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 home-made 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.