Film ID: NEFA 20729 Video of NEFA 20729 The Lady of Shalott THE LADY OF SHALOTT 1976 Visitor TabsDescription A pastel animation produced by Sheila Graber based on the Victorian ballad by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson. With commentary by Francis Carr the film loosely tells the Arthurian legend of Elaine of Astolat, a woman living in isolation inside a tower who sees the world through the reflections in a mirror. One day she sees the knight Sir Lancelot and looks towards Camelot which brings about a curse. She leaves the tower and travels to Camelot by boat but dies before reaching it. Title: The Lady of Shalott Title: From the Poem of Lord Tennyson Credit: Narrated by Francis Carr The film opens of a road passing through a valley surrounded by fields leading to the “many towered Camelot”. The film changes to show three people coming into view superimposed over the view from above looking down upon a castle built on an island around which a river flows; the island of Shalott. The film intercuts a view of “willows whiten’, woods and trees changing to the river flowing to Camelot and the island castle of Shalott. There are views of the “four grey walls and four grey towers”. In the window of a tower is the Lady of Shalott. She reads from a book, psychedelic imagery from the book lighting her face. The film cuts to the Lady looking at her reflection in a mirror which fades to show the road leading to Camelot. A sunbeam changes into views of “surley village churls” and two “market girls” in red cloaks passing each other. Two knights on horseback, one carrying a lance, then ride through the scene. Back in the two the Lady of Shalott sits by the darken window. She bows her head. Through the window a road passes through the “barley-sheave” along which comes a knight on horseback. The sun shines through trees and the film cuts to show a halo around the head of the knight; Sir Lancelot. There are views of Sir Lancelot travelling through the “barley sheave”. The Lady of Shalott looks down from her tower as he approaches. She sees him through her crystal mirror. There are quick cuts showing the Lady of Shalott crossing the tower room, her eyes, Sir Lancelot and a water-flower bloom. Looking down on Camelot from her tower the Lady covers her eyes as psychedelic imagery illustrates the cracking of the mirror. A zig-zag crack appear between a pair of eyes cutting to black then white. She covers her face with her hands as ‘the curse come upon me’. Wind and rain blow through trees and the camera pans towards the river leading to Camelot in the near distance. The Lady of Shalott swoops down over the scene. The film cuts to a boat moored inside a cave. A finger moves along the prow of the boat to reveal ‘The Lady of Shalott’. In the boat the Lady of Shalott travels through the cave and out through the mouth and along the river past willow trees hanging down. Stars shine down from the sky. The film cuts to the Lady of Shalott’s eye which turn from white to black. The towers of Camelot are intercut over the eyes which eventually close. The film cuts to the interior of a tower followed by the exterior of a large house with the Lady of Shalott floating by. From above a view of the lady laid out her eyes closed with her white hair wrapped around her body. She floats past. The film cuts to show a crowd of people dressed in Tudor costumes. One man at the front points at the boat and The Lady of Shalott written along the prow. A man and woman look down from a tower. They disappear as the window goes dark. The film cuts to a line of people standing side-by-side praying, their eyes closed. There is a side view of Lancelot with a halo of light around his head. His face morphs into that of the Lady of Shalott in white and her eyes closed. The film ends with her face moving away and finally disappearing. End credit: Produced by Sheila Graber © 1976 Context Half sick of shadows in Shalott A cursed heroine chooses between two worlds in an enchanting animation of Alfred Tennyson’s enduring poem about unrequited love. This romantic animation in soft pastels by Sheila Graber illustrates Tennyson’s most famous narrative poem, based on a figure in Arthurian legend who dies of her unrequited love for Sir Lancelot. The cursed, imprisoned heroine and her magic mirror, through which she observes the outside world, intrigued Pre-Raphaelite artists fond of femme-fatales, but is also read as a metaphor for the life of the artist, or to comment on, and combat, Victorian attitudes towards women. Still working as an amateur in 1976, Sheila Graber experimented with a homemade multi-plane rostrum and new 16mm camera to create this slow, poetic film. But Graber’s flickering tapestry of colour and pattern, woven by the creative (lonely) Lady of Shalott on a loom resembling a screen (not yet that of a computer), suggests the vibrant, fast-moving ‘visual music’ of Len Lye’s experimental work. The imagery Tennyson deployed, writing in a century characterised by the visual wonder of optical toys and microscopic and telescopic technologies, was also prescient of the cinematic shadow and spectacle to come.