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11 June 2010updated 12 Oct 2023 11:02am

Words in Pictures: J G Ballard, Part Two

A 1971 short film brings the ideas behind "Crash" to eerie life.

By Alexandra Coghlan

In the week that J G Ballard’s archives were presented to the British Library, Words in Pictures takes a look at a clip of Harvey Cokliss’ 1971 short film Crash!

Based on fragments of Ballard’s “You, Me and the Continuum” (1966), part of his collection Atrocity Exhibition and an anticipation of his notorious 1973 novel Crash, the film is a series of narrated musings on the nature and significance of the “huge metalised dream” – the contemporary automobile.

The key image of the twentieth century is the motor car – it sums up everything.

Cokliss sets an on-screen Ballard, the impassive driver and later the observer of a series of brutal test crashes, against a disturbing electronic soundtrack, adding the visual idee fixe of a silent crash victim (Gabrielle Drake) to further ramp up the tension.

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A precursor to Ballard’s full-scale novel and an alternative to Cronenberg’s 1996 film, Crash! offers a fascinating glimpse into Ballard’s part-formed thoughts on a subject that would later crystallise so provocatively.

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