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Anaïs Nin reads from ‘House of Incest’ with futuristic electronic soundtrack in ‘Bells of Atlantis’

Hugh Parker Guiler (1898–1985) was Anaïs Nin’s husband from 1923 until her death in 1977. He was a successful banker who used the name “Ian Hugo,” to keep his art and experimental filmmaking career separate from the disapproving financial world.

In 1954, “Hugo” made a short film called Bells of Atlantis, featuring Nin, who appears as a mythical queen of Atlantis, reading from her 1936 surrealist novella House of Incest and an electronic music soundtrack courtesy of Louis and Bebe Barron (who made a similar score for Forbidden Planet two years later). Kinetic artist Len Lye also worked on the film with Guiler.

From The Anaïs Nin Blog:

At a May 27, 1977 lecture, [Guiler/Hugo] said after screening his Bells of Atlantis... “Thank you for your kind response, which I am sure is also meant as a tribute to Anaïs Nin. I do think that this film does bring her closer to you—to her style as a poetic writer of the first order, and her presence as an extraordinarily sensitive, and warm human being. I can certainly testify personally to this through the almost 54 years that we were married, to the time of her death in January of this year.” (It should be pointed out that there was an audible gasp by the audience, since they only knew Ian Hugo as an artistic collaborator of Nin.)

“And I will add that her physical beauty seemed to glow as if from some inner light which, as I now see more clearly, enabled her to explore, day by day, ‘the lost continent within ourselves’ (a phrase by the poet Marianne Moore in referring to Bells of Atlantis). And it is only now that I fully realize how much I owed to her presence and her encouragement all those years in trying to explore my own ‘lost continent’ which I first tried to reach out to in making this film.”

Although the quality here is fairly beat—it’s all there is—just imagine how utterly visionary and weird this film would have seemed at the time it was made, contemporaneous as it was with the early work of Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger.

Posted by Richard Metzger
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