On Peter Watkins’ “Edvard Munch” (1973)
“A Discussion with Peter Watkins and a Screening of Edvard Munch (1973)”
Edvard Munch is considered by Watkins as his most personal film. The work dramatises three decades of the life of the artist in the form of a docudrama that conveys Munch’s subjective vision about tragic family events, difficulties in his first sexual relationships, and opposition from the conservative forces in Christiania (Oslo) following his engagement with its bohemian circle in the mid-1880s. The film concentrates on Munch’s personal reactions to these events, enfolds them in the social and historical reality of the time, and shows how they directly affected the development of his style as a painter.
In parallel to his work as a filmmaker, Peter Watkins analysed and challenged for over four decades the widely accepted escalation of the standardised pictorial and narrative form of Hollywood within all forms of contemporary audiovisual communication, including modern internet technology. The artist Edvard Munch is often referred to as a ‘modern’ artist, but—Watkins asks—how are we to define ‘modernism’ in the broadest sense, in a world that idolises manipulative audiovisual forms which encourage mass consumerism, political passivity, and escalating environmental disaster?