FRANCE • 1968 • COLOUR • 35MM • 60 MIN

At the time of his death, Welles had more than one project under way based on the writings of Isak Dinesen. If he was drawn to Shakespeare by his dramatic power and the themes of ambition and betrayal, Dinesen’s attraction may have been her more distilled perception of human loss and failure.

The central figure of The Immortal Story, Mr. Clay (Welles), is Kane-like in his megalomania and need for control: a merchant of Macao who has ruthlessly applied himself to piling up riches, even where it has involved the ruination and suicide of his one-time partner, Clay is not flawed in the way that Kane is, by a lack, a psychological deprivation that makes him pathetic as well as terrible. What Clay fears is not his own past but a future that doesn’t have his stamp on it. He is irritated by the human propensity to fables, prophecies and stories. To prove that only the world of fact is real, he sets out to make one such story — about an elderly merchant who hires an indigent sailor to impregnate his young wife — come true.

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