La Scomparsa dell’Orologio Universale: Peter Watkins e I Mass Media Audiovisivi (The Disappearance of The Universal Clock : Peter Watkins and Audio Visual Mass Media)
by German A. Duarte
Mimesis Edizioni, Milano, Italy, 2010
131 pp. Paper, € 14
Reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi
Professor of Economics Università Europea di Roma
German A. Duarte’s book has several points in common with Patrick Burckart’s study. They both deal with change (or opposition to it) in technical methods in the arts and how this affects (or does not affect) society as a whole. Also they both treat cybernetics and cybertechnology in their broader implications. Burkart’s research focuses on music and the music industry, Duarte’s book on the movie industry and, more specifically, in that segment of sector generally called “docufiction”- e.g. documentary is married with fiction so as to have a deeper impact on the audience.
However, there are major differences in the two pieces of work. Burkart’s is well-researched and well-analyzed work and social study. Duarte’s is a rather superficial essay based on a limited bibliography and the analysis of only one “docufiction “ author, the British Peter Watkins. I knew very little about Watkins until I read Duarte’s book . Most likely also the readers of this review have very little information about Watkins. He has lived in Sweden, Canada and Lithuania for many years and now lives in France. He is considered to be one of the pioneers of docudrama, a different way to call docufiction. His movies, pacifist and radical, strongly review the limit of classic documentary and movies. He mainly concentrates his works and ideas around the mass media and our relation/participation to a movie or television documentary. Nearly all of Watkins' films have used a combination of dramatic and documentary elements to dissect historical occurrences or possible near future events. The first of these, Culloden, portrayed the Jacobite uprising of 1745 in a documentary style, as if television reporters were interviewing the participants and accompanying them into battle; a similar device was used in his biographicahis biographical film Edvard Munch. La Commune reenacts the Paris Commune days using a large cast of French non-actors. Its masterpiece is thought to be his masterpiece.
Regretfully, very few people have seen his movies, even is they have been largely financed, directly or indirectly, on State’s subsidies. Duarte contends that a more or less hidden censorship by the Audio Visual Mass Media complex has prevented for over 50 years Watkins’ movies to have the circulation they would have deserved. It could be; however, his masterpiece La Commune lasts five hours and 45 minutes––the duration would have been, by itself, a deterrent to the movie theater and even television audience. Furthermore, Duarte’s books explains that the purpose of Watkins’ docudramas and docufiction was not to entertain the audience but to educate the spectators politically. Of course, the political orientation was Marcuse’s marxism––the same marxism that seems to mould Duarte’s pages.