home films tv stage biog best scene shop news discussion download interviews more all the sites русский

Ken Russell themes    

 

Freud, childhood and decay

Russell has a childish side to his filmmaking, so schoolboy images infiltrate his films.  This includes Nazis, who are comic rather than threatening and rotting corpses, And more innocent memories of childhood from kites to rocking horses to sailor suits.  D.H. Lawrence often used snake imagery, a Freudian reference to the penis, and in Russell snakes adorn many of his films. So when in Gothic Mary Shelley confronts the knight in armour (a recurring image from Knight on Bikes onwards) with a snake crawling round it, we are given a subliminal hint as to what her real fear is.

Ken Russell Gothic

Also in Gothic when Byron sees eyes appearing from the woman's breast, this is elementary Freud.

 

Dreams

Dreams allow Russell to escape the format of films, and introduce new imagery. Often the dreams are the most controversial elements of his films, from Sister Jeanne's Christ/Grandier fantasies to the banned (on posters) imagery of Gothic.

Ken Russell Pop Goes The Easel  Ken Russell Pop Goes The Easel  Ken Russell The Devils  Ken Russell Mahler  Ken Russell Gothic

 

Corpses, decay and dummies

Decay and death fills Russell's films. But the most striking images are the holocaust scenes of The Devils, or mutated into comedy via plastic dummies, in French Dressing.

Ken Russell the opera Faust Ken Russell Tommy Ken Russell Gothic Ken Russell Valentino
Ken Russell The Devils Ken Russell Lonely Shore Ken Russell French Dressing  Ken Russell The Devils

 

Cripples, wheelchairs, sensory deprivation

Three totally different films, Song of Summer, Tommy and Altered States, deal with sensory deprivation. But cripples and wheelchairs fascinated Russell from the amateur films such as Peepshow about a school for cripple beggars, through to the ominous dream sequence in Pop Goes the Easel to Lady Chatterley.

Ken Russell Pop Goes the Easel Ken Russell Song of Summer Ken Russell Lady Chatterley Ken Russell Tommy Ken Russell French Dressing

Ironically in Salome's Last Dance the leading character Salome is, unknown to the general viewer, played by a blind actress.

Ken Russell Song of Summer Ken Russell Tommy Ken Russell Tommy Ken Russell Valentino
Ken Russell Altered States Ken Russell Elgar Mindbender

 

Nazis

The Nazis in Russell films are comic characters incapable of carrying out the holocaust Russell also depicts.

Strauss Ken Russell Billion Dollar Brain Ken Russell Lisztomania Ken Russell Mahler

 

Trains and boats and horses

A train journey is a rite of passage for Mahler and Tchaikovsky, and also to Eric Fenby arriving in Song of Summer. In Savage Messiah the train almost stops Gaudier delivering his flowers of love.

Ken Russell Song of Summer Ken Russell Women in Love Ken Russell Billion Dollar Brain
Ken Russell Prisoners of Honor   Ken Russell Savage Messiah

Rowing boats occur from Elgar and Song of Summer to Women in Love to Clouds of Glory to Gothic, often linked to sacrifice.

Ken Russell Elgar

Ken Russell Song of Summer Ken Russell French Dressing

Ken Russell Women in Love

Ken Russell Gothic

  Horses show untamed passion in The Rainbow.

Ken Russell Elgar

Ken Russell Valentino Ken Russell The Rainbow Ken Russell Billion Dollar Brain
Ken Russell Elgar

 

The sailor suit, the children's swing

Presumably images locked in childhood, sailor suits and swings recur in Russell's films. The former reminiscent of Death in Venice, the latter providing abstract imagery in even minor films such as Mindbender.

Ken Russell French Dressing Ken Russell The Rainbow Ken Russell Valentino  Ken Russell Lisztomania Ken Russell Preservation Man

Ken Russell The Rainbow

Ken Russell Valentino film within a film

Ken Russell Mindbender

Ken Russell Women in Love

Ken Russell Billion Dollar Brain

 

The following themes occur:

Dreams Gothic
Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Altered States
Tommy
Lair of the White Worm
Pop Goes the Easel
Mindbender
Corpses, decay and dummies Billion Dollar Brain
French Dressing
Gothic
The Devils
Dante's Inferno
Mindbender
Louse
Song of Summer
Valentino
Altered States
Isadora
The Lonely Shore
The Music Lovers
Il Mefistofele
The Fall of the Louse of Usher
Cripples Isadora
Elgar
Tommy
Altered States
Gothic
French Dressing
Peepshow
Lourdes
Pop Goes the Easel
Phantom
Handicaps- sensory deprivation Song of Summer
Elgar
Tommy
Altered States
Mindbender
The Fall of the Louse of Usher
Nazis Lisztomania
Mahler
Billion Dollar Brain
(Martinu)
Il Mefistofele
Boats Song of Summer
Elgar
Women in Love
Gothic
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
French Dressing
Trains Portrait of a Soviet Composer
Mahler
The Music Lovers
Savage Messiah
Song of Summer
French Dressing
Isadora
Betjeman
Billion Dollar Brain
Tommy
Prisoners of Honor
Amelia and the Angel
Childhood memories- swings Portrait of a Soviet Composer
Minbender
Billion Dollar Brain
The Rainbow
Amelia and the Angel
Mindbender
Childhood memories-sailor Suit Preservation Man
French Dressing
Martinu
Lisztomania
Mahler
The Boyfriend
The Rainbow
Il Mefistofele

 

More biography and themes

click for previous biography and themes click for biography and themes index click for next bioigraphy and themes

 


home films tv stage biog best scene shop news discussion download interviews more all the sites русский

www.iainfisher.com / send mail /  1998- 2012 Iain Fisher