Edvard Munch (TV Movie 1974) Poster

(1974 TV Movie)

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dalaine0017 August 2006
I just watched this movie last night and I came to this site to see how many awards this movie won. I was shocked when I saw that this was a TV movie that has apparently won no awards whatsoever! The movie is absolutely brilliant and completely mesmerizing.

Rather than just detailing the chronology of the artist's life, the film tells Munch's story by juxtaposing his excruciating emotional, sexual, and spiritual conflicts against his quiet and composed public facade. Raised in a Puritan middle-class Norwegian family, Munch rebelled early on by joining a group of Bohemian artists that met nightly to discuss the strict but hypocritical rules of Norwegian society which prized marriage and purity on the one hand while allowing legalized prostitution (supervised by the local police department) on the other. Munch's mother died when he was very young and before dying, made him and his sister promise to always be good, follow Jesus, and turn away from earthly desires. The movie tries to show how his early experiences caused a lifelong tension between sexual desire, unfulfilled love, emotional trauma, and spiritual guilt that created extreme anxiety and depression that, in turn, becomes a part of Munch's art. He tries to either excise or describe his pain through his art, I'm not sure which.

The movie layers multiple sounds and sights to create the story. So, for example, when Munch has his first sexual encounter with the love of his life, who is a married woman, the scene shifts back and forth between images of him kissing his love on the neck and mouth and scenes of his mother coughing up blood and being supported by her sisters as she dies. In many scenes of the movie, when he is painting, you hear a piano playing in a bar with all the bar noises and overlaying that sound is the sound of Munch weeping after he lost his love, all the while showing him attacking the canvas violently as he paints.

As others have said, the painful story of Munch's life and art is also interlaced with information about the society he lived in and stories from the news. So throughout the movie, you hear news snippets like when Hitler was born or when a revolution breaks out in Venezuela or a story about a riot in London. There are interviews with factory workers who work 16 hour days or prostitutes who are trying to support their families. There are a lot of details about the sexual revolution of the Bohemians and the painful affairs that resulted from that. There are quite a few bar discussions about Marxism, women's rights, censorship, and art. You just can't imagine people having these kinds of discussions today. One of Munch's mentors was jailed after he wrote a book that was considered too provocative for proper society. Munch also had exhibitions shut down because they were considered improper and immoral.

I strongly recommend this movie. I'm wondering if I'll ever see anything like this again.
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The Citizen Kane that no one saw.
Jon McNeill13 February 2003
Peter Watkins' Edvard Munch contains artistic innovations in editing and story that surely would have changed the face of how films are made--if only more people had seen it. Through an inspired stream-of-consciousness editing style, Watkins approximates the workings of the mind with greater success than ever before seen on screen. Because of this achievement, Watkins is able to convey, with vivid strokes, the intensity of Munch's emotions, and how they led to his tortured art. It is tragic that this film has not seen larger distribution, just as it is tragic that Watkins' other films are cloistered by the very companies that produce them. But then again, I cannot imagine going to the cineplex and watching a statement of life through art as soaring and original as Edvard Munch. For now, I'll continue to treasure it alone.
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Painter's Biopic like no others
jeandigo15 March 2005
Probably the most powerful biography of a painter on film with Tarkovski's "Andrei Rublev" and Pialat's "Van Gogh". The way Watkins handles the narration of his film and of Munch's life and art is simply amazing. A perfect example of life as art and art as life. The commentary is never redundant with what is seen on the screen and like the works of Munch, the shape of the movie is like a spiral, where scenes come back over and over, in a repetitive manner, like the paintings/carvings of Munch, who often drew the same subjects. It makes you want to see more of Munch's works as well as other movies by Watkins. Definitely worth being seen more than once.
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caburns9030 October 2002
This is one of the most moving, experimental films I have ever seen. Peter Watkins' political understanding of the times and his compassion for the struggling, alienated artist is superb. He has a unique method of linking the present to the painter's traumatic past, namely the deaths of his mother and sister from tuberculosis, when he was a boy. The camerawork and close-ups of individual faces is excellent. Munch's grief, when he loses the woman he loves, leads to his best works and a premature death. No other director has made a film about the inner and outer worlds of an artist as well as this. I highly recommend the film.
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The best artist-biography I have ever seen
chexmix3 December 1999
Peter Watkins' Edvard Munch is the best film "biography" of an artist I have ever seen. Like Peter Greenaway's THE FALLS (another favorite of mine) it uses non-professionals to great advantage... I'm not quite sure I can say how (other than that I tend to find professional actors distancing, with a few notable exceptions). It also strangely but tantalizingly mixes re-creation with pseudo-interview, creating an emotional tapestry of this lonely man's life which I have never quite been able to

UPDATE: ... Not sure why my comment cut off like that!

I am re-viewing this great film and find it just as astonishing as I did the first time through. The great _layering_ of image and sound (so that we see an oddly-cut sequence of a couple making love mixed with images of bloody sickbeds, all the while hearing Munch's palette knife scraping away or his distraught sobs) is employed to devastating effect, while the performances seem so naturalistic that it all feels less _acted_ than simply _filmed_ ... as if Watkins somehow managed to transport himself and camera back to 19th century Christiania. Absolutely spellbinding.
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Hard to watch but an interesting interpretation of the art process
jahhdog28 April 2013
I think it is a film for those interested in creative process and or Edvard Munch.

I had no idea how bleak Norwegian life was yet as the film postulates it is out of bleakness new ideas can flourish.

I enjoy the film most when 19th century life in the Norwegian city of Kristiania (Oslo) is described. The legalized prostitution, the walks/promenades, the puritan lifestyle.

I enjoyed it least post Munch's affair/relationship I understand Munch's obsession with his lover and I think they match it well with his desire to create art yet this I feel is also the weakest part of the film. The endless shot of him and her post relationship give the film a monotony that had me checking my watch and wondering "how long IS this film?"...

Still I feel it is worth watching as the way the film is shot has it moments when it makes you feel part of the Bohemian culture and pub life. It was like I was there, especially when the actors look into the camera.

It is also interesting to note that the actors had a huge part in creating and contributing lines to the film. A truly collaborative film...
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Mystical experience
jtur886 January 2001
Something about this movie set it apart from every other film I've ver seen. It was, like, a mystical experience in which I felt literally drawn into the reality of the scene that was being portrayed. It was a long time ago that I saw it, and I still remember the feeling I had that I understood what was taking place inside a woman when she screams. Something was happening viscerally, that I've never experienced before or since. I think part of it was the timing of the film---crucial events occurred with those little, momentary pauses that left one sensing that things were different than they ought to be and that there was some unfathomable terror associated with the hidden reality. Was it just me?
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A Piece of Munch
eigaeye6 July 2013
At 221 minutes, this film pushes to the outer limits of its material and cinematic technique. Certainly the director's style is fresh and arresting, and the performances (if that's the right word for a 'fly-on-the-wall' directorial style), including the remarkable look-alike actor who plays Munch, are uniformly excellent. The art direction is also particularly impressive, evoking both late 19th century middle class and bohemian Europe with real pungency. The film concentrates on some of the main formative influences on Munch's art: his family relations, circle of friends and lovers. Munch's poor health as a child (you would never guess from this film that he actually lived to the age of 80) is given much prominence. The film, however, could not be described as a biography of the artist. It has nothing to say about his commercial success (which was not insignificant by 1897), what paintings he sold, how he supported himself, or anything about the second half of his life. For me, the last 30 minutes of the film seemed repetitive and, with the accumulation of repeated images and scenes, suffered from the law of diminishing returns. Perhaps the film's greatest strength is its exposition of the circumstances under which several key works in Munch's oeuvre were created. The depictions of the act of painting – often the weakest element in such biopics – are brilliantly handled by Watkins. Worth seeing. But worth owning?
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Edvard Munch (1974)
IceboxMovies3 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Peter Watkins' Edvard Munch is a bitter, difficult, brutally honest portrait of an artist who had a life and enjoyed liberty, but in the pursuit of happiness reaped nothing except mental and personal instability and misery. Entrapped in the middle of a Norwegian society that was traditional and unforgiving, he hung out in clubs with intellectual anarchists, experimented with contemporary art mediums, and sought sanctuary in whorehouses as a last resort for his sexual frustrations. By the age of 30, he was still without a wife, still moving like a parasite from one gallery to the next, having each time to endure the stinging criticism of those who did not appreciate his risky, pessimistic subject matter. Through it all, he was haunted by the memory of a married housewife, the provocative Mrs. Heiberg, who temporarily fulfilled his amorous longings before ultimately disposing of him after his eerie demeanor became impossible to tolerate. Edvard Munch was a brilliant artist who left behind dozens of wonderful works of art, but he had a life that does not inspire envy.

A lesser filmmaker would have thought to tell Munch's complete story in one big compaction, but Watkins wisely focuses on the earlier, more important years, when Munch was in the twilight of producing works that were potent, vague, and sometimes controversial beyond all reasoning. Supplements on the Special Edition DVD hint that Munch's later years were happier and that his work grew more optimistic, but Watkins pays no attention to them- he doesn't even mention Munch's date of death, 1944, which occurred at a time when the Nazis had almost completely overtaken Norway. To be sure, I am uncertain if Watkins' refusal to display these facts for modern audiences works for or against the movie's effect.

Munch is played by Geir Westby, in a performance that is stoic for the most of the picture; as a visual artist, Munch's purpose in life was to observe, not to orate, and so Westby's lines of dialogue are reduced to a minimum. In light of how Westby is filmed, Watkins takes a uniquely European approach, alternating between immense close-ups of Westby (a la Dreyer) and more ordinary shots in which he is filmed from the waist up (a la Bresson). It allows Munch as a character to become less static and more flexible; one minute his facial expressions are worthy of camera attention, the next minute he's a wandering clone of his society like everyone else.

Torturing Munch's fantasies and deepest regrets is the memory of the woman who may have been the soul mate who got away. Mrs. Heiberg (Gro Fraas) meets Munch through Hans Jaeger, and, for some strange reason, takes an instant liking to him- the first ninety minutes of Edvard Munch are devoted mostly to this affair. When Munch first spends time alone with her, he is noticeably nervous; he kisses the back of her neck, and then asks if that was the right thing to do. He is careful not to make any sudden advances on her. They have sex, but Watkins doesn't make their relationship feel sexy in the least, and we sense that Munch is desperately trying to release a carnal side of himself that might not even exist. It isn't long before he realizes that he is only one of many male lovers that Mrs. Heiberg has wrapped around her finger, and soon Munch is stalking her, whining about how she passes him by on the streets every day with another man at her arm. In her own docudrama interview, Mrs. Heiberg complains to the camera about how it is commonplace for extramarital affairs to be held by men, but not by women. Munch finds the break-up tough to cope with; there is a drawn-out scene in which he checks in at a whorehouse for the night but awkwardly waits for the hooker to make the first move. He and Mrs. Heiberg would never meet again, and Watkins ends his film on a movingly somber note, with Munch writing: "I felt as if there were invisible threads between us. I felt as if invisible threads from her hair still twisted themselves around me. And when she completely disappeared there, over the ocean, then I felt still how it hurt, where my heart bled... because the threads could not be broken."

It is, yes, a remarkable film. It pulses and echoes with the poetic love of the people who made it. There is brief hope at the end when we learn that although Munch's career in painting may be coming to an end, his new career in engraving is just beginning. That may be true, but how can it ever erase those painful preceding years, when he sweated and almost died over a profession that would have driven others to suicide? The performance by Westby asks us to care about a cold, unstable genius, and it is no easy task. But we do. Sometimes the most gifted geniuses in this world live sad lives. Edvard Munch lived a sad life, and Peter Watkins knows it.
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Made for TV
tintin-2312 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Munch has long been one of my favorite painters, if not my favorite, since I was seventeen years old. I love films (Angelopoulos, Tarkovsky, Fellini, Antonioni, Bergman, you name it.). Therefore, it was not a hard decision for me to forgo a particularly beautiful afternoon in the outdoors for being locked up for three hours in the AC atmosphere of a movie theater. What a mistake, and what a disappointment! Where was the editor (sorry, it was Watkins) for this film? I am amazed that director/editor Peter Watkins should so obviously confuse the television medium for cinema. The film is about one hour too long. It is repetitive, grossly uneven in its presentation of the painter's life (half-life, would be a more appropriate term). It seems that Watkins went on and on, repeating himself, and suddenly, looking at his watch, realized he had to rush through the remainder of Munch's life to finish the film. He rushed and still did not make it past 1909. Why ignore Munch, the man and his work, after 1909? But I guess this is the director's prerogative, to show what he wants of Munch's life.

In general, the cinematography is good, with delicate colors. The representation of the period was well researched and comes across as authentic. The hand-held camera works well most of the time, with beautiful close-ups. In some scenes, such as the socio-political discussions in the cafes, its unsteadiness underlines the chaos of the expounded philosophy. There are even moments of greatness, such as when Munch is painting "Death in the Sickroom." Unfortunately, more often than not, the camera is shaky for no apparent reason. But there are far too many cuts, so many it makes one dizzy at times just watching, and they interfere with the narrative thread of the story. Worse, the contrivance of the cuts is astonishingly predictable -- after a while, I knew that the instant any character's eyes looked directly into the camera, the scene was going to quickly cut to something else. Geir Westby's performance, whose likeness to Munch is remarkable, is not convincing: one does not get any insight regarding Munch's internal demons, or any real sense of the artist's passion, jealousy, and repression. The dreadful environment, familial, social and political, seems practically divorced from Munch's life, as the artist appears to stand apart from it all, an outside observer. His very critical relationship with his father is hardly touched upon, except for a (too often) repeated short scene at the dining table, when Munch was still young. Munch's complex and ambiguous feelings about women in general, which shaped so much of his work, are not even touched upon, except for his particular relationship with Mrs. Heiberg (Gro Fraas). Waltkins' decision to present Munch's biography more like a docu-drama could have been rewarding, except for the fact that he was not able to integrate the historical document with the subject matter.

It all boils down to the editing, which is just AWFUL. Believe me, I say this not because the film is three-hours long (Angelopoulos' and Tarkovsky's films do not exactly produce short subjects), but because when a director has nothing new to say, and keeps repeating himself, it quickly becomes tedious and boring. Most likely, the original television production was shown in three one-hour installments. Therefore, many of the numerous flashbacks were justified, not only to somehow refresh the memories of the viewers who might have seen one or two previous episodes in the preceding weeks, but also to "bring aboard" new viewers. But in the continuum of the film, these same flashbacks become useless, even counter-productive, unnecessarily weighing down the viewer with back-story.

Please note that I did not follow many of my fellow spectators who left the theatre early. I suffered through to the ending credits.
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Fantastic pseudo-documentary
neil-54231 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The first half of this (extemely lengthy) film intelligently brings out the social context that Munch produced his work. Typically Watkins uses the story of Munch for political ends, to criticise the hypocrisy and decadence of the Norwegan bourgeoisie. The second half of the film focuses more on Munch's complicated love-life and unhappy relationship with his father. The second half of the film becomes hypnotic as Watkins disrupts the narrative flow with flashbacks of Munch's sickly childhood and death of close family members.

Despite the low-budget, the documentary style vividly brings to life in 19th C. Europe. Pseudo-documentary style is currently more commonplace, but Watkin's technique is still strikingly original and cuttingly ironic.
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A beguiling and moving experience
tomgillespie20028 March 2013
Since the mid-1950's the films of Peter Watkins have utilised a mix of documentary and fiction techniques to question these forms of media construct. From the historical portrayals of real, or imagined "realities" (Colluden (1964), The War Game (1965)), to science fiction dystopian visions of political systems (The Gladiators (1969), Punishment Park (1971)), Watkins has placed his cinematic eye within dramatised verite settings, refusing to conform to fiction narrative structures and the normative styles of documentary cinema. In Watkins' anachronistic cinema the characters (whether fictional or historical figures) are photographed as if the action is actually happening, and he breaks conventions further by interviewing characters, filming them in the talking head format, which eliminates the fourth wall in fiction cinema and television, and involves the viewer with the formal realities of detail. Watkins states on his website (pwatkins.mnsi.net) that Edvard Munch is his most personal film. It is certainly his most emotionally engaging, one that is not necessarily as political or prescient as previous films, but perfectly captures the emotional turmoil and strain that goes into the creative process, and particularly the ways in which events in an artists life effects the evolution of form and style.

The eponymous Munch's (played, like all here by amateur actor Geir Westby) life and career is dealt with in the usual Watkins style, focusing largely on the period between 1884 and 1894, a period in which his painting developed into what would become Expressionism. It shows a young man struggling with shyness and emotional immaturity, one that when confronted with rejection from Fru Heiberg (Gro Fraas), a married woman who has affairs with bohemian types (the film constantly reminds us of the historical realities of women in 19th century Norway, who require men to live), Munch becomes jealous and possessive. The film juxtaposes these emotional moments of anguish and the tragedies of Munch family fatalities that struck the young throughout his early life, with the development of Munch's painting style. Watkins shows throughout the actual painting process. Beginning with the breathtaking picture The Sick Child, Watkins shows the anger and psychological torment that went into it. The ways in which Munch attacked to painting with knives or the non-bristle end of the brush, which created a startlingly bleak image, devoid of unnecessary details.

Of course, as with anything different within an artistic medium, Munch's stripped down aesthetic was not met with praise initially, and Watkins shows the various vitriolic reactions from the art establishment and critics, both through over-heard conversations in gallery spaces, and the filmed interviews with detractors. During these moments, Munch can be seen skulking on the periphery, further exacerbating his deteriorating psychology, but this imbalance and possible fastidiousness influences his further subversion of the classical painting style - and one that would lead to German Expressionism. Periodically the narrator will place historical facts against the period portrayed, and the film is certainly as much about history (sometimes in relation to contemporary politics), as it is about an artist.

The bohemian group that Munch spent time with, headed by anarchist Hans Jaeger, would openly discuss political and social issues. Even women would be part of this group, and along with the formal discussion, the "film crew" interview various female exponents, discussing feminism and the role of the female within society. Placed within this historical context, the present (at least in 1974 when the film was released) was in what appeared to be a new sexual revolution, and the feminist movement was a media convention, but in 19th century Europe, these women see what they are able to achieve living within the constraints of a male dominated society. Whereas prostitution (in the '70's it was pornography) is socially seen as immoral and degrading, these female thinkers see it as motivating, a process of female empowerment. In Edvard Munch the women are self-contained, they are individual and have power over their own lives. But this is not exclusively inclusive of female characters, it is also a film (through its documentary style) that includes the audience.

Munch is the best use that I have seen of Watkins' idiosyncratic documentary style, because it is an emotional exploration, as well as a political one. The emotional aspects are embellished by the characters acknowledgement of the viewer. Throughout the film the characters look directly into the camera, addressing the audience with a glance, at times to question their own actions (should we do this?), or by including the audience in the emotional events that are occurring, you always feel included, even when those moments are incredibly voyeuristic. I at times even felt that I should not be privy to this, such was the effect of this connecting barrier. Like much of Watkins' work (and himself as a figure), Edvard Munch has been marginalised. Watkins' criticism of mass media has clearly left him out of main stream publication, and his work (whilst now gaining distribution and serious praise) is difficult to see commercially. Originally made for a Norwegian/Swedish television co-production, the film lost distribution due to the studios refusal to play it. The film did received an international release in a shortened version, but the 221 minute version is now accessible. It sounds exhausting, but the majesty and emotional connection the film presents makes it a beguiling and moving experience, and it is easily the most in depth exploration of the artistic process.

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A Definitive Film of Art History
gavin69429 September 2016
Following a rough chronology from 1884 to 1894, when Norwegian artist Edvard Munch began expressionism and established himself as northern Europe's most maligned and controversial artist, the film also flashes back to the death from consumption of his mother, when he was five, his sister's death, and his near death at 13 from pulmonary disease.

This film is amazing. Not many artists get a thorough biopic, but here Munch is given one in detail and at almost three hours in length. Of all artists, he seems an unlikely choice. Yes, he is known, but not as well known as some of the other artists mentioned in the film (such as van Gogh). For most, he is probably only really associated with "The Scream".

Here we get a great biography, a deeper look at art history, but also get a nice look at European history, with Germany and Russia ever in the background, though never a key part of the film.
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Conventional Originality
edithwharton10014 June 2006
The color and composition of the film -- with its grays, asymmetries, elongated figures -- seem to be modeled on Picasso's blue period rather than on Edward Munch's own work. But Picasso goes oddly unmentioned, perhaps because an allusion to Picasso might somehow qualify Munch's own artistic radicalism. This investigation of the painter as creative genius who destroys himself with drink and tobacco in an urban garret deploys all the familiar stereotypes about originality, over and over again. The director presents Munch as haunted by the image of the death by consumption of his sister and by his only partially fulfilled sexual desires. The film is beautifully self-indulgent and rather too long.
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"Cinematographic, enlightening and extraordinary..."
Sindre Kaspersen3 November 2012
English screenwriter, film editor and director Peter Watkins' documentary drama which he wrote with the actors, was screened Out of Competition at the 29th Cannes International Film Festival in 1976, was originally made as a miniseries in three parts and is a Norway-Sweden co-production. It tells the story about Norwegian painter Edvard Munch who was born in the village of Ådalsbruk in the municipality of Løten which is located in the county of Hedmark in Eastern Norway on the 12th of December in 1863. Amongst his four siblings Johanne Sophie, Inger Marie, Petter Andreas and Laura Cathrine Munch, Edvard was the second eldest of two boys and three girls who spent most of their early lives in the, at that time, capital of Norway. In Christiania which was politically conservative, protestant by religion and where most of the inhabitants was middle-class, the children of former housemaid Laura Cathrine Bjølstad/Munch and family supporter Christian Munch often had to move around from one crowded house to another in the poorer districts of Christiania due to their father's medical practice. In the early 1880s when he made his first self-portrait and studied under Norwegian naturalist painter and journalist Christian Krogh (1852-1925), Edvard joined a cultural movement called the Christiania Bohemians, a small group of radical writers and artists who emphasized the virtue of human emotions and protested against the existing order. This minority of young naturalists was fronted by their spokesman Hans Jæger, a writer and anarchist who became Edvard's friend. Edvard who as his siblings had been marred by a strict religious upbringing and much illness in the family, did not have a good relationship with his Christian father, and his association with this man whom his father naturally detested increased their estrangement. During his time with the bohemians, he met a 24-year-old woman named Andrea Fredrikke Emilie.

Distinctly and subtly directed by English documentary filmmaker Peter Watkins, this finely paced biographical late 19th century period piece which is narrated by, amongst others, the director, painter Oda Lasson Krogh (1860-1935) and Edvard Munch (1863-1944) whose words and dialog derive from his diaries, draws an intimate and internal portrayal of a renowned Scandinavian artist's close relationship with his sisters, conflicting relationship with his father, amorous relationship with a married woman and struggle to express his notion of the underlying and unspoken emotional suffering that he and his family had to endure. While notable for its naturalistic milieu depictions, sterling cinematography by Norwegian cinematographer and director Odd-Geir Sæther, production design by Norwegian production designer and art director Grethe Hejer and costume design by Norwegian costume designer Ada Skolmen (1911-2006), this narrative-driven homage which examines themes like family relations, adversity, politics, gender roles, marriage, love, jealousy and art, depicts a comprehensive and reverent study of a harshly criticized and by many admired person.

This historic epic about an accomplished expressionist painter who to a certain degree sacrificed love for his art and achieved worldwide acclaim with his psychological canvases which he often drew from his own experiences and in a way painted with his own soul, is impelled and reinforced by its fragmented narrative structure, rhythmic pace, numerous character portraits and love-stories, anachronistic dialog, engaging narration, interviews, the quite exceptional scenes of Edvard Munch painting and the rarely efficient acting performances by the great ensemble cast consisting of non-professional actors like Norwegian artist Geir Lederer, formerly known as Geir Westby and Norwegian painter and printmaker Gro Fraas. A cinematographic, enlightening and extraordinary documentary drama from the early 1970s which recreates essential scenes from the life of a gifted, educated and stubborn individual who influenced forthcoming 20th century expressionists, went from naturalism to modernism, from one country to another and remained true to a lifestyle that significantly affected his adulthood and his interpersonal relationships.
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For Art lovers and students just perfect
ursulahemard20 December 2011
Very interesting and innovative new approach of movie-making. A documentary within a biopic: Norwegian actors representing and picturing Munch, Munch's family, friends, fiends and contemporaries (speaking in Norwegian with subtitles) filmed in a journalistic way, whilst a narrator takes us through in English being sometimes Munch himself or sometimes as an instructor. The chronology of the living facts is juxtaposed by the past with a deep insight of Munch's emotional evolution and disturbances. One does learn a lot about the artist and his oeuvres. Don't expect a motion picture with a plot and you must be interested by Munch himself to be able to enjoy this throughly. Keep in mind that it's 3h30 long. Watchable for adolescents.
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Munch: An Impression.
Robert J. Maxwell10 November 2016
It's an unusual movie, giving us what I assume to be most of the details of the life and work of Edvard Munch, who was responsible for considerably more than a couple of horror movie satires.

It's unusually done. I'm not sure I've seen another quite like it. I was unable to sit through the whole movie because, let's face facts, ars longa, vita brevis.

Munch grew up in Kristiania, the capital of Norway at the time, and belonged to a class that I think is called shabby genteel. Religious observances were strict and tuberculosis was ubiquitous. Post-puberty, he joined a local group of intellectuals, "the Bohemians," where art and Marxism were common topics. The first painting he produced was of his sister dressed in black. The narration tells us it "drew scorn" but I don't know why. The painting we see in the film isn't an exact replica of the original but both look pretty good to me. (I speak to you as your art expert. Fee: 1 kr.)

It reminded me of Bergman's "Scenes From a Marriage." It's really slow. The growing up is slow. The bedding of Mrs. Hager seems to take as long as the Old Stone Age. There are many choker close ups of ordinary faces, mostly just glancing at one another or, sometimes, the camera. Little attention is paid to the fourth wall. Geir Westby, who plays Munch, bears a remarkable resemblance to the model. He has a sweet, shy face with lips that are a little too full. The other actors fit the roles and they're all quite good. Westby in particular does a good job with a demanding part.

I found it a little hard to follow. The narration doesn't always match was we're seeing on screen. There are time shifts back and forth. There's a good deal of attention paid to kissing on the neck, a practice that evidently appealed to Munch and was to generate all those etching of vampires. As a matter of fact, I have a postcard of one of those etchings tacked on my wall as we speak. I'm very proud of it. It was stolen from the National Gallery in Washington.

Now, if you think because of that last peregrination about a postcard, that I'm confusing you, wait until you watch this movie. And remember, let us not judge others too harshly. Those with peccadilloes should not throw stones.
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