Toward a Proustian Cinema

1913 marks the centennial of the publication of Swann’s Way, the first volume of what would become Marcel Proust’s magisterial novel In Search of Lost Time. Proust, who died in 1922, claimed never to have seen a film and expressed doubts that cinema could capture life in depth. Nevertheless, his great theme – the experience of the passage of time and the changes it rings on the personality and especially on affective relations between people – seems to cry out for cinematic adaptation, despite the profound difficulty of finding visual equivalents for Proust’s lengthy musings on the mysteries of love and of the self. Two proposed versions surely rank among the greatest films never made: attempts by Luchino Visconti and Joseph Losey in the 1960s and ‘70s to film the entirety of In Search of Lost Time.  Visconti planned to cast Alain Delon as Marcel and Brando as Charlus; Harold Pinter wrote a Proust screenplay for Losey. Three more recent projects have each prudently focused on one of the novel’s seven volumes, although in doing so, they often refer to important moments from throughout the books. — David Pendleton

The Harvard Film Archive is pleased to present these films in conjunction with a Harvard University conference, “Proust and the Arts,” an interdisciplinary conference in celebration of this centennial of the publishing of Swanns’ Way, to take place on April 19 and 20.

Current and upcoming programs