed. It’s only natural, then, that the medieval would find many expressions in the cinema, a modern medium of collective dreams. The films in this series make and remake the Middle Ages in diverse forms and with diverse motivations, from political imperative to personal obsession. In the hands of Eisenstein or Lang, the medieval is an epic theater of national identity; viewed by Dreyer or Bresson, the spiritual intensity of the past mirrors a quest for aesthetic purity. Bergman makes the Middle Ages echo with the anxieties of a post-nuclear age, while in the world of Saint Francis, Rossellini finds a studied simplicity. For all these filmmakers and still others, the medieval is a rich and tactile field for the imagination.

Our series was inspired by The Contagious Middle Ages in Post-Communist East Central Europe, an exhibition on view at the Townsend Center for the Humanities on the UC Berkeley campus through January. Films in the series by Tarkovsky, Paradjanov, Vlácil, and Majewski illuminate the exhibition’s themes in compelling images, while masterworks from Western Europe provide an expanded view of how films make the past present, and refract the concerns of the present through the prism of the past.

Juliet Clark

Friday, January 11, 2008
7:00 p.m. Andrei Rublev
Andrei Tarkovsky’s epic, otherworldly portrait of the 15th-century Russian icon-painter is “a superproduction gone ideologically berserk.”—Village Voice. “Not to be missed.”—Chicago Reader

Sunday, January 13, 2008
2:00 p.m. Alexander Nevsky
Sergei Eisenstein’s first sound film, with a score by Prokofiev, is both a splendid formal exercise and a forceful portrayal of a nationalist hero, its medievalism inflected by the imminent danger of Nazi incursion into Russia.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008
6:30 p.m. The Valley of the Bees
Frantisek Vlácil (Markéta Lazarová) creates an astonishing evocation of the chaos and fury of the Middle Ages, a knights’ tale of religious intolerance, sexual repression, and violence.

Sunday, January 20, 2008
1:00 p.m. The Nibelungen, Part I: Siegfried’s Death
Judith Rosenberg on Piano. Fritz Lang’s two-part superproduction of the 13th-century saga that also inspired Wagner’s Ring cycle. “Stunning . . . very highly recommended.”—Chicago Reader

Sunday, January 20, 2008
4:00 p.m. The Nibelungen, Part II: Kriemhild’s Revenge
Bruce Loeb on Piano.

Sunday, January 27, 2008
3:00 p.m. The Trial of Joan of Arc
In an austere, transcendent dramatization of the trial transcripts, Robert Bresson conveys the mystery of the woman and the reality of the saint.

Sunday, January 27, 2008
4:30 p.m. The Passion of Joan of Arc
Judith Rosenberg on Piano. Carl Dreyer’s 1928 film focuses on the face as landscape of the soul. “One of the greatest of all movies.”—Pauline Kael

Wednesday, January 30, 2008
7:30 p.m. The Legend of Suram Fortress
Sergei Paradjanov’s visionary retelling of a Georgian epic is “a spectacle so steeped in folk symbolism it could be a ritual.”—Village Voice

Friday, February 1, 2008
7:00 p.m. Lancelot of the Lake
Bresson gives us Lancelot and Guinevere and the end of the Arthurian era, a brave experiment in sound, image, and souls.

Friday, February 1, 2008
8:45 p.m. The Knight
Lech Majewski’s tale of medieval fury and faith is “beautiful, mystical.”—L.A. Times

Sunday, February 3, 2008
2:00 p.m. The Seventh Seal
A medieval knight challenges Death to a game of chess in Ingmar Bergman’s iconic work of cinematic philosophy. “A magically powerful film.”—Pauline Kael

Sunday, February 3, 2008
4:00 p.m. The Virgin Spring
Bergman’s stark medieval allegory of faith, sexual violence, and revenge. “Sven Nykvist’s luminous black-and-white photography conspire(s) with the austerity of Bergman’s imagery to create an extraordinary metaphysical charge.”—Time Out

Saturday, February 16, 2008
6:30 p.m. Faust
Judith Rosenberg on Piano. F. W. Murnau’s version of the legend is a masterwork of chiaroscuro, with Emil Jannings as a subtly mischievous Mephistopheles.

Saturday, February 16, 2008
8:40 p.m. The Flowers of St. Francis
Roberto Rossellini’s episodic tribute to the People’s Saint is constructed with crafty simplicity, rich humanity, and earthy joy.

Series curated by Susan Oxtoby.

PFA wishes to thank the following individuals and institutions for their assistance with this series: Gabor Klaniczay, Central European University and Collegium Budapest; Randolph Starn, Department of History, Anthony Cascardi and Teresa Stojkov, Townsend Center for the Humanities, Barbara Voytek, Institute of Slavic, Eastern European & Eurasian Studies, UC Berkeley; French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paris; Delphine Selles, French Embassy New York; Christophe Musitelli, French Consulate San Francisco; Ingrid Eggers, Goethe-Institut San Francisco; Vladimir Opela and Karel Zima, Narodni Filmovy Archiv; Marta Körnerova, Filmexport Distribution, Prague; Sabrina Kovatsch, Transit Film GmbH; James Quandt, Cinematheque Ontario; Brian Meacham, Academy Film Archive; Gary Palmucci, Kino International; Alla Verlotsky, Seagull Films; and Brian Belovarac, Janus Films.

Archival and restored prints and musical accompaniment for silent films are presented with support from the Packard Humanities Institute.