Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit: A BBC Adaptation Starring Harold Pinter (1964)

Each time I see a ref­er­ence to Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit (Huis Clos), I think of the night­club scene in Bret Eas­t­on Ellis’s Amer­i­can Psy­cho, which is fit­ting since that nov­el is, in a sense, about a group of peo­ple who hate each oth­er. No Exit con­jures Sartre’s famous phrase “Hell is oth­er peo­ple,” but in the play, hell is, more accu­rate­ly, oneself—or the inabil­i­ty to leave one­self, to “take a lit­tle break,” by sleep­ing, turn­ing off the lights, or even blink­ing. Hell, in Sartre’s play, means being end­less­ly con­front­ed with the sor­did triv­i­al­i­ties of one’s self through the eyes of oth­er peo­ple. Trapped in a room with them, to be exact, for­ev­er. It’s a chill­ing con­cept.

In this BBC adap­ta­tion of Sartre’s play, called In Cam­era, cer­tain details have changed. Instead of the “Sec­ond Empire fur­ni­ture” from Sartre’s descrip­tions of the hell­ish room, we have a bright­ly-lit mod­ernist gallery space. The bronze objet d’art in Sartre’s play has been replaced by mas­sive abstract paint­ing and sculp­ture, a com­men­tary, per­haps, on the way the bour­geois space of art gal­leries impos­es arti­fi­cial deco­rum on every­one inside. It’s as incon­gru­ous with the sit­u­a­tion as the haughty draw­ing room of the orig­i­nal. Aside from the mise en scene, In Cam­era is large­ly faith­ful to the dia­logue and char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of Sartre’s play. Fea­tur­ing absur­dist play­wright Harold Pin­ter as the insuf­fer­able writer and jour­nal­ist Garcin, Jane Arden as Inez, Kather­ine Woodville as Estelle, and Jonathan Hansen as the valet, In Cam­era was part of the BBC series “The Wednes­day Play,” which ran from 1964 to 1970 and pre­sent­ed orig­i­nal work and the occa­sion­al adap­ta­tion. Only the sec­ond episode in the series, In Cam­era ran on Novem­ber 4th, 1964 and was adapt­ed and direct­ed from Sartre’s orig­i­nal by Philip Sav­ille.

via Bib­liok­lept

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jean-Paul Sartre Breaks Down the Bad Faith of Intel­lec­tu­als

Sartre, Hei­deg­ger, Niet­zsche: Three Philoso­phers in Three Hours

Wal­ter Kaufmann’s Lec­tures on Niet­zsche, Kierkegaard and Sartre (1960)

Josh Jones is a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.

by | Permalink | Comments (6) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (6)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Jo-Ann Golden says:

    Just hap­pened on this site. I am thrilled.
    I have a friend who hates any­thing inter­net. I think when I show her the avail­able resources, she will want a device so that she can par­take of these won­der­ful expe­ri­ences.
    Thank you.

  • Peter Smale says:

    Great post! I lis­tened to the Wal­ter Kauf­mann lec­tures first. I real­ly enjoyed the way the exis­ten­tial­ist “thread” was sit­u­at­ed in terms of a cri­sis in reli­gion & moral­i­ty, and in phi­los­o­phy in gen­er­al, brought on by the advent of sci­ence and indus­tri­al­i­sa­tion, among oth­er things. I felt I under­stood the philoso­phers in ques­tion, even though I did not expect to — I am of the sci­en­tif­ic (as opposed to lit­er­ary) school (a dis­tinc­tion made in the lec­tures), so I have ignored these philoso­phers in the past as some­how being wrong and there­fore not worth the time (ter­ri­ble con­fes­sion!). Any­way, Sartre’s play No Exit is sug­gest­ed read­ing, so it was won­der­ful to pause between lec­tures and watch this video.

  • Walter Haas says:


    The van­i­ty of life is the point.Ever end­ing cycles by asso­ci­a­tion result­ing in replay pro­gress­ing to redun­dan­cy.

    No Exit as long as thought exist.It could be your thoughts at sec­ond of death are car­ried with you for eternity.How hor­ri­ble this could be.

    Fear of death is dri­ving force for survival.Death hap­pens in a frac­tion of a second.What tran­spires pri­or to death in the moments lead­ing to it is the concern,or should be.

    The real­i­ty is death is inevitable and can hap­pen at any time,and will.

    We only live in the moment.Only the now is real for most.Logically we should not fear what we can’t prevent,but emo­tions rule.Memory lost does not exist

    What will be,will be.No Exit From The Law Of Nature Is The Rule.This law is enforced.

    Wal­ter Haas—God Bless Amer­i­ca

  • Lola Lustosa says:


    I would be ful­ly glad if I coukd find a way to see In Cam­era — A 1964 BBC Adap­ta­tion of Sartre’s No Exit, Star­ring Harold Pin­ter again. The video is not pub­lic any­more on you tube.

    thank you for you help and atten­tion,


  • Madeleine says:

    Dear Josh Jones,

    Why do you write “Only”,i.e., ” Only the sec­ond… “? I actu­al­ly found the sen­tence unin­tel­li­gi­ble for sev­er­al moments. I can only hypoth­e­size that the fact of this play being the sec­ond episode in the series is some­how incred­i­ble, amaz­ing, or spe­cial in your eyes. It’s a fact worth not­ing here, but it’s not amaz­ing. How­ev­er, I don’t make assump­tions, so I don’t know that you do find it amaz­ing. I was mere­ly try­ing to find some mean­ing in that sen­tence. I’m not sure what you were imply­ing or that you intend­ed to imply any­thing at all by use of the word ‘only’. As it stands, your use of the word ‘only’ is not sim­ply awk­ward; it’s puz­zling. Since you’re a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish, I thought you’d appre­ci­ate what I’m try­ing to say: The mean­ing of the sen­tence is mud­died by your use of ‘only’. I appre­ci­ate clar­i­ty, as I hope you do.

  • Anca Paduraru says:

    Good for you! The video is unabail­able. Same answer on oth­er films sup­posede­ly free for view­ing. Open cul­ture my ass.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.