Coleridge and Wordsworth in Pandaemonium

William Christie


It is always difficult to know what demands to make of films based on the lives of historical characters with whom one is familiar through their published work and private papers and through the testimony of their contemporaries. If even the most comprehensive of written commentaries are obliged to select and edit, conflate and shape in order to re-present the past to a new generation, how much more exigent is all this adaptive activity for filmmakers with only two hours at their disposal-in the case of director Julien Temple and his Pandaemonium (2000), only two hours in which to condense twenty years of the life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his relationship with his intimate friends, the poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy? We are unlikely to deplore the omission of images or details of Coleridge's toilet habits, say-though Coleridge as a life long sufferer of stomach and bowel ailments exacerbated by his opium addiction expended an enormous emotional and imaginative energy on the state of his own bodily motions and sensations. We are, however, likely to feel indignant if what we take to be more significant characteristics or incidents are overlooked or distorted.

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