- LULU / PANDORA'S BOX
- DAPHNIS AND CHLOE
- FEDRA
- THE FUGITIVE KIND
- THE TESTAMENT OF ORPHEUS
- PHAEDRA
- HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS
- YOUNG APHRODITES
- CONTEMPT
- PROMETHEUS FROM THE VISEVICE ISLAND
- SANDRA OF A THOUSAND DELIGHTS
- THE GOLDEN THING
- THE TRAVELLING PLAYERS
- EURIDICE BA 2037
- IPHIGENIA
- A DREAM OF PASSION
- CLASH OF THE TITANS
- THE YEARS OF THE BIG HEAT
- ENIOCHUS - THE CHARIOTEER
- ANTIGONE
- EDIPO ALCADE
- THAT'S LIFE
- BLADE RUNNER
- VERTIGO
- MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA
- ORPHEUS
- PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN
- ULYSSES
- HERACLES AND THE QUEEN OF LYDIA
- BLACK ORPHEUS
- ANTIGONE
- ELECTRA
- JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS
- GORGON
- OEDIPUS REX
- ILLIAC PASSION
- THE CANNIBALS
- EDEA
- NOTES FOR AN AFRICAN ORESTEIA
- FOR ELECTRA
- PROMETHEUS IN THE SECOND PERSON
- VOYAGE TO CYTHERA
- ULYSSES' GAZE
- MATRIX
- O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?

PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN
Great Britain, 1950


Directed by: Albert Lewin. Screenplay: Albert Lewin. Director of Photography: Jack Cardiff. Art Director: John Brian. Costume Design: Beatrice Dawson. Music: Alan Rawsthorne. Film Editor: Ralph Kemplen. Special Effects: William Percy Day. Cast: Ava Gardner (Pandora Reynolds), James Mason (Hendrick van der Zee), Nigel Patrick (Stephen Cameron), Sheila Sim (Janet Fielding), Harold Warrender (Geoffrey Fielding), Mario Cabre (Juan Montalvo), Marius Goring (Reggie Demarest), John Laurie (Angus), Pamela Killino (Jenny Ford), Margarita D’Alvarez (Signora Montalvo). Production: Albert Lewin, Joseph Kaufman for Dorkway Production and Romulus Film. Length: 119 min. Colour.

1930, the Spanish coastal village of Esperanza. Opinion is divided among the English-speaking colony when Reggie Demarest kills himself over Pandora Reynolds, an American night-club singer, beautiful but reputedly a cold-hearted destroyer of men. Racing driver Stephen Cameron is himself blindly in love with Pandora. Geoffrey Fielding, an archaeologist, knows that Pandora patiently tried to dissuade Reggie from his infatuation. Geoffrey’s niece, Janet, in love with Stephen, openly accuses Pandora of getting rid of Reggie with a view to snaring Stephen. Provoked, Pandora offers to marry Stephen provided he is willing to sacrifice the racing car he has laboured over for two tears in hopes of beating the speed record. Stephen duly pushes the car over a cliff, and Pandora sets the wedding date for six months’ time. But intrigued by a yacht that has anchored beyond the cliff (which Stephen jokingly suggests may be the Flying Dutchman), Pandora swims out to it and is fascinated to find the lone occupant, a Dutchman, Hendrick van der Zee, mysteriously finishing a portrait of her as the Pandora of the legend. Emotionally stirred for the first time and arguing that Stephen reneged by asking her permission to salvage his car, Pandora begins to fall in love with Hendrick...

A neglected masterpiece
Made a decade or two earlier, Lewin’s marvelous fantasy might at least have stood some chance of being annexed to the surrealist pantheon. Instead critics, surprisingly unanimously, dismissed it as an embarrassingly arty aberration, a comedy of manners that was all too unintentionally comic and much too mannered. Characters who quote as liberally and as literately as Lewin’s do always seem to be a source of unease-witness reactions to Godard’s early work, as though mere quotation were itself a pretension. Yet as Godard realized (and if you consider Le mpris in relation to Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, there can be little doubt where his debt lies), allusion is a rich source of texture, adducing tenuous parallels, reverberating echoes and mysterious insights in support of perspectives whereby (to quote Novalis) "The world becomes a dream and the dream becomes a world".
The opening images of Pandora and the Flying Dutchman already suggest two extremes as Spanish fishermen casually laugh and chatter about their work, suddenly stilled into a kind of awed wonderment as they gaze off-screen at what they have caught: the hands, as we see later, of Pandora and the Dutchman, entwined in death and shrouded in the net. Immediately a bell tolls and the camera dissolves –as though in response to its timeless summons–to a high angle shot of the beach, the sea and the ancient ramparts, slowly craning back to include, on the balcony of a modern apartment house, a young woman staring intently through a telescope. This enlargement of the perspective is a device Lewin resorts to again and again, sometimes to apparently naturalistic ends (the pan from the flamenco dancers in the cabaret which discovers Pandora watching from a table), sometimes with metaphoric intent (the high-angle shot, after Hendrick deliberately disillusions Pandora and she runs away down the beach, which reveals him watching as she disappears but is replaced beside him by the statue on which she had earlier draped her scarf), but always suggesting the involuntary interplay between two separate worlds.
[...]
Other "doublings" littered throughout the film support its free passage between fantasy and reality, ancient and modern, myth and mundanity, whose gateway is the beach where Hendrick becomes mortal and Pandora immortal, and on which an astonishing fraternisation is sealed between the litter of classical statuary and the litter of revelers jiving it up to a jazz band. There is a distinct correspondence, for example, between Hendrick’s blasphemy against God and Juan Montalvo’s desecration of his father’s portrait, between Hendrick’s murder of his wife and Juan’s ããmurder’ of Hendrick. One reason why Juan dies (though at peace with God) whereas Stephen lives: the latterãs passion, unlike Juan and Hendrick’s, is mere infatuation (a distinction beautifully drawn by the deliberately callow portrayals of Stephen and Janet: mere mortals and no heroes they). But the doubling is pursued most systematically through Pandora: literally in that she is the wife whom Hendrick kills, being therefore the likeness both in the miniature he carries and the portrait he paints; metaphorically in that on one occasion a classical statue stands in for her by virtue of the yellow silk scarf she drapes over it, and on another she is metamorphosed into the statue of a goddess when, unexpectedly encountering Hendrick as she regally descends a stone stairway robed in white, she momentarily freezes.
One of the pleasures of the film, in fact, is the way its disparate fragments of legend and literature coalesce into a fantasy as richly satisfying as La Belle et la Bte, as beautifully (and meaningfully) shaped as the antique pot Geoffrey the archeologist finally succeeds in reconstructing. The other (apart from the superlative performances of Mason and Gardner) is the sheer visual pleasure afforded as much by Lewin’s mise en scne as by Jack Cardiff’s exquisite images. Pandora and the Flying Dutchman is an astonishing feast for the eye in the obvious sense, but also in the delicacy of its effects: the subtle elision of the actual murder in Hendrick’s flashback narrative of his wife’s death, as though it were too painful to relive (a flashback in which the images detailing his endless solitary vigil on the seas recall the uncanny supernatural mystery of Murnau’s Nosferatu); the beautifully judged interplay of light, shadow, voices and hesitant glances as Hendrick and Geoffrey, poring over the ancient manuscript, first realize that the Dutchman’s secret is now mutually shared. A neglected masterpiece, no less.

Tom Milne
"Monthly Film Bulletin", Vol. 52, August 1985