12 user 6 critic

Memoirs of a Survivor (1981)

Set in a bleak future where roving gangs of children terrorize city streets, and reality is often an illusion.


David Gladwell
3 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Julie Christie ... 'D'
Christopher Guard Christopher Guard ... Gerald
Leonie Mellinger Leonie Mellinger ... Emily Mary Cartwright
Debbie Hutchings Debbie Hutchings ... June
Nigel Hawthorne ... Victorian Father
Pat Keen Pat Keen ... Victorian Mother
Georgina Griffiths Georgina Griffiths ... Victorian Emily
Christopher Tsangarides Christopher Tsangarides ... Victorian Son
Mark Dignam ... Newsvendor
Alison Dowling ... Janet White
John Franklyn-Robbins ... Prof. White
Rowena Cooper Rowena Cooper ... Mrs. White
Barbara Hicks ... Woman on Waste Ground
John Comer ... Man Delivering Emily
Adrienne Byrne Adrienne Byrne ... Maureen


'D' is a chronicler of a society in chaos, who looks down on the marauding gangs, and rubbish-strewn streets from the fortress prison of her flat. Buffeted by inner dreams and longings, D finds an alternative world by stepping through the wall of her flat, like Alice through the Looking Glass. Here it is Victorian England, the bosom of an unsettled family, harbingers, perhaps, of the decay to come. She flits between the two sides of her double life, always observing, never participating, and watches as her protégé, Emily, becomes involved with vagrants' leader Gerald and their efforts to control the violent scavengers fail. Written by alfiehitchie

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Did You Know?


Doris Lessing called her novel, this movie's source book, "an attempt at autobiography". Apparently, "Memoirs" was written as a response to book editors wanting Lessing to write an autobiography. According to Tom Sperlinger's "An Interview with Doris Lessing" in "The Reader", author Doris Lessing said that her source novel of this movie developed out of a "very hubristic" ambition to write an autobiography in dreams. The book is commonly described as being a a dystopian novel. See more »

User Reviews

Perhaps it is a little too obscure for some
17 July 2002 | by Jon FSee all my reviews

I found the film immensely interesting. You see the decay of urbanity from the eyes of a woman ('D') hiding in her bastion of civilisation, a council flat. Her impregnable retreat is suddenly breached by the intrusion of two factors, the imposition on her by an unnamed authority of an orphan called Emily, and her sudden realisation that beyond the wall lies the past? the future? or perhaps an alternative world told through the various incarnations of a house she visits as an unseen entity.

While the brutalised orphans of the streets outside seem to be beginning to supplant the authorities and are accelerating the end of the world. D realises through her wall, that the condition of her society is not new. Society grows from strict disciplinarian routes, and when achieved embarks on a decaying relaxation of morals which inevitably ends in the collapse of society. Those that are necessary to rebuild society are not necessarily nice people, merely essential, thus we arrive at the Gerald character. Eventually Emily and Gerald rescue the savage (troglodyte) children of the subways, and with the help of D and the wall, take them to a new Eden, where the children will be able to begin a new society starting from caveman.

It is obvious because of the cannibalistic nature of the children that Gerald, Emily and D will not survive this process, but their action is essential to build anew, and the children will begin without the memory of their former civilisation's decay. Thus we are brought from the end of the world, to the beginning of a new world for the orphans of the old. Most people believed that the collapse of D's world was a prediction of the collapse of our own, but perhaps our world is actually the one behind the wall. That is up to you.

This is an intensely moving novel produced by a woman of feeling who had witnessed the brutalisation and savagery of war at close hand and understood the nature of the fall of society. Not an action film, but a masterpiece that many will not understand because of its intensely philosophical nature.

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Official Sites:

Doris Lessing web site





Release Date:

September 1981 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Memoirs of a Survivor See more »

Filming Locations:

London, England, UK See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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