a mind game which makes you feel completely emotionally involved in it
I must admit, the first thing that caught my attention in the programme of Arsenal Movie Theatre was the length of the film - 345 min. I was intrigued and looked it up on the internet, starting with imdb, and became even more intrigued. So I saw the movie yesterday.
And I didn't regret it at all. (Although I had to struggle through German subtitles for the shorter German version of 300 min. The announced full one with English subtitles was stuck somewhere in Paris.)
It is probably one of the most unusual movies I've ever seen. It is even not really a movie, at least in the standard understanding of it (let alone the length of the thing). It is obviously a mind game, but a mind game so fine and intellectual, as well as passionate, thrilling and challenging, that it somehow makes you feel deeply involved in it emotionally, not forgetting for a single moment that it is a game and the whole idea is completely absurd.
Indeed, what can be more absurd than watching "breaking news" about Paris Commune of 1871, like we were all watching tv on 9.11 or when the war in Iraq was about to begin. "Versailles TV", "Commune TV". Journalists asking "What do you feel now? What hopes do you have now for the future of The Commune?". But all staged, actors sometimes telling the camera about the roles they are playing. Or discussing whether The Commune could have had future, or Russian revolution was successful despite Kronstadt uprising.
The shocking thing is that it feels real. Even though you perfectly understand that it can't. He's using the media and our perception of the media (which makes us question to what an extent can our senses be manipulated) as a frame for all the events happening and in a way alters our perception of history and of history happening now.
I'm still digesting the movie, it raises a lot of question and makes you think a lot. But I'm happy to know that Arsenal is planning Peter Watkins's retrospective. So Berliners will have a unique chance to see his other works. Which I'm looking forward to.
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