Culloden (The Battle of Culloden) (2003)
Culloden (The Battle of Culloden) (2003)
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Critic Reviews for Culloden (The Battle of Culloden)
Culloden achieves its effect through the glaringly anachronistic use of a TV crew, begging its spectator to ponder her position in relation to the historical events onscreen.
This is less a study of a horrible battle than it is a cry against war in any form.
Watkins continually questions why wars are fought, and what the soldiers believe, and what the authorities say, and whether these things add up.
Audience Reviews for Culloden (The Battle of Culloden)
On 16 April 1746, outnumbered, ill-equipped, commanded by incompetents and divided by clan rivalries, Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite rebels were decisively beaten by British government forces at the Battle of Culloden. Peter Watkins' film, made for the BBC in 1964, is a 'documentary reconstruction' of the events of that fateful day and the repercussions that followed. If the English are sharply criticised for their bloodthirstiness and their ruthless suppression of the Highland clan system after Culloden, the film is more evenhanded and less sentimental toward the Highlanders than it could have been. Unsurprisingly given his limited resources, Watkins struggles to give a sense of the scale of the battle. His ingenious solution to this problem is to show the fighting at a close distance, using the character of a contemporary eyewitness to make sense of the action and describe the bigger picture for us. Apparently shot in a newsreel style to mimic the type of footage coming back from Vietnam at the time, forty-five years on Culloden perhaps doesn't resonate in the way that it once did, but it's still a bold, original, powerful piece of work.
This is a gripping recreation of the Battle of Culloden in 1746 which along with being the last battle and armed uprising fought on British soil, was a rout of Jacobite rebels by British forces in one hour eight minutes, followed by repression and cutural genocide of the native Highlanders. Paul Watkins does an amazing job on what must have been a miniscule budget in what has become his usual anachronistic style. He provides an excellent history lesson with lots of interesting details, thoroughly investigating a critical point in time. What may surprise some people is that he is not on the side of the Jacobite rebels but simply in sympathy with those poor bastards forced to fight for each side in this civil war(in one specific case, brothers on separate sides) and every other war since.(You don't have to be an expert in history to know which side the Irish were on.) In fact, Watkins has disdain mostly for the Jacobite leadership, especially Prince Charles Stuart(Olivier Espitalier-Noel), grandson of King James II, who only exploits his ill-equipped and ill-fed soldiers for his own personal cause. Lord George Murray is the only competent Jacobite leader whose tactical genius almost brought them to the brink of victory previously and could have possibly turned the tide of battle here, if heeded.
Made for BBC television, this 69-minute mockumentary is director Peter Watkins' account of the 1746 Battle of Culloden, in which a British army decimated the rebel Jacobites of Scotland. But understanding historical context is not vital to appreciate the film -- one only has to watch a primitive war between two armies, one well-equipped but deplorably barbaric, the other ridiculously outmatched and overconfident. And even a grade-schooler can enjoy the central, anachronistic gimmick: an 18th-century event filmed like a modern news story, as unseen narrator Watkins acts as correspondent and soldiers deliver their weary soundbites to the camera.
The hard facts are that 5,000 Jacobites -- naive, hungry, unrested and inexperienced -- took on a 9,000-man English army and were thoroughly flattened within roughly the same time required to watch the film. And once the fight had faded, the sadistic Brits methodically combed the fields, finishing off whatever wounded bodies they found. We're told that 1,200 Jacobites were killed versus only 50 British. Staggering. The disaster is pinned upon the foolish Prince Charles Edward Stuart, who was certain that God was on his side and would carry him to impossible victory.
Introductions comprise an awful lot of the action, and this grows somewhat tedious. A soldier comes onscreen and Watkins ticks through his capsule history. This occurs over and over again -- probably because the production had no budget for grand-scale battles and settled for smaller stories instead. But perhaps the biggest problem is that, in an age when Monty Python and nerdy war reenactments are standard cultural lore, it can be hard to take "Culloden" seriously. One figurehead in particular, Lord George Murray, recalls a John Cleese caricature every time he speaks. And just try to keep a straight face through a segment where Watkins reads off the peasant soldiers' tiny property holdings. The steady drone of bagpipes is another lurking absurdity. Beware the blancmange!
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