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Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch (1976)


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Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 2
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 0



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Movie Info

The troubled life and career of one of Norway's most celebrated artists is examined with documentary-style realism in this biography from celebrated filmmaker Peter Watkins. Edvard Munch (Geir Westby) was born in 1863 into a well-to-do and privileged family, but he had a unhappy upbringing; his mother and his younger sister died when he was at an impressionable age, and his father was cold, judgmental, emotionally distant, and unsupportive of his ambitions. As a young man, Munch fell in with the

Jul 13, 1994

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All Critics (15) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (12) | Rotten (0) | DVD (9)

There have been countless film biographies of famous artists, but only a few can be considered major works in their own right. Place Edvard Munch at the top of the list.

November 11, 2005
Detroit Free Press
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Brings us close to both the creator and his creations.

January 20, 2005 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Watkins' most experimental work is also his most accessible, painting a complex but compelling portrait of a man ill at ease with himself and his times.

October 15, 2007 Full Review Source: Film4

Takes a fairly encyclopedic approach to present an unparalleled probe into the mind of an art icon.

May 31, 2007 Full Review Source: Upstage Magazine
Upstage Magazine

Edvard Munch, in Watkin's subjective documentary setting, is one of the penultimate cultural crusaders, a relic of a dying era in which individualism could, apparently, still conceivably be intuitive and not reactionary.

February 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

deft, sacrosanct, images of sensuality captured like birth on film.

February 24, 2006 Full Review Source:

The long biopic never seems overlong.

January 3, 2006 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

A rich and intensely personal film, representing a widening breadth of subjects, concerns, languages, and milieux in Watkins' filmmaking.

June 21, 2005 Full Review Source: Not Coming to a Theater Near You
Not Coming to a Theater Near You

A masterly biopic.

June 16, 2005 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor

Audience Reviews for Edvard Munch

This is the only film I wished hadn't already ended after just over 2 hours and 45 minutes.
February 10, 2012

Super Reviewer

This is one of the most moving, experimental films I have ever seen. Peter Watkins' political understanding of the times and his compassion for the struggling, alienated artist is superb. He has a unique method of linking the present to the painter's traumatic past, namely the deaths of his mother and sister from tuberculosis, when he was a boy. The camerawork and close-ups of individual faces is excellent. Munch's grief, when he loses the woman he loves, leads to his best works and a premature death. No other director has made a film about the inner and outer worlds of an artist as well as this. I highly recommend the film.
February 10, 2011

Super Reviewer

Peter Watkins' "Edvard Munch" has a grueling length (210 minutes), but don't be afraid to watch it across two or three nights. It's well worth the labor.

Director Watkins' experimental, faux-documentary style was established in earlier films such as "The War Game," "Punishment Park" and "Privilege" but, here, he refines his touch. It no longer feels like such a gimmick. The deadpan, academic narration remains (Watkins has far more lines than any onscreen actor), but the sense of an intrusive, anachronistic film crew isn't so prominent. Here, when characters break the fourth wall (and believe me, you could plan a drinking game around how often the lead actor wearily glances into the lens to indicate malaise), the move seems more like surreal abstraction than the suggestion of a camera in the room.

This unusual biography mostly depicts the famed Norwegian painter's difficult emergence as an artist during his twenties, but a complex network of flashbacks reveals a horrifying childhood dominated by tuberculosis fears. (It's a safe bet that "Munch" contains more shots of people coughing up blood than any other non-horror film.) Munch's mother and sister both died prematurely of the disease, and he himself narrowly escaped death as a young teen. Other important motifs include the oppression of his conservative Protestant environment (his dour paintings were reviled throughout most of his life), his friendship with bohemian writer Hans Jaeger and a preoccupation with a mysterious lover/muse only known as "Mrs. Heiberg."

The depiction of his work is remarkably tactile. The sound of his worn brushes scratchily grinding into the canvas -- shot in extreme closeup -- is hard to forget. One painting of a sick girl's bedside scene is particularly dwelled upon, and he apparently etched away on the same piece for months, adding multiple layers of paint and then abrading them away in dissatisfaction. Of course, most of us know Munch for "The Scream," but the film chooses to underplay this work in context -- after all, it didn't become so famous until after the artist's death. Over two and a half hours pass before the painting even enters the story.

"Munch"'s structure is a marvel. The editing process must have taken forever -- it's a fiendishly elaborate maze of overlapping sound and time jumps (usually mirroring Munch's internal associations), and one can easily imagine Watkins pondering radical choices from minute to minute. This could have been an entirely different film, given a more linear design. But Watkins' aggressive presence is understandable and perhaps even necessary, considering that his authentic Norwegian cast is almost entirely novice, one-time actors.

Strangely obscure, "Munch" is among the most compelling portrayals of an artist ever seen in cinema. You'll be driven to research the subject further -- guaranteed.
November 16, 2011
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer

[font=Century Gothic]"Edvard Munch" is a pseudodocumentary about the famed Norwegian painter who worked and lived in the last part of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The film is performed by actors but there are also "interviews" conducted with the characters. The film illuminates Munch's work perfectly beyond his most famous work "The Scream" but it also lingers too long on the social structures of the time in Norway.(One of these days I would love to see a movie about happy people in Scandanavia.) It is understandable that it would show some personal material on Munch, but it is a bit too much to keep up with all the social entanglements of his circle of friends.[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic][color=navy]"Sister Helen" is a documentary about Sister Helen Travis who ran a halfway house for recovering addicts in the South Bronx. Helen Travis was a feisty and cantankerous woman in her sixties who had previously lost her sons and husband because of addictions(she herself used to be quite the drinker) and became a nun at a late stage in her life. She was seeking to[/color] [color=navy]give[/color] [color=navy]the kind of care to these addicts that she was unable to give to her own family before. I found that she was a very courageous person for operating this kind of center(some of the men had been in prison before). "Sister Helen" also illuminated me to the nature of addiction, in that there never seems to be a simple recovery process.[/color][/font]
June 26, 2005
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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