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The Films of Peter Watkins, Ranked

by Eliecer Gaspar
The Films of Peter Watkins, Ranked by Eliecer Gaspar
“Making a film is a social act, a political act, a human act of work, love and communication.” – Peter Watkins “He (Peter Watkins) is not a sociologist, nor a historian, nor an academic, nor an intellectual, but his rapport with images is fundamental. There’s a lesson to be learned here too, which is that we must reconsider our relationship to images. As far as possible, we must carry on this resistance. Resist being entertained by images that are seductive, stereotyped, and obvious. We must scramble conventions.” – Sara Louis, actress in La Commune “The Monoform: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fri1EZlE4RA The question remains: are the… Read more

“Making a film is a social act, a political act, a human act of work, love and communication.” – Peter Watkins

“He (Peter Watkins) is not a sociologist, nor a historian, nor an academic, nor an intellectual, but his rapport with images is fundamental. There’s a lesson to be learned here too, which is that we must reconsider our relationship to images. As far as possible, we must carry on this resistance. Resist being entertained by images that are seductive, stereotyped, and obvious. We must scramble conventions.” – Sara Louis, actress in La Commune

“The Monoform: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fri1EZlE4RA
The question remains: are the effects of the MAVM (mass audiovisual media) and its Monoform-language irreversible? Are we only intended to be mere receivers, consumers, passive spectators when faced with news, television and film? The problem lies in education. Young people are trained, according to Watkins, “to accept the mass media in a non-critical light – as neutral, useful, informative elements in the social process, and ultimately, as the means to advance their own career.” Schools, colleges, universities and other institutions offering media and journalism courses all teach blind acceptance of the current form through vocational training; students become “economically rational units” in a system where the framework must be respected and advanced. Watkins writes: “In this process of teaching, students are also made to think that the public is inherently stupid – that it needs authoritarian, simplistic, rapidly-moving language forms in order to absorb (consumer) ideas from TV.” – Peter Watkins, The Universal Clock and the Monoform


“In film theory, the auteur view deems it important that a film reflects the director’s personal creative vision, free from the commercial demands of the MAVM. However, while the individuality of the creative voice is, naturally, very important, within the context of the media crisis it can raise certain contradictions. Most importantly because theories such as this, which proclaim, if you will, the sanctity of the director, make no mention of the sanctity or role of the public within the cinematic process. Given the manner in which the MAVM and TV have developed, the public have traditionally not held a more meaningful role than as ‘watchers’ or ‘receivers’, and my concern is that the auteur theory will continue to create a sense of exceptionalism in favor of the filmmaker, at a time when we urgently need to reconsider the relationship between the media and the public. – Peter Watkins


Edvard Munch is the most personal film I have ever made. Its genesis lies in a visit to the Edvard Munch Museum in Oslo, in 1968, during the time of a screening of several of my films by the Oslo University. I was awestruck by the strength of Munch’s canvases, especially those depicting the sad life of his family, and was very moved by the artist’s directness – with the people in his canvases looking straight at us. I also felt a personal affinity with his linking of past and present, e.g., in the large painting showing the anguish of his family as his sister Sophie is dying: the artist and his brothers and sisters are depicted as adults – as they were in the 1890s when he painted this scene – even though the event had taken place ca. 20 years earlier. On another occasion, I was also very moved by Munch’s masterpiece ‘Death of a Child’, hanging in the National Gallery in Oslo; in this painting the artist is broken, and has, in an almost desperate frenzy, blurred the form of his earlier depiction of Sophie’s death. This painting, in its time, was attacked as being “incomplete” – a charge which branded certain of his other works as well."- Peter Watkins

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