Words Upon the Window Pane

Director: Mary McGuckian
Screenwriters: Mary McGuckian, W.B. Yeats

Institute History

  • 1995 Sundance Film Festival


Words upon the Window Pane is that rarity in cinema: a remarkably literate and intelligent drama which is also beautiful to look at. Describing the narrative totally fails to convey its intricacies and sequence of events. The story really begins with Jonathan Swift, the famous eighteenth-century writer (Gulliver’s Travels), who had two well-known love affairs: one with Esther Johnson, whom he called Stella and who became his lifelong companion, and the second with Hester van Homright, whom he called Vanessa. He kept the women apart, but they were passionately jealous of each other. In 1928 the Dublin Spiritualist Society holds a séance in which the tormented and angry spirits of Swift and his lovers emerge and attempt to resolve the emotional conflicts of two centuries before.

Director Mary McGuckian has produced a rich, detailed story which juxtaposes and intertwines two universes and groups of beings, spiritualists and spirits. Words upon the Window Pane is delicate and intense, romantic, but not overly melodramatic, metaphorical yet direct. It envelops us in its quasi-poetic reality and makes us marvel at its artistic style.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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