Early Monthly Segments

#24 = 1/24/11 = Peter Watkins + Brian Frye


Note: Early Monthly Segments kicks off the new year with a new night (Monday)!

Peter Watkins’ film Culloden is based on John Prebble’s account of the brief and bloody battle that ended the Jacobite uprising in April 1746. Prebble’s book relies on first person descriptions of the battle by soldiers and officers from both sides, civilian witnesses, and official documents from the time of the battle. He also provides accounts of the subsequent murder, rape and deportation of Scots Highlanders who fought for, or were perceived to be allied with Charles Edward Stuart against William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland.

Made for BBC television and aired in 1964, Culloden was Watkins first feature film and was groundbreaking in its use of non-actors, cinema-verité cinematography and television news style reporting to depict a historical subject. These techniques were to become Watkins’ signature in subsequent projects and are consistent with Prebble’s intention of creating a peoples history written from within the event.  The anachronistic interruptions of reporters interviewing participants on both sides of the battle both distance and engage the viewer, enhancing the intimacy of the personal accounts while pointing to the artificiality of the re-enactment. Approaching history the same way as the BBC might then have treated current events allows Watkins to underline persistent truths around the futility and brutality of armed conflict, especially for those who are most likely to suffer the most devastating consequences.

Brian Frye’s film Across the Rappahannock documents a reenactment of a civil war battle. His silent observation is more subtle than polemical, serving as an erie window on a brutal time. Frye writes, “In November 2001, I attended a small and relatively informal reenactment of the battle of Fredericksburg. About a hundred men and women did their best to illustrate the actions of the thousands of young men who offered their lives a century earlier. An air of absurd theater suffused the entire event, which provided the ground for its peculiar truth. Everyone played their part exceedingly honestly and well, and left something on the film I was myself surprised to find there.”

Culloden, Peter Watkins, 1964, 16mm, b&w, 75 minutes
Across the Rappanhock, Brian Frye, 2002, 16mm, color, silent, 11 minutes

@ the Art Bar, Gladstone Hotel | 1214 Queen St West
Monday January 24, 2011 | 7:30pm screening

Across the Rappahannock