‘Darwin and Human Nature’ Film Series

22—31 October 2012


at Cambridge Arts Picturehouse

38-39 St. Andrews Street

Cambridge CB2 3AR


Booking on: 0871 902 5720 or online here


The Darwin Correspondence Project presents a season of four films that explore the political, social and cultural implications of Darwinian ideas about human nature.   Expert speakers will introduce each film and there will be time for discussion after each screening.


Supported by the John Templeton Foundation, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.


Monday 22 October, 6pm

Inherit the Wind

Introduced and with discussion led by:  Joe Cain (University College, London) and David Kirby (University of Manchester)

Director: Stanley Kramer. Starring: Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, Gene Kelly.

USA 1960. 128 mins, b/w.


Tracy and March deliver outstanding performances as two rival lawyers in this gripping courtroom drama, inspired by the 1925 ‘Scopes Monkey’ trial of a young Tennessee state school teacher charged with illegally teaching the Darwinian theory of evolution.  Despite the film (nominated for four Academy Awards) doing much to influence understanding of the original 1925 trial, it is more a contemporary critique of McCarthyism.


Wednesday 24 October, 6pm

The Elephant Man

Introduced and with discussion led by:  Vanessa Toulmin (University of Sheffield)

Director: David Lynch. Starring: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft.

USA 1980. 124 mins, b/w.


In this moving and delicate film, Hurt plays the horrifically disfigured John (real name, Joseph) Merrick, who was hideously brutalised in childhood and scrapes a living in freak shows. As he battles with the prejudices of Victorian Society, Merrick’s gentle and refined true character is slowly revealed but his passions are inevitably doomed to frustration.


Monday 29 October, 6.30pm

Proteus: A Nineteenth-Century Vision

Introduced and with discussion led by:  Nick Hopwood (HPS, Cambridge) and Shelley Innes (Darwin Correspondence Project, Cambridge)

Director: David Lebrun. Starring: Marian Seldes, Corey Burton, Richard Dysart.

USA 2004. 60 mins.


A rare chance to see this beautifully animated documentary about the roles of science and art in the life of the 19th-century naturalist and fanatical classifier Ernst Haeckel. The film features early undersea exploration by the HMS Challenger expedition (1872—6) and Haeckel’s intricate and wonderful drawings of 4,000 species of the single-celled organism radiolarian.



Wednesday 31 October, 5.30pm

Black Venus (Vénus Noire)

Introduced and with discussion led by:  James Moore (Open University) and Sadiah Qureshi (University of Birmingham)

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche. Starring: Yahima Torres, Andre Jacobs, Olivier Gourmet.

France/Belgium 2010. 159 mins. In French, Afrikaans and English, with English subtitles.


A realistic and sensitive depiction of the tragic story of the black domestic servant Saartjes  Baartman (Torres), who leaves Southern Africa in 1808 hoping to find a better life.  She becomes part of a humiliating carnival act in London freak shows and Paris salons, and is declared the missing link between ape and man by French anatomists.


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