Edvard Munch (1976)
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as Edvard Munch
as Fru Heiberg
as Tante KarenBjolstad
as Laura Catherine Munch
as Inger Munch
as Laura Munch
as Peter Andreas Munch
as Hans Jaeger
as Dagny Juell
as Oda Lasson
as August Strindberg
Critic Reviews for Edvard Munch
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.
Brings us close to both the creator and his creations.
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.
Takes a fairly encyclopedic approach to present an unparalleled probe into the mind of an art icon.
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.
Audience Reviews for Edvard Munch
This is the only film I wished hadn't already ended after just over 2 hours and 45 minutes.
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.
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.
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