Living on Air: The Films of Sandra Lahire

Program One

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Arrows uses a combination of live action and rostrum work to communicate the experience of anorexia and to analyse the cultural causes of the condition. “I am so aware of my body,” we are told on the soundtrack, whilst images of caged wild birds are intercut with images of the rib cage of the film’s subject, the filmmaker herself. Taking the camera into her own hands, and revealing this process to the spectator by using a mirror, the filmmaker shows herself in control of this representation of a woman’s body. The film ends with Sylvia Plath’s poem The Thin People which speaks of people who starve themselves, and people who are actually deprived, locating the condition of anorexia firmly in Western patriarchal culture. (Sandra Lahire, UK, 1984, 16mm to 2K digital, 15 .min.)


This short, named after Sylvia Plath’s last poem, is about the woman who is a daughter; icy, perfected and petrified for the patriarchy. She is also a mother drawing her two children with her into this death-in-life. Edge is the irony, which is the poet’s defiance. And it is the blade… How far can those controllers go with their instruments and armaments and still act as though our pieces and feelings can be stuck together again? There is no illusion of the woman’s ‘resistance’. Yet in this theme of woman as medical and war guinea-pig the silent scream becomes audible in lines of poetry and song. (SL) (Sandra Lahire, UK, 1986, SD digital, 12 min.)

Lady Lazarus

Sylvia Plath introduced her Lady Lazarus reading by saying: “The speaker is a woman who has a great and terrible gift of being reborn. The only trouble is, she has to die first. She is the phoenix... She is also just a good plain resourceful woman.” In this film Lady Lazarus is a woman irresistibly drawn towards Plath’s voice. She becomes a medium for Sylvia, as in a séance, as the film travels between Massachusetts and Camden, UK. Bringing together the poet’s voice with a kaleidoscope of rich images, the film explores a cinematic alphabet for Plath’s own readings of her poetry and extracts from an interview given just before her death. (Sandra Lahire, UK, 1991, 16mm to 2K digital, 24 min.)


A magical film loop, combining a Berlin Lesbian decadence with falling in love in a cablecar, high above the slopes of Mount Pilatus. Inspired by German expressionist filmmaking, with in-camera dissolves. (Sandra Lahire, UK, 1992, 16mm to 2K digital, 1 min.)

Night Dances

Night Dances borrows its title from the Sylvia Plath poem cited above. An overlaying of light and dark imagery accompanied by a piano creates a visual dance that invites the viewer to meditate on the dualities of darkness and brightness, on love, illness, life, and death. The relationship with a mother and the relationship with a lover becomes a ritual of memory and reality invoked by performance and archival recreation. (Mariana Sánchez Bueno) (Sandra Lahire, UK, 1995, 16mm to 2K digital, 15 min.)

Recently digitized and restored at Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola (San Sebastian), in the context of the research project “Their Past is Always Present

Series organized by Charlotte Procter with Support from LUX
Introduced by Charlotte Procter, Collection & Archive Director at LUX and member of the Cinenova Working Group

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