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The Freethinker

The Freethinker


This 2-disc DVD set is the first commercial release of Peter Watkins ambitious and complex companion-piece to his highly acclaimed EDVARD MUNCH.
THE FREETHINKER examines the life, art and times of August Strindberg, author of Miss Julie, Inferno and The Dance Of Death, depicting the notorious Swedish dramatist as a rebel, an idealistic and controversial iconoclast who openly criticized the hypocrisy of 19th century society.

Includes 16-page collector s
booklet featuring writings by
Peter Watkins

The fiercely independent journey of English filmmaker Peter Watkins--which includes the devastating 1966 Oscar-winner, The War Game--hit an important milestone with The Freethinker, a 274-minute documentary portrait of the life of playwright August Strindberg. The topic of the movie is inextricable from its method of production: for two years, beginning in 1992, Watkins created the film in a communal collaboration with students in a video production course he was teaching at the Swedish Folk High School, outside Stockholm. They collaborated on everything from script to costumes, using nothing but the school's modest video equipment, and improvised many sections based on Watkins' research. Even more importantly, The Freethinker was conceived as the opposite of a conventional movie (a form Watkins has long railed against), and a rebuke to cinema storytelling and audience expectations. Thus, the movie unfolds in slow, non-chronological scenes, broken up by intertitles; sometimes the actors playing Strindberg and his wife Siri step out of character to comment on the characters they are playing. The movie also incorporates scenes of ordinary people discussing issues the film raises (these were visitors to the set, talking amongst themselves), which, as Watkins writes in a note included in the DVD's package, is a way the movie can "decentralize its own power structure as it progresses" as well as demonstrate "one of the many ways in which the media of the future could share power with the public." In other words, banish all thoughts of a Masterpiece Theatre approach to Great Writers; this is an experimental essay film, as fascinating as it is confounding. One comes away from it with the sense that there is much more to know about Strindberg than is included here, but stimulated nonetheless about the role of an artist/cultural critic/freethinker in society. --Robert Horton

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