Film Screening: A Vision: a life of WB Yeats

  • Talks & Art Courses

Friday 21 April 2023

Free, book or come on the day subject to availability Book

This film is part of our ‘Measurement, modernism and mystics’ screening programme, curated by film curator Alice Butler, who will introduce each film and moderate a post-screening discussion.


A VISION: A LIFE of WB YEATS, directed by Alan Gilsenan

1 hour 15 minutes

An avowedly experimental film-poem taking the audience on an emotional and cinematic journey deep into the strange life and extraordinary imagination of iconic poet WB Yeats.

This film is part of the ‘Measurement, modernism and mystics’ screening programme, curated by film curator Alice Butler. The film will be introduced by Alice, who will also moderate a post-screening discussion.

All welcome.

Free, book here or come on the day subject to availability.

Background: Beyond Yeats’ popular profile and his cultural tourist caché, little is really known of his complex life story – his tricky love-life, his deep and abiding obsession with the occult and the spirit world, his respectable and not-so-respectable political leanings.

And few public figures have articulated their inner and outer life so completely, so fully, as WB Yeats did in his writing. Despite his position as our unofficial “national’ poet, there is much about WB Yeats that is both fascinating and unknown to the general public – his difficult childhood, his complicated and passionate love life, his enduring interest and belief in the occult, his active political involvements, his flirtation with fascism.

His life – alongside his sublime poetry and prose – is a wonderfully dramatic and engaging narrative. It is a life that mirrored its time and the birth of the nation, a nation which was arguably forged as much in Yeats’ imagination as on the streets.

The narrative spine of this film-poem has been edited from the extensive writings of Yeats – drawn from his memoirs, letters, speeches prose, and, of course, his poems – and then recorded by acclaimed actor Brendan Coyle. This forms the structural bed for the visual material, filmed personally by the director Alan Gilsenan and edited in close creative collaboration with multiple IFTA award-winning editor Emer Reynolds.

In conjunction with the National Library of Ireland (with whom the company made a number of short films for the NLI’s Yeats Exhibition), Yellow Asylum also uncovered a wide range of unseen film footage and photographs specially seen in this film. These include:


• Newly discovered footage of WB Yeats relaxing and smoking with his wife George and friends by the sea in Malta (the only other moving footage of Yeats is a few moments after receiving his Nobel Prize in Stockholm).

• Extensive unseen 16mm black and white footage of his body being brought home to Sligo from the South of France by the Irish navy.

• Very moving home-movie Super 8mm footage of his remains being re-interred in Drumcliffe Cemetery in the shadow of Ben Bulben.

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