The North East Film Archive is one of a network of regional film archives established to collect, preserve and show film made in, or about the North East of England. Our collections are non-fiction, and date from the early 1900s to the present day, providing a rich record of life in the region over the 20th century. Many of our films are available to watch, free of charge, on our website.
This film is part of Free
Lady of Shallot
A cursed heroine chooses between two worlds in an enchanting animation of Alfred Tennyson’s enduring poem about unrequited love.
From the collection of:
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.