Segments in this Video

Charles Dickens's Untimely Death (02:20)


Alastair Sooke describes the evening in 1870 when Charles Dickens died suddenly at Gads Hill, leaving "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" unfinished.

Mystery Plot (03:15)

Professors John Sutherland and John Mullan discuss Dickens's unfinished "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." At the Victoria and Albert Museum, Sooke and the curator discuss the frenetic writing on Dickens's last page.

Plot Points from Dickens's Letters (02:35)

Dickens's ancestor and biographer, Lucinda Dickens Hawksley, discusses information about the plot found in letters Dickens wrote to his friend, John Forster.

Attempts to Complete "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" (03:58)

The desire for a finished Edwin Drood led to stabs at completing the novel, including a movie, a Broadway Musical, even a BBC sketch. Screenwriter Gwyneth Hughes noted the plot's contradictory clues, and focused on John Jasper, the dark figure at the heart of the story.

An Author's Voice (01:35)

Writer and broadcaster Mark Lawson and Prof. Mullan agree on the difficulty that the author's voice presents when completing an unfinished novel, while the characters' voice is already given for an actor.

Jane Austen's Unfinished "Sanditon" (03:38)

There is an industry for continuing unfinished novels and attempting new endings to old stories. Sooke discusses Jane Austen's unfinished novel,"Sanditon." Local Deirdre Le Faye explains the plot as we visit a blustery seaside resort described by Austen.

Finished or Unfinished Preference (02:26)

Alastair Sooke takes a straw poll to see if people would prefer the unfinished Austen original or a continuator's completed edition of "Sanditon."

Gilbert Stuart's Unfinished Portrait of George Washington (02:30)

Prof. Sutherland and Author Robert McKee point out the human desire for completion. Sooke asks if an unfinished novel contains all the elements needed for closure. He refers to Gilbert Stuart's unfinished portrait of George Washington.

The Meaning Embedded in an Unfinished Piece (04:31)

Alastair Sooke visits a U.S. Consulate to discover why Gilbert Stuart preferred not to complete his portrait of George Washington. This portrait on the dollar bill is instantly recognizable. He concludes that sometimes meaning trumps finesse.

Coleridge's Unfinished Poem "Kubla Khan" (04:12)

Alastair Sooke asks if a novel or poem can feel complete if unfinished. Sir Andrew Motion reads the first 54 lines of Coleridge's poem, "Kubla Khan," written during an inspiration that was dissipated by a visitor, and left unfinished.

Franz Kafka Unfinished Novels (01:30)

Alastair Sooke notes that for the Romantics, the creative process was mystical and god-like. He discusses the three unfinished novels of Franz Kafka, never intended for publication. A Leonardo da Vinci quote asserts "Art is never finished, only abandoned."

Dilemma of Publishing Unpublished Works (06:14)

Alastair Sooke considers the dilemma of publishing for commercial opportunities rather than literary worth. He visits Dr. Moorcroft Wilson to discuss recently discovered unpublished and contradictory poems by WWI poet Siegfried Sassoon.

"Literary Necrophilia" (01:36)

Prof. Sarah Churchwell argues for publishing art, even if inferior, for accessibility. Writer Lawson criticizes the books assembled from Hemingway's notes or unfinished works he would never had published.

Commercialization of Franchised Characters (03:31)

Alastair Sooke points out franchise extensions of famous authors' works for commercial purposes. He visits the literary agent, Jonny Geller, for the Ian Fleming estate. James Bond, Sherlock Holmes and others continue living after their authors are dead.

Create Your Own Ending (03:04)

Critic Susan Hitch notes that genre fiction depends on believable characters and reader demand rather than literary merit. Readers can choose endings and plot twists in children's adventure books.

The Creative Process Offered by Unfinished Works (03:19)

TV series expand the art of storytelling, rivaling life and promising continuation of the story. Alastair Sooke concludes that unfinished works allow readers to participate in the creative process to continue or wrap up the story.

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Unfinished Masterpieces

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $300.00
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $450.00
3-Year Streaming Price: $300.00



Alastair Sooke explores the mysterious appeal of unfinished works of art. From Dickens's unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Jane Austen's Sanditon to Coleridge's Kubla Khan, he talks to those who have attempted to finish these literary enigmas and those who believe that any such task is impossible. In a film that picks through literature's leftovers, Sooke explores the moral dilemmas as well as the commercial opportunities finishing presents. And he considers how, in the modern era, artists have purposefully left their work unfinished. Paul Morley, Mark Lawson, John Mullan, Robert McKee, Sarah Churchwell, Gwyneth Hughes, Andrew Motion and Mike Figgis amongst others, help Sooke work his way through a never-ending story. A BBC Production.

Length: 51 minutes

Item#: BVL57685

ISBN: 978-0-81609-580-3

Copyright date: ©2012

Closed Captioned

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