Masters of Cinema: Douglas Sirk and subversive melodrama

Course Dates: 20/11/21 - 27/11/21
Time: 10:30 - 13:00
Location: Online
This online film studies course will explore the work of the Hollywood director Douglas Sirk, most famous for his 1950s Hollywood melodramas Magnificent Obsession (1954), All that Heaven Allows (1955), Written on the Wind (1956) and Imitation of Life (1959). The course will consider the films of this intensely productive period in some detail but it will also explore the film melodrama more broadly, considering its history, development and its critical significance. The course will consider Sirk’s status as a master filmmaker by exploring his entire career and it will examine the lasting influence and legacy of his films.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Book your place
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Full fee £59.00 Senior fee £47.00 Concession £36.00

Course Code: HF207

Sat, day, 20 Nov - 27 Nov '21

Duration: 2 sessions (over 2 weeks)

Or call to enrol:020 7831 7831

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What is the course about?

The Hollywood filmmaker Douglas Sirk is possibly one of the most immediately recognisable directors of ‘women’s pictures’, famed for his 1950s Hollywood melodramas Magnificent Obsession (1954), All that Heaven Allows (1955), Written on the Wind (1956) and Imitation of Life (1959). These films were popular box-office hits when released but they were often poorly received critically; it was only when Sirk’s films were reappraised by the French Cahiers du cinéma critics in the late 1960s that their status as powerful vehicles for social critique was recognised. Sirk cleverly explored various forms of prejudice beneath the apparently innocuous surface of his brightly coloured dramas. Now regarded as a master social commentator, Sirk’s films have influenced directors such as Pedro Almodóvar, Todd Haynes and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. While it will look closely at Sirk’s most incredibly productive period (1953-59), this course will also consider Sirk’s broader filmmaking career in Germany, the Netherlands and the United States while also exploring the context of the film melodrama more generally.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

The course will explore the work of Douglas Sirk, looking in detail at a number of his most important films; these will include, Magnificent Obsession (1954), All that Heaven Allows (1955), Written on the Wind (1956) and Imitation of Life (1959). The course will also look at film melodrama as a vital area of film history and it will trace its development from the silent era up to the present day. As a major proponent of the melodrama, Sirk’s influence has been significant and the course will consider his influence and his legacy.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

• Describe the historical development of film melodrama
• Evaluate a range of ways of thinking about film melodrama
• Demonstrate a critical appreciation of a range of individual films directed by Douglas Sirk and others.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This course is designed for those who have a passion for film and would like to deepen their knowledge of film melodrama and history as well as the films of Douglas Sirk. It will provide an introduction to the subject but will also be useful for those wishing to build on existing knowledge.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

The course will be delivered via talks by the tutor with small and large group discussions. Short film extracts will be screened throughout.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

You will require a pen and paper (or laptop/device) but any ancillary materials required will be provided in the form of handouts or links to online resources. All film clips will be screened by the tutor and where possible online links to extracts will be made available to students.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Please look for other Film Studies courses under History, Culture and Writing/film studies at

Paul Sutton

Dr. Paul Sutton is an independent film scholar who has taught Film Studies in UK higher education for over 25 years. His research covers psychoanalytic and film theory as well as Italian and French cinema and critical theory. He has published articles in journals such as Screen, French Studies and the Journal for Cultural Research. He is currently writing a psychoanalytic book on film spectatorship, Afterwardsness in Film, and has recently published work on television as a form of palliative care, and an assessment of the films of the Italian experimental filmmaker Ugo Nespolo.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.