Fantastic Cinema : The mystery of EDGAR ALLAN POE

Il sometimes in the literature the loneliness of an author resonates in the collective imagination, and that the only name of this writer crystallizes alone, a feeling, of which the description and the definition will remain unclear if the work of creation and evocation had not been able to use a poetry and a sense of the symbolic, to reveal the character to be both extraordinary and yet familiar to our unconscious.

The name ofEdgar Allan Poe crystallizes as a state of mind romantic, which shocked much of the literature at the same time that the very design of the artist in the first half of the XIX th century. The poet of Baltimore, grew up in an America that fosters the puritan doctrine, and the dominance of the moralistic of its middle-class, protestant and heir to the north of Europe, by creating a literature of own, mixing superstitions, fairy tales and moral influence of an environment on the mind of the characters (the gothiquissime Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving is a perfect example.) It is, therefore, not yet clear to speak of american literature, since the language and form of stylistic remain close to the cannons, the English classics, comparable to those of M. G Lewis or Mary Shelley; the peculiarities of the slang and the rustic atmosphere of the country having been, frankly, developed from the Tom Sawyer of Mark Twain in 1876.

At the time of the romantic dreamer europeans live in poets cursed, charmed by the beauties contradictory and annoying of life and death; and on the other side of the Atlantic, Poe uses his language and his culture inherited from old England to portray his state of mind, pushing the question about his obsessions and anxieties up to switch in the romantic black and confuse the borders of the gothic, and horror.



If the cinema is not always a clear narrative, it is, by definition, a visual art; it is for this reason that their craftsmen are very early interested in the many new the author, considered by many to be the inventor of the detective novel; the French Henri Desfontaines is endeavoring to the Scarab of gold and its plot based on a coded message in 1910, and the american David Wark Griffith achieves The Consciousness revengeful in 1914 adapted from the fairy tale criminal The-tale Heart.

But it was not until 1928 and the influences of German expressionist cinema on the filmmaker Jean Epstein, for The Fall of the house of Usher unfolds, an atmosphere close to the delirium psychiatric honoring the prose is tortured from le nouvelliste. The meeting between the experiments expressionists of the twenties and the universe oppressive Poe seems to flow from the source, after all, the artists of the period emphasize the themes of the dream and the obsession, the confusion between delirium and reality; and we can conceive of today works such as The Cat and The Canary and The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari’ as well as variations dreamlike stories of the writer.

The Fall of the house of Usher (Jean Epstein, 1928)

Follow a few parts are notable in the years thirty and forty, whose productions Universal then sovereign of the kind of terror; in which the public was usually Bela Lugosi (Dracula) or Boris Karloff (Frankenstein) as in The Black Cat, The Raven , or a Double murder in the rue Morgue.

The sixties saw the birth of two major projects related to the works of Poe; a producer and director Roger Corman will produce a cycle of eight films adapted more or less freely in different texts, news or poems with the involvement of a very inspired Richard Matheson, which seems to take a perverse pleasure to put forward in its scenarios, the effects of terror and the character of sadistic stories. The parody of The Raven in baroque and desperate The Masque of the Red Death, Corman likes to do vary the tones around the decorum gothic; a project that is artistic, daring explored also in 1968, the extraordinary Stories, in which three filmmakers iconic Roger Vadim, Louis Malle and Federico Fellini put each of their style used to question the substantive moral and the pitfall of the grotesque in which bathe the new Poe, enfant terrible of a time, social class stilted and a religious bedrock perverted.

The short format of the new, as the effectiveness of his words lend themselves particularly well to group projects; thus, in 1990 it was the turn of Dario Argento and George Romero to make each one a segment of Two evil Eyes. The two masters of horror employ each sense of the gore and visual shock, to be used in the stories characteristic of the writer, the diabolic couple to the materialization of the guilt, by way of the ground’s iconic black cat.

Two Evil Eyes (G. Romero and D. Argento, 1990)



And the tormented universe of Edgar Allan Poe has fascinated more than a title the filmmakers, convinced to provide the kind of the terror, the gimmicks and the storylines sharp that viewers may enjoy as candy black. But some admirers are continuing their reflections on the mystery emanating from the poet, in seeking to understand how such a creative mind, navigating between reality and projections more or less healthy, unconscious, was able to see the light of day, and more importantly, how a state of heightened sensitivity such as hers has managed to find its place among the classic of the literature. When Poe becomes a character on the screen, actor of the plot or appearance in the second plan, it is to endorse the tutelary figure of the gothic style; as if his mere presence brought him back to the screen, so at the time of the spectator, the folkloque macabre with which it appears to the XIX th century. Century during which the austerity of the victorian style comes into confrontation with the modern advances of science and medicine, and then causes questions about death; a century of vampires, and spirits batters.

The short-lived but tumultuous life of the author is part of its mysterious aura : it is considered to have many addictions including opium and bourbon, is suspected of having intrigued in the middle of the editor to launch his career as a politician, he married his cousin of thirteen years in a forced marriage, lived a love be upset with a childhood friend until the end of his life, etc…

As early as 1909, D. W Griffith is interested in this character of fiction in the short film Edgar Allan Poe; where we see the writer find the inspiration to write the poem “The Raven” while his wife Virginia is living its last moments. The writing of this masterpiece and the psychological state overwhelmed in which it was composed, fascinate filmmakers for over a century, as other short films will be shot on the same theme, including The Raven…Nevermore in 1999, The Death of Poe in 2006,…and even a segment of the Simpson Horror Show in 1990 !

The Raven…Nevermore (Tinieblas González, 1999)

Poe lagging behind, and its mood of romantic films in films, as in the drama of feeling The Love of Edgar Allan Poe directed by Harry Lachman, 1942), also centered on his relationship with Virginia. Nine years later, in The Man with a cloak of Fletcher Markle, in which Poe arrives incognito to New York and meets a young French woman, the emphasis is on his alcoholism; he is found then in 1964, in the secondary character of the Dance of Death ofAntonio Margheriti, where the plot developed around a haunted castle allows this masterpiece of the Italian gothic (magnified by the sublime Barbara Steele) to appear as a homage to the master. In 1992, Shimako Sato takes as a pretext the first lines of the poem Annabel Lee, to revisit once again the theme of love doomed dear to the writer, by confronting it in person for another mythical figure of the Nineteenth : that of the vampire.

Twixt (Francis Ford Coppola, 2012)

In 2012, in the same spirit as the referent, Twixt from Francis Ford Coppola gives Poe the role of guide through the underworld where to adventure the hero, the way of the poet Virgil accompanies Dante in the Divine Comedy; offsetting by the poetry that invokes it, the tone zany nature of the film.

The mystery around the author remains even today as the causes of his untimely death have never been clarified, giving free rein to the assumptions of alcoholism and rare diseases. From this shadow, the writers do seem to shrink from no freedom on the treatment of the character and his historical context, since the same year, James McTeigue, protégé of the Wachowski‘s, a sign The Shadow of Evil, a supernatural thriller in which the writer must conduct an investigation and prove his innocence in his last days, because an admirer is inspired by his writings to commit atrocious crimes.



If it is difficult to summarize the legacy of Edgar Allan Poe in the various cultural areas (although it exists exactly for this purpose, the ceremony of Poe Awards), some tracks allow, however, to discern the influences more or less direct and explicit, by which he has enriched the cinema. First, Poe has left us with a few gimmicks (black cat, raven, or pendulum, giant), that his artistic heirs can use as many as pictures as references to the attention of an audience as an accomplice. And The Crow, Alex Proyas and Vincent of Tim Burton are full of quotations from the author to give a deposit to their world of gothic, when, moreover, the strange doctor Ladykillers quotes poem on poem to assert his character’s supposed to ominous, in the grotesque completed.

Vincent (Tim Burton, 1982)

If his plots clever discovering deceptive appearances, are often viewed as the matrix of the detective novel, we can then estimate that Sir Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie have been able to wisely deepen the furrow, and that there is a little bit of the aura gothic of Poe in these later works, especially in the eyes of some of the adaptations of mystery novels, such as The Dog of the Baskervilles , stamped with the know-how the gothic of the Hammer, or Rebecca ofAlfred Hitchcock, who always proclaimed to have found her calling thanks to the new Poe.

But we can broaden the family tree, considering also works with an atmosphere so dense and powerful that it affects the state of mind of the characters; and the version of Rupert Julian’s the Phantom of the Opera, The House of the Devil de Robert Wise, or The Innocent, adapted fromHenry James, have they not a decor and an atmosphere so prevalent that they are investing in the psychology of their heroines ? And if it is necessary to precisely talk about the loss of orientation psychologies, we can say that after his cycle of eight films, Roger Corman has continued the tribute with The Hallucinated, and declined the delirium hallucinatory in a modern way with The Trip. And we can also decrypt the bonds of family indirect with other writers tortured, such as William Burroughs , or Howard Phillips Lovecraft through the adaptations of the Feast Naked by David Cronenberg, or The Lair of Madness by John Carpenter.

Saw (James Wan, 2004)

And more recently the legacy of the short story genre has seen a new offshoot, thanks to the wave of films as sadistic and violent, appâtant the audience in with the promise of a scenario as twisted as the mind that their psychopaths. Also one can consider productions such as Buried, 100 Feet , and the series of Saw, as well as many new renditions of the concept such as The Buried alive or The pit and the pendulum, where the torture of victims is maintained by some devices still more cruel.

The nightmares of Edgar Allan Poe seem to have to still haunt the screens for a moment, before reaching to untangle the madness of this that is the reason; since in the months to come are already advertised as “Delirium”, The Tell-tale Heart, Eliza Graves with a bunch of actors English Ben Kinskey and Michael Caine, or even Crimson Peak from Guillermo Del Toro , who promises some nice references to the master.

To read also : our file dedicated to the relationship between H. P. LOVECRAFT and the cinema

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