Virginia Woolf’s The Cinema Is An Essay Way Ahead Of Its Time

Virginia Woolf was one of the best writers of the Victorian Era, perhaps one of the best writers of all times. Her each work is perfection in itself but her finest one’s or the popular one are Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), Orlando (1928) and many many more are there in the list.

source- Youtube

Revisit her writings, and you will find that her ideas do hold relevance even in the 21st century! The way she thought, the things she thought are similar to a person living in the present times. She was modern for her times. She actually was way ahead of her time. Her ideas, imagination, thought process was way ahead of the time she lived in.

Woolf wrote essays on feminism. The same philosophy or idea that today’s social activists or NGOs hold for the welfare of the women living in the society. Her ideas were beyond revolutionary. A strong, stubborn, and independent writer; Woolf has left no stone upturned in charming her way into the reader’s heart through her words. Her writings are so deep yet conveying the message in a manner of confrontation. She studied the society like nobody else and even presented it in her writing and ideas like nobody of that time could. Honestly speaking nobody yet, in the present times can think like her. She was unique in her own skin, a perfection that is not yet born again.

Thinking is my fighting“, she once proudly quoted. And she stood absolutely true to her proclamation. Her fights, her struggles were way more different than others. Her life would look upside down from a perspective of a third person. But in her eyes she had the leash of her life in her hand. That is exactly what she tried and did with her writings.

virginia woolf
source- The New Yorker

Among her many essays that talks about love, women’s rights, their personal space and freedom, Virginia Woolf also made her opinions implicit about the newborn art in the 1920s- “The Cinema”.

Virginia Woolf’s  ‘The Cinema’ (later titled ‘The Movies and Reality’), talked extensively about the perils and promises of this seventh art form.

Virginia Woolf called moviegoers “savages of the twentieth century…”

“The eye licks it all up instantaneously, and the brain, agreeably titillated, settles down to watch things happening without bestirring itself to think.”

Woolf, The Movies and Reality.

In today’s world, we call this “leaving the brain behind!”

Talking about adaptations, Woolf believed in what we call today, “The book is always better than the movie.”

source- typecast

Virgina Woolf’s ‘The Cinema’ also talks about cinematic plagiarism!

Virginia Woolf further compares the movie to a “parasite”, by saying: “If it [movies] ceased to be a parasite, how would it walk erect?” This, in today’s words, means- Cinema should stop taking inspiration (plagiarizing) from Literature!

Well, wasn’t Virginia Woolf one cool writer? She spoke about things that most of the experts on Film and Literature are trying hard to convey today! Because the dilemma that Woolf had and the modern day experts have is that the novel adapted movies are way more different than the novel. And the movies are made in such a way that people tend to not read those novels. Which eventually makes people drift away from something that is a real beautiful art. The efforts of the writers all go vain and the credit goes to the hero and the heroine of the movie. Whereas the true art goes unnoticed.

Therefore, if you believe that the book is always better than the movie, fret not!  You can form mind blowing arguments by reading the full text of Virginia Woolf’s ‘The Cinema’ here. And being a true art lover can support the real art work, so that it does not go unnoticed any further. And the beauty of the art remains forever in your heart.


As a Literature student, Pooja is passionate about the world of words. Apart from spending hours snuggled up in a blanket with a book in hand, she enjoys digging up facts and theories about historical as well as mythological events. However, sharing them with the world is what keeps her going in life.

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