‘Faulkner: The Past Is Never Dead”: A Review

With this first feature-length documentary on William Faulkner, Michael Modak-Truran sets a very high bar indeed. This triumphant film is a rich, detailed portrait framed by a penetrating, entertaining narrative, a work that radiates talent and professionalism.

Faulkner: The Past Is Never Dead” is a many-paned portal for the discovery of Faulkner the man, his life and times, and his art. Modak-Truran calls his method a “hybrid documentary approach,” employing traditional interviews, archival media, animated sequences, and re-enacted scenes; the resulting quasi-stream-of-consciousness mélange seems intensely reflective of Faulkner’s own technique.

A select group of scholars examine themes such as race and feminism, consider Faulkner’s novels both in relationship to each other and their sequence in Faulkner’s career, and offer insights into how his characters and narratives relate to the man and his milieu. Archival photos, video, and documents provide buoyancy.

What Modak-Truran calls the “narrative arc” of the film is a series of beautifully re-enacted scenes derived from various sources, and this too reflects Faulkner’s own approach to narratives in works such as As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury, and Absalom, Absalom!

“Faulkner: The Past Is Never Dead” establishes Modak-Truran as a director with a sure sense for the medium and a firm grasp on his material. The film also confirms Faulkner’s relevance and offers assurance that the power of his prose and insights into the human condition will indeed endure.

6 Replies to “‘Faulkner: The Past Is Never Dead”: A Review”

  1. Congratulatims on this sterling review! I look forward to seeing the film!

    All the best to Anita– we met in the Sundance documentary class last weekend.

  2. I can’t wait to see this film. I have been fascinated with Faulkner since being introduced to his literature at university. Thanks!!

  3. I watched this beautiful film in Oxford, March 3, 2023. Michael Modak-Truran is an amazing young man, as well as his mother Anita. Michael engaged with a panel discussion the next day and it was an honor to listen to the Faulkner experts. 10 stars, Congratulations!!!!

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