Skip to main content
Lux OnlineHomeThemesArtistsWorkEducationEducationToursHelpSearch
Artist details Artist's home pageArtists essay index page
Rakhee Balaram Click here to Print this Page
Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen

Like the slow rush of flipping pages of the 1960's French sci-fi film journal Midi minuit fantastique, in the evocative opening sequence of Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen's influential Riddles of the Sphinx (1977), visual image and 'narrative' text form a taut experience shaped by history, myth, chance and feminist thought. These opening pages of the journal offer not only a superimposed outline of the subsequent film (telling everything, but revealing nothing) but also a series of surrealist illustrations in which the reading of the journal and film mirrors a more perilous 'reading' of the unconscious. In their previous collaborative efforts, Penthesilea (1974), based on Kleist's version of the epic Amazon queen, and later works AMY! (1980) and Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti (1982), Mulvey and Wollen used 16 mm experimental film to resurrect moments of history that have been eclipsed or misaligned (often with female subjects).

The focus and collaboration of Mulvey and Wollen, which was at once indicative of the 1960's and 1970's New Left current, as well as a commitment to 'theory' and 'practice,' reflected a marriage partnered by a shared social and aesthetic vision. They advanced principles of political and private life in relation to contemporary power structures, which they examined with scholarly rigour through their combined influences: semiotic theory, Russian avant-garde and French new wave filmmakers, in particular Eisenstein and Godard, Engels' writings, Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis and a deep and sensitive awareness of historicity and the limits of narrative cinema. The theory that defines their practice is important both in terms of the context in which it is created and for the conceptual debates underpinning it during this period.

Still from Riddles of the Sphinx (1977)
Go to top of                             page