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Plath on Plath

Plath on Film

Sylvia Plath's Poetry on Film 

“I want to live and feel all the shades, tones, and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life. And I am horribly limited”  

Sylvia Plath is a writer eclipsed by death. Both in her life and posthumously, Plath’s work reads as someone who is constantly chasing encounters with the ineffable sensation of death, an experience that arrived much too soon. To present day audiences, Plath positions herself as a patron to those who identify with her experiences of domestic surrealism, nature, femininity, and gender as dictated by patriarchal dominance.  

The following works aim to capture this aesthetic through the visual medium of film. Inspired by Plath’s poems, Lady Lazarus from her collection Ariel and the villanelle Mad Girl’s Love Song from her time studying at Smith College. Each poem specifically focuses on Plath’s personal experience of depression and romance, two defining ideas of her writing.  

Lady Lazarus by Chanel Campbell

The story told within my short film is a modern reflection of ‘Lady Lazarus’, and its author, Sylvia Plath. It shows Plath's desire to both humanize and demystify those struggling in silence, unseen.


In my short film, I used a genuine narration of ‘Lady Lazarus’ by Sylvia Plath herself, one of the last recordings she performed before her unfortunate death. This narration is accompanied by a series of visuals, which portray a modern Housewife who serves as the embodiment of the speaker in Plath’s poem, struggling with her own relationship with death.  

Depression was an important topic in Plath’s life and her poetry, and in my short film I chose to represent this through my filmmaking. As the Modern Housewife looks at herself in the mirror, she sees past her appearance to the destructive depression eating away at her underneath, which manifests in the Housewife seeing herself in a state of decay. While she looks perfectly healthy on the exterior, it’s clear that as the short film progresses, the Modern Housewife is visually perceiving herself in the state of decline that she feels.


The theme of suicide is a heavy one, however within Plath’s poem ‘Lady Lazarus’, she tries to give those that don’t struggle with metal health some insight into the mind of the suicidal. To many, Plath included, the idea of death was not perceived as a punishment for their inability to be happy, but a rebirth from their pain — like a phoenix rising from the ashes.  

Mad Girl's Love Song by Eliza Turner

I was introduced to Sylvia Plath in my final year of high school. At a formative time in my adolescence, heading into adulthood, Plath was a welcomed support. She wrote with a clear insight of what seemed to be my own experiences as I shifted from one aspect of my life into another. My personal anxieties, insecurities, and aggravations were addressed with an unmatched rawness that was so completely engaging – I fell in love with her tragedy in the same way that so many do.  

Created in the format of a traditional poetry film, Mad Girl's Love Song is a visual interpretation of American poet, Sylvia Plath's poem of the same name. The piece frames itself as a feminine thriller based in themes of identity, expression, and betrayal of the self with key influence from the works of director, David Fincher, and Australian novelist Joan Lindsay's classic work, Picnic at Hanging Rock. The film's score is taken from Fincher's 2014 film, Gone Girl, composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails fame. 

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