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 The bronze objet d’art in Sartre’s play has been replaced by massive abstract painting and sculpture, a commentary, perhaps, on the way the bourgeois space of art galleries imposes artificial decorum on everyone inside.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.

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Comments (6)
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  • 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.

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