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SUNDAY - Facing Life, Meeting Death

Programmed by: Hannah Halpern

“It completely overwhelmed me. I was shaken to the core.” So said Ingmar Bergman of The Phantom Carriage (1921), which he watched at least once a year. Victor Sjöström’s silent masterpiece and Bergman’s own Seventh Seal (1957) feature as the two Swedish titles in this death-focused lineup, with two Japanese films (Ikiru, 1952; The Ballad of Narayama, 1958), two American (Death Takes a Holiday, 1934; Dead Man, 1995), one Iranian (Taste of Cherry, 1997), one Czech (The Cremator, 1969) and one German title (Destiny, 1921) playing alongside them.

A trans-continental representation of the ultimate inevitability, “Facing Life, Meeting Death” lends a darkness to your Sunday nights, just as cold and bleak as the Chicago winter demands. The series is inspired by that visceral paralysis, the captivating dread that death elicits; yet its purpose is not, in fact, to induce existential despair. While focused on encounters with death—some with the “person,” others with the prospect—at its core, this series is about living. Accompanying the grim subject matter of each of these films is a certain joie de vivre—an acknowledgment of the end to come, but not without a loving regard for the now. This series, then, is a celebration of life; it is about the way that knowledge of death, and confrontation with it, enriches life while we are still within it.

7:00PM Sunday, January 8th

Ikiru (1952) still

Ikiru (1952)

Akira Kurosawa · 143m · 35mm

When aging bureaucrat Kanji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) is diagnosed with stomach cancer, he is forced to come to terms with the true trajectory of his life so far—that after 30 years at Tokyo City Hall, he hasn't accomplished a thing. While bleak in subject matter, Ikiru shows Kurosawa at his most sensitive and compassionate, following Mr. Watanabe as, in the face of looming death, he finds the courage to do what he hasn't done before: live (ikiru).

35mm print courtesy of the Japan Foundation.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Sunday, January 15th

The Seventh Seal (1957) still

The Seventh Seal (1957)

Ingmar Bergman · 96m · DCP

Having just returned to plague-ridden Sweden after fighting in the Crusades, medieval knight Antonius Block is met suddenly by Death, whom he challenges to a chess match over his very soul. Bergman is uncompromising, placing the silence of God at the very heart of his film; but he weaves glints of human kindness into this macabre tapestry, as Block and his squire Jöns try to accomplish one redemptive act before joining for eternity in the Dance of Death.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Sunday, January 22nd

The Phantom Carriage (1921) still

The Phantom Carriage (1921)

Victor Sjöström · 106m · Digital

Cited by Ingmar Bergman as a major influence on his own work, The Phantom Carriage is an indisputable classic of ghoulish Swedish cinema. Released itself on New Year's Day, 1921, the film begins on New Year's Eve, as violent alcoholic David Holm and his drinking buddies share the story of the Phantom Carriage. Legend has it that the last great sinner to die each year will have to drive the eponymous chariot, collecting the souls of the dead for a year...

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Sunday, January 29th

Taste of Cherry (1997) still

Taste of Cherry (1997)

Abbas Kiarostami · 99m · DCP

The first Iranian film to win the Palme d’Or, Taste of Cherry stars Homayoun Ershadi as the middle-aged Mr. Badii, driving through Tehran in search of someone to bury him should he commit suicide. The film centers Mr. Badii and three of his passengers: a young Kurdish soldier, an Afghan seminarian, and an Azeri taxidermist, with whom he discusses mortality, religion, and the little joys of life as he tries successively to recruit them for the job.

A Night Owls event with Professors Agnes Callard and Daniel Morgan. Free admittance for students that show their UCID!

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Sunday, February 5th

Death Takes a Holiday (1934) still

Death Takes a Holiday (1934)

Mitchell Leisen · 79m · 35mm

In some ways, Death Takes a Holiday presents a standard romantic dilemma for its protagonist: a choice between love and death. The only catch? Here, the protagonist is Death. Frederic March stars as the fated reaper, taking human form in an attempt to learn why it is that people fear him. During this three-day stint, he falls for the enchanting young Grazia (Evelyn Venable), and must choose whether to pursue his love or leave Grazia among the living.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Sunday, February 12th

Dead Man (1995) still

Dead Man (1995)

Jim Jarmusch · 121m · DCP

On the run after killing a man, accountant William Blake (Johnny Depp) encounters a Native American man called "Nobody" (Gary Farmer), who thinks him the reincarnation of the English poet of the same name. Dead Man is Jim Jarmusch's masterful foray into the Western genre, presented at its most existential. The film features a largely improvised guitar score by Neil Young and gorgeous monochrome cinematography by the unparalleled Robby Müller.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Sunday, February 19th

The Ballad of Narayama (1958) still

The Ballad of Narayama (1958)

Keisuke Kinoshita · 98m · 35mm

The Ballad of Narayama uses the art of kabuki theatre to explore the mythic practice of obasute—the abandonment of the elderly in a desolate place, where they are subsequently left to die. Kinuyo Tanaka plays Orin, a widow approaching 70, who accepts her fate graciously, unlike most of the village elderly. It is instead her son, Tatushei, who is reluctant to carry his aging mother up Narayama mountain.

35mm print courtesy of the Japan Foundation.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Sunday, February 26th

The Cremator (1969) still

The Cremator (1969)

Juraj Herz · 95m · DCP

Juraj Herz's deeply unsettling second film follows Karel Kopfrkingl (Rudolf Hrušínský), a crematorium worker in Prague who descends into madness while Europe is launched into World War II. Before the war, Karel takes pride in his work, citing Tibetan Buddhist ideas to justify his 'liberation' of the dead. Brilliantly creepy camerawork accentuates Karel's evil mania when the Nazis recruit him to 'liberate' more souls—even those the very closest to him.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Sunday, March 5th

Destiny (1921) still

Destiny (1921)

Fritz Lang · 98m · DCP

Destiny tells the story of two young lovers, one of whom is abducted by Death. The young woman of the pair approaches Death in a bargain for her fiancé's life, and he in turn shows her three tragic romances similar to her own: one set in the Middle East, one in Venice, and one in the Chinese Empire. Death promises to reunite the main couple, so long as the woman can save a life from one of these three stories, proving that love is stronger than death.

Tickets can be bought here.