24 user 7 critic

Bitter Lake (2015)

An experimental documentary that explores Saudi Arabia's relationship with the U.S. and the role this has played in the war in Afghanistan.


Adam Curtis


Adam Curtis
1 win. See more awards »


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Politicians used to have the confidence to tell us stories that made sense of the chaos of world events. But now there are no big stories and politicians react randomly to every new crisis - leaving us bewildered and disorientated. Bitter Lake is a new, adventurous and epic film by Adam Curtis that explains why the big stories that politicians tell us have become so simplified that we can't really see the world any longer. The narrative goes all over the world, America, Britain, Russia and Saudi Arabia - but the country at the heart of it is Afghanistan. Because Afghanistan is the place that has confronted our politicians with the terrible truth - that they cannot understand what is going on any longer. The film reveals the forces that over the past thirty years rose up and undermined the confidence of politics to understand the world. And it shows the strange, dark role that Saudi Arabia has played in this. But Bitter Lake is also experimental. Curtis has taken the unedited rushes of...

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Official Sites:

BBC [United Kingdom]





Release Date:

25 January 2015 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Adam Curtis: Bitter Lake See more »

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References Solaris (1971) See more »


Come Down To Us
by Burial
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User Reviews

A multifaceted vision of the horrors of yesterday and today
27 January 2015 | by davehooke1973See all my reviews

'And so the story goes, they wore the clothes to make it seem impossible. The whale of a lie like they hope it was.'

The music of the chameleonic, ambiguous, faded jaded star who fell to earth and sold the world is the key to this film, which challenges the very concept of a documentary.

Is this postmodernism in extremis or a clarion call to revolution? That question is the very point. Curtis presents a very clear and persuasive narrative of world events over, no, within a surreal AND undeniably real meditation that is at once document and dream. It is as true and fabricated and horrific as Apocalypse Now while being somehow less stagey. The footage is real. Most of it. (Although Bowie could be as stagey as any marionette or as sparsely bleak as the shellshocked junkie).

Bitter Lake is a documentary about Afghanistan. And the modern world. The media. Itself. Chameleon, corinthian, and caricature. It is an attempt to be as contemplative as Tarkovsky, as bitterly ironic, and yet it is clear that Curtis is trying to tell not (only) an artistic truth but a historical truth.

The good men of tomorrow, according to the Western forces, turned out not to be what they seemed, buying their positions with heroin and trust. The complexities of Afghanistan's politics and the relation of Afghanistan to world politics, these are not just tackled by Bitter Lake, they are evoked. Is the lake beyond comprehension or can we come to terms with it and ourselves? Bitter Lake is never as glib as that question. You could say it was postmodern and experimental, but it seems too well constructed, or perhaps dreamed, to dissolve into a sea of perspectives. Perhaps it is something new. A myriad that reassembles itself into a guided missile. It certainly feels vital, important, but from these shores the eventual impact is... far off. I might just slip away.

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