La coquille et le clergyman [The Seashell and the Clergyman] (1928)

La coquille et le clergyman
Director: Germaine Dulac
Writer: Antonin Artaud, Germaine Dulac
Cast: Alex Allin, Genica Athanasiou, Lucien Bataille
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 28.9.2019

A clergyman (Alex Allin) becomes obsessed with the general’s (Lucien Bataille) wife (Genica Athanasiou). As he grapples more and more with his own sexual desires, a seashell containing a mysterious fluid becomes more important to him as well.

The Seashell and the Clergyman is maybe the earliest surrealist film and is therefore hard to sum up and confusing to watch. I completely fell into the film and it really did feel like watching a dream.

The clergyman (Alex Allin) walking through a hallway with checkered tiles.

I really struggled with the plot description for this film. Even though I saw the film, I couldn’t say what really happened here. Because the film isn’t built to make the kind of linear sense that we expect from storytelling. Instead it follows pure, associative dream logic.

I can understand if that doesn’t suit everyone, and I was doubtful it would work for me – but I completely fell into the film and the dream it conjures up. Despite the fact that they showed the film without any sound whatsoever (and my stomach irritatingly kept making loud noises) which makes it often harder to connect with the film – film music is such a doorway into the film’s emotions.

The General's (Lucien Battaille) face splitting in two.

In any case, I was so into it that I completely lost any sense of time. I glanced at the watch after a while and was surprised that it was five minutes before the end already.

You could spend a lot of time analyzing the film and it would be a whole lot of fun, I’m sure. But there is also a pleasure in just revelling in the imagery and treating it like the dream sequence it is.

Two maids polishing a giant reflective orb.

Summarizing: awesome classic.

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