The (im)possibility of filming Ibsen


  • Melvin Chen Cardiff University



Film, Ibsen, Shakespeare premise, Bloom, Panofsky, Bazin, Canudo, sister arts


This article begins by taking the paucity of good filmed versions of Ibsen as an empirical fact or a given, as it were. It then introduces the Shakespeare premise, which it proceeds to adopt as valid. This opens up the possible conclusion that great film adaptations might arise from great dramatic texts, a possibility strengthened by my second premise that cinema and theatre constitute sister arts, particularly in the Bazinian realm of mixed cinema. At the same time, the Shakespeare premise allows me to suspend the immediate conclusion that it is impossible to make great filmed versions of Ibsen, a suspension of judgment reflected in the use of brackets in the title of my article. After dispensing with Panofsky’s thesis of strict antithesis as a false premise, I adopt a Bloomian framework to discuss how plays by Ibsen may be adapted so as to fulfil the Shakespeare premise. I consider how aesthetic principles may be developed so as to aid the potential film-maker who is likewise driven by the Shakespeare premise and the concomitant hidden potential in Ibsen, whose dramatic texts share the natural priority and canonical prestige of Shakespeare’s texts. My final conclusion remains open-ended but positive: the day in which filmed versions of Ibsen might fulfil the Shakespeare premise with ease remains on the horizon, although my discussion will – I hope – have gone some way in helping bring that film-in-the-making into fruition.      

Author Biography

Melvin Chen, Cardiff University

Name: Melvin Chen
Academic Title: Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy
Occupation: Research Associate (Perrett Laver, London)
Affiliation: Cardiff University

Degrees Attained: M.A. in Ibsen Studies (University of Oslo); B.A. with Merit in Literature in English (National University of Singapore)       
Research Interests: Philosophy, Environmental Law, Literature, Film Theory, Bibliometrics       
Melvin Chen has published poetry in Tipton Poetry Journal and philosophical papers in the Journal of General Philosophy, Philosophical Forum, Antae, and Filosofisk Supplement. In addition, he has two article-length manuscripts (forthcoming) that are due to be published in the Southern Journal of Philosophy and Philosophy & Literature, and another on a revise-and-resubmit with Hypatia. He is also a Reviewer for the Croatian Journal of Philosophy.   




How to Cite

Chen, Melvin. 2015. “The (im)possibility of filming Ibsen”. Nordlit, no. 34 (February):363–369.