Memoirs of a Survivor (film)

Memoirs of a Survivor is a 1981 British science fiction film directed by David Gladwell, with some scenes filmed at the location of Argyle Street, Norwich. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival.[1] It is based on the novel of the same name by Doris Lessing. The film was scheduled to be released on DVD in June 2014 by Network Distributing.[2]

Memoirs of a Survivor
DVD cover
Directed byDavid Gladwell
Produced byPenny Clark
Michael Medwin
Written byDavid Gladwell
Kerry Crabbe
Doris Lessing
StarringJulie Christie
CinematographyWalter Lassally
Edited byBill Shapter
Release date
  • September 1981 (1981-09)
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


After a near future economic collapse, England lies in ruins. Middle aged D (Julie Christie) struggles to survive in the failing city, where electricity is infrequent, water delivery scarce and trash pick up non-existent. As she rarely leaves her apartment, D takes in teenager Emily, allowing her to share D's apartment, in exchange for the girl's help.

Emily soon begins to fall for Gerald (Christopher Guard) and leaves D to move in with Gerald. Gerald operates a makeshift refugee camp for the orphan and homeless children of the city. D is able to see Gerald's failing whereas Emily can not.

In addition. D's grasp on reality is questioned as she can also travel back in time and observe a Victorian age family that resided in the same apartment. D may be witnessing the distorted history of the young woman currently in her care, as the child in the Victorian age is also named Emily, although whether these trips to the past are actually occurring or they are a fantasy is the mind of D a question left unanswered.[3]



Variety praised the performance of Christie, but stated that the low budget hampered the portrayal of the degenerating city.[4] Christie won a Fantasporto International Fantasy Film Award for Best Actress for her performance. Experiential Conversations states that the movie takes an impressionistic approach to the material of the novel, stating that Christie is able to carry this curious and haunting film. However, they state that the viewer must abandon trying to comprehend the literal meaning of the Victorian sequences, and instead accept the film on the whole as an immensely atmospheric mood piece.[5] Moira state that this was what "one might kindly call a flawed film " It praised the visuals of the film as well as the ending and a brooding scene. [3]


  1. "Festival de Cannes: Memoirs of a Survivor". Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  2. "Memoirs of a Survivor". Network Distributing. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  3. "Memoirs of a Survivor (1981)". 4 January 2003.
  4. Staff, Variety; Staff, Variety (1 January 1981). "Memoirs of a Survivor".
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