“Unfinished” Teaching Segment


(Each paragraph to be illustrated with a series of stylized still images, appearing in AFX bridge frame.)


Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8, commonly known as the “Unfinished Symphony,” was begun in 1823 as a gift to an Austrian Music Society, but never completed. Only two movements of a planned four are known to exist.  Theories abound for why Schubert failed to finish it: Some suggest he got distracted composing tunes for the opera Fierrabras, and others believe deteriorating health led him to postpone it before dying in 1828.

Between 1897 and 1908, Mark Twain wrote several drafts of a serious novel entitled The Mysterious Stranger, a complex social commentary which lacked the author’s typical humorous tone. His wife hated the early drafts, and discouraged him from finishing it. After her death in 1904, Twain wrote parts of two more versions before switching his energies to the completion of his autobiography. He died in 1910, leaving The Mysterious Stranger incomplete.

In the early 1970s, after achieving fame with “2001: A Space Odyssey,” director Stanley Kubrick worked on a meticulously detailed screenplay about Napoleon, investing years into research, scouting locations, creating storyboards and costume designs, and even casting a young Jack Nicholson to play the emperor. When a budget was finally calculated, the project was deemed “too expensive” and shut down. To this day, movie fans wonder what could have been if Kubrick had found the money to shoot this ambitious film.

In 1859, plantation owner Dr. Haller Nutt began construction on the largest octagonal mansion in the U.S., meant to be an opulent 32-room, six-story home for his family. A famed Philadelphia architect was engaged to oversee it, and five years of work resulted in nine stunning rooms on the basement level. In 1861, the Civil War erupted and workers fled, leaving tools and materials at the site, never to return. The family moved into the bottom floor and waited for the War to end. They occupied the bottom floor for three years until Dr. Nutt died of pneumonia, and the project was officially stopped. A look to the ceiling toward five floors of unfinished construction is a sad reminder of what could have been.

History is peppered with accounts of half-done buildings, partial novels, incomplete films, and cancelled projects. Natural disasters, financial downturns, and unexpected tragedies can abruptly change the trajectory of individuals, families, even nations.

When the world presents a detour, the best laid plans of the well-intentioned can turn on a dime, leaving dreams … unfinished.