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Herostratus (1967)

 -  Drama  -  June 1967 (UK)
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When Max, a young poet hires a marketing company to turn his suicide-by-jumping into a mass-media spectacle, he finds that his subversive intentions are quickly diluted into a reactionary ... See full summary »



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Credited cast:
Gabriella Licudi ...
Peter Stephens ...
Antony Paul ...
Mona Chin ...
Advert Woman
Brigitte St. John ...
Malcolm Muggeridge ...
Radio Presenter (voice)
Hilda Marvin
Vivienne Myles
Ines Levy
Charlotte Bremer-Wolff ...
(as Charlotte Wolff)
Max Latimer
Richard Huggett
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Poet (voice)


When Max, a young poet hires a marketing company to turn his suicide-by-jumping into a mass-media spectacle, he finds that his subversive intentions are quickly diluted into a reactionary gesture, and his motivations are revealed as a desperate attempt to seek attention through celebrity. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




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Release Date:

June 1967 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Det sköna livet  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


| (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

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Features Wholly Communion (1965) See more »

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User Reviews

Synopses from original brochure and from 1972 LA FILMEX
17 July 2005 | by (Lguna Beach, CA) – See all my reviews

Don Levy passed away in 1986. I was a close friend of his and film student when he taught at Harvard (1968-1970). In 1972, I secured the North American distribution rights to Herostratus. The film was invited to screen in the 2nd Annual Los Angeles Film Exposition (FILMEX) in 1972. It screened at midnight (the perfect time) on Friday, November 17. Kevin Thomas in the Los Angeles Times wrote an excellent review in the week leading up to the screening. Thomas was very impressed by this groundbreaking film. Another interesting anecdote about Herostratus is that Paddy Chayefsky saw the screening at FILMEX and then wrote Network (released in 1976) – a very-much more tame treatment of a more-than-similar subject matter. Below I've included two synopses of the film. The first comes from the original brochure, which was passed out at the many European film festivals in which Herostratus was shown. The second was taken from the 1972 LA FILMEX brochure.

A film by Don Levy (1967)

Herostratus is the first feature film by Don Levy whose short films have been distinguished by their original technique and penetrating approach to their subject.

Herostratus is in the same tradition. The story, on the surface, seems simple. A young man wants to commit suicide publicly and in the presence of as many people as possible. He persuades a public relations firm to exploit the event…then he changes his mind…but by this time other forces are active and he is no longer in control of the situation.

Levy exposes his characters and their motives layer by layer. He does so in the context of a society whose aims and aspirations are centered on private gain and personal success, virtually at any price; in this society the idealism and humanism which can unify a country after a war are rapidly displaced by destructive self-interest. It is not enough, in Levy's view, to say that war is hell. One must go deeper, find the causes, and attack them.

Herostratus, essentially a film d'auteur, is technically dazzling, but never in a gratuitous or bravura sense. Levy alternates "one-take" scenes (designed to gain the greatest response from the actors, who improvised their dialogue) with short scenes and "threshold" sequences making, in Levy's words, an intricate network of emotional references.

Herostratus takes its title from the legendary figure who burnt down the temple of Artemis in Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, in a bid to gain immortality by some great feat of destruction in the manner of the conquerors. On the same night Alexander the Great was born.

From the brochure of the 2nd Annual Los Angeles FILMEX (1972), written by Richard Whitehall:

A British masterpiece of underground cinema seems almost a contradiction in terms, yet Don Levy, with his first feature, has broken through those literary traditions on which the British cinema has been so firmly founded. Under the greatest of difficulties (more than six years from conception to completion), and a minimal budget ($25,000) Levy has produced a dazzling film d'auteur quite unlike any other film ever made. Long takes, through which the actors improvise brilliantly, alternate with clusters of staccato, sometimes subliminal imagery as Levy explores the ramifications and resonances of his theme: the revolt of a young failed poet against the horrors and corruptions of society, and the means he takes to make his protest known.

This theme becomes a visual mosaic of emotional cross-references, combining an apparent linear form, in which sequences seem to follow a chronological order, with an abstract and metaphoric visual structure in which the magnificently composed and edited images are placed in emotional and intellectual juxtaposition and conflict. Levy, filmmaker, painter, scientist, and now on the faculty of California Institute of the Arts, has produced one of that handful of films which has changed the contemporary conceptions of narrative cinema.

Distribution problems may have kept Herostratus from general audiences, but its impact on filmmakers, especially in western Europe, has been profound. Its influence may be seen not only in the revitalized German cinema of "Junge Deutscher Film" but also in Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.

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