The Monk: Inspiration
Following her increasing interest in the development of Gothic literature in 18th-Century Europe, Zoë enrolled in a Gothic Literature class during her Senior Fall. It was in this class that she was formally introduced to the concepts and characteristics that marked Gothic writings and art. It was also in this class that she was first introduced to Matthew Lewis's 1794 novel The Monk.
Though not as famous as other Gothic novels (Dracula, Frankenstein), The Monk was very influential in shaping the Gothic style and was a "succès de scandale" in its day. It was, and remains, controversial for its potrayal of the Church and the hypocrisy therein, as well as its unflinching depictions of the grotesque.
While reading the novel for the first time, Zoë was struck by the meladrama and theatrical physicality of the characters. It seemed as if the book was describing the characters as actors in silent films.
An 1818 edition of "The Monk." Courtesy of the British Library.
In fact, it occurred to her that The Monk seemed perfectly suited to be adapted as a German Expressionist film in the 1920s - after all, arguably the most famous German Expressionist film is Nosferatu, an adaptation of the most famous Gothic novel, Dracula. German Expressionist film, with its emphasis on shadows and focus on evoking emotion, seemed to be a natural venue for showcasing Gothic tales.
To her dismay, however, Zoë found that there was no such expressionist adaptation of The Monk. So she decided to make that film herself.
Iconic still from the 1922 German Expressionist film "Nosferatu".