A Night at the Movies – “The Challenge of Rudolf Steiner”

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On the evening of May 11th in Keir Hall, Part 1 of a unique documentary film was screened to an audience of 80-90. This film, “The Challenge of Rudolf Steiner”, is the first attempt to give a flavour of his remarkable life through the medium of film.

The film was made in 2011 to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Rudolf Steiner, by Jonathan Stedall, himself a keen student of Steiner’s work, and an acclaimed film producer. He has in fact produced a large number of films over several decades for the BBC, covering many subjects, but tending to focus on remarkable lives and the institutions they founded.

In 1989 Stedall made a particularly influential documentary, “Candle on the Hill”, to mark 50 years since the founding of Camphill. It is to be hoped that his film on Steiner will attract similar attention.

The film was shot in India, Britain, and the USA, and outlines Steiner’s remarkable life, from his humble beginnings as the son of a stationmaster, through his student years in Vienna, to his founding of a world-wide movement which has made its mark on most branches of modern life.

Through a series of interviews with Waldorf teachers, Farmers, Students, Academics, Therapists and Artists, we learn of Steiner’s view that the material world is always interwoven with spirit, and that it is possible to describe this relationship in a “spiritual science” which has practical applications.

The film includes some little-seen archive photographs, e.g. of his student lodgings with the Specht family, whose “special needs” son Otto he tutored. In Steiner’s first student we can perhaps see the first seed of the therapeutic impulse which later, under Karl König, flourished as Camphill. Remarkably, Otto went on to become a doctor.

Steiner was a tireless researcher, with seemingly no limits to his interests. He was able to work with and inspire many professional people, resulting in the rich legacy of practical activities we have today.

Howard Smith

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