Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Lilith (1964)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Lilith (1964)

In writer/director Robert Rossen's gray and moody final film - an evocative but despairing psychodrama, similar to the previous film David and Lisa (1962), about gifted yet mentally-ill patients in a sanitarium in Stonemount, Maryland - the title character was the mythically nocturnal and dark Lilith, Biblical Adam's first wife in the Garden of Eden who left him [Note: The 'spoiler' tagline: "Irresistible, Unpredictable, Homicidal"]:

  • the opening title credits against a white background dotted with butterflies - and a spider-web motif
  • the entry of well-dressed, sensitive yet troubled ex-Korean War veteran Vincent Bruce (Warren Beatty) through an outer gate and onto the spacious, wooded grounds of the exclusive Poplar Lodge, a private facility to treat wealthy mental patients, in preparation for an interview with kindly administrator Bea Brice (Kim Hunter) for a position of novice occupational therapist - a trainee; from afar, he was viewed through a window (with protective grating) by an unidentified blonde; during the interview, Vincent expressed his desire to "help" people, and was cautioned: "It's long hours, terrible pay. It's dirty, often degrading, sometimes dangerous"
  • Vincent's home life - he lived in town with his grandmother, in a claustrophobic bedroom
  • the scenes of Vincent's first interactions with the insane schizophrenic patients, including nervous lesbian socialite Mrs. Yvonne Meaghan (Anne Meacham), the highly-verbal, lanky, shy, effete "scholar" Stephen Evshevsky (Peter Fonda), and long-haired, beautiful, flute-playing, corrupted, charismatic, ravenously nympho, and withdrawn artist Lilith Arthur (Jean Seberg); Vincent watched Lilith and Stephen talk by a raging waterfall, when she described her drawing talent: "I don't do anything. My hand just moves, and I follow it"; when Lilith also specified that she had the gift of a special language or "tongues" taught by her people, Stephen asked: "Do you think they would speak it to me? Perhaps you would teach me"; she manipulatively replied: "I wouldn't be allowed to teach you without approval. It's a language very few are permitted to speak...I'm sure I could persuade them. You would have to demonstrate great courage and a great capacity for joy"
  • the expository speech by Dr. Lavrier (James Patterson), head of the Poplar Lodge Institute, about the "extraordinary" abilities of schizophrenics; he described how one of the patients - the title character - was able to spin a web to entrap others: ("So many of these people have such extraordinary minds. Such extraordinary sensibilities. Too extraordinary, I think, sometimes. This is not a scientific theory. Maybe it's romantic, but I often compare them to fine crystal which has been shattered by the shock of some intolerable revelation. I often have the feeling when I talk with them, that they have seen too much with too fine an instrument. That they have been close to some extreme, to something absolute and been blasted by it. That they have been destroyed, one might say, by their own excellence. Regarded in this way, they are the heroes of the universe. Its finest product and its noblest casualty. Schizophrenia, however, is far from being an exclusive affliction of the superior mind. As a matter of fact, by using a substance from the blood of humans, schizophrenia has been induced in dogs, spiders, as well as men. As you will note, the web of most 'normal' spider species is as distinctive and invariable as their coloring. But the 'mad' ones spin out fantastic, asymmetrical, and rather nightmarish designs. A most unsettling fact"); his speech was illustrated by comparing a normal spider web with an asymmetrical one in projected slides
  • the scene of Lilith spitting into a surging stream from a bridge, and also wading into a peaceful pond (with her dress hiked up to her knees), bending over and kissing her lovely reflection on the surface of the water (one of the film's many water motifs, and Lilith's fascination with water): "Look at her. She wants to be like me. She's lovely. My kisses kill her. She's like all of them. Destroys them to be loved"
  • the volatile love triangle between the seductive, defiant, flirtatious, angelic and free-loving heroine Lilith, the sensitive and brooding Vincent, and the infatuated, love-lorn, glasses-wearing Stephen
  • the burgeoning, unprofessional, reckless and passionately-lustful love affair that evolved between Lilith and Vincent (with long stretches of field trips with opportunities for horse-back riding and love-making in the outdoors) - unknown to all except Yvonne; sex in Nature occurred between Vincent and Lilith who were superimposed on the surface of glistening water in the sunshine
  • the sequence when Vincent took Lilith to a Renaissance park (in Barnesville), where she interacted with (and seduced?) two pre-pubescent boys - she inappropriately kissed one boy after he caressed her lips and then she whispered something into his ear, as Vincent passively looked on
  • afterwards, Vincent volunteered for a jousting tournament where he participated as the Knight of Poplar Lodge (and used Lilith's blue and gold scarf as a pennant) - and won, and Lilith was crowned "queen of love and beauty"
  • the sequence of Lilith's dangerous, flaunted and deteriorating bi-sexuality, bi-polar madness, and simple-minded, fragile, child-like affections; hand in hand, she led Yvonne to a barn in the woods for love-making, knowing that she would provoke Vincent who was watching and following them; enraged, he burst through the barn doors, grabbed Lilith and tossed her down, then threw Yvonne out; he confronted Lilith: "You dirty bitch!"; she responded: "If you should discover that your god loved others as much as he loved you, would you hate him for it? I show my love for all of you, and you despise me"; although traumatized, the unstable and unhinged Vincent picked up Lilith, and embraced and passionately kissed her
Bi-Sexual Lilith Led Yvonne to Barn in Woods - As Vincent Watched
He Burst Through the Doors, Grabbed Lilith, Confronted Her ("You Dirty Bitch!"), But Then They Kissed
  • Lilith's description to Vincent of her own sexually-wanton behavior similar to her namesake Lilith - speaking in the impersonal third person: "Do you think they can cure Lilith? Do you know what she wants? Do you think they can cure this fire? Do you know what they have to cure? She wants to leave the mark of her desire on every living creature in the world. If she were Caesar, she'd do it with a sword. If she were a poet, she'd do it with words. But she's Lilith. She has to do it with her body"
  • Vincent's growing obsessive madness for Lilith - evident when he stole her blonde princess doll and drowned it face-down in his aquarium in his bedroom, and his placement of a portrait of Lilith behind a portrait of his long-deceased mother who had died young after committing suicide; Lilith bore a striking resemblance to Vincent's mother
  • by the film's conclusion, victims of Lilith's bewitching web ended up either dead, in serious need of help, or catatonic -- Vincent's jealousy caused him to return a handmade wooden paint box - a gift Stephen had given to Lilith - fully knowing that the mad Stephen would assume he had been rejected and kill himself (by falling on a kitchen knife held at chest level)
  • in reaction to Stephen's death, Lilith descended into completely impassive madness (his death reminded her of her complicity in her brother Ronnie's violent suicidal fall), and Vincent sought psychiatric help himself ("Help me!")

Vincent's Arrival for Interview at Poplar Lodge

Vincent's Claustrophobic Bedroom

Two of the Insane, Schizophrenic Patients: Lilith and Stephen

Dr. Lavrier's Speech About Entrapping Schizophrenic Webs

Lilith Bending Down and Kissing Her Own Reflection on Water's Surface

Love Triangle Between Lilith, Stephen, and Vincent

Lilith's Seductive Wantonness

Lilith's Doll Drowned in Aquarium

Lilith's Portrait Placed Behind Portrait of Vincent's Dead Mother

Lilith's Ultimate Descent into Insanity


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