Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 38: Wed Feb 7

Riddles of the Sphinx (Mulvey/Wollen, 1977): Tate Britain, 7pm

Tate Britain introduction:
Riddles of the Sphinx
, made by Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen in 1977, portrays the experience of motherhood through the prism of psychoanalysis, using experimental film techniques and staging to address the difficulties of affective labour, seen through the narrative of a mother caring for her young daughter. The narrative of Anna is combined with other voices and images from outside the film's narrative world, which question and disrupt pre-supposed meanings and symbols of the woman within and without the screen; from the mythical enigma of the Sphinx to the appearances of the artist Mary Kelly and Mulvey herself.

The screening will be followed by conversation between Professor Griselda Pollock and Professor Laura Mulvey.

Time Out review:
Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen's second film places the simple story of a mother/child relationship in the wholly unexpected context of the myth of Oedipus' encounter with the Sphinx; its achievement is to make that context seem both logical and necessary. First off, the story: a broken marriage, an over-possessive mother, a growing awareness of feminist issues, a close female friend, and a newly questioning spirit of independence. Then, underpinning it, the myth, which introduces a set of basic questions about the female unconscious. The mixture of feminist politics and Freudian theory would be enough in itself to make the film unusually interesting, but various other elements make it actively compelling: the beautiful, hypnotic score by Mike Ratledge, the tantalising blend of visual, aural and literary narration in the telling of the story, and the firm intelligence that informs the film's unique and seductive overall structure.
Tony Rayns

Here (and above) is an extract.

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