A DARKLY DELECTABLE pseudo-documentary, Edvard Munch is a film about
the Norwegian Expressionist painter of one of the most famous paintings in the
world The Scream (or, The Shriek). Director Peter Watkins explores
the pages of the Norwegian Expressionist painter's diary; fitting together
the fleeting moments of happiness with the desperate tragedies which
are dwelt upon by the artist with manic obsession.
There are painful moments where Munch (Geir Westby) relives these obsessions:
the death of his mother and, in particular, the death of his sister and the
loss of a lover known only as "Mrs Heiberg" (Gro Fraas) a devastating
experience that was to haunt him for the rest of his life.
The images of the suffering of consumption are rather disturbing but somehow
seem to make sense of Munch's desperate state of mind.
Famously described by Ingmar Bergman as "a work of genius", Peter Watkins multi-faceted
masterwork is more than just a biopic of the iconic Norwegian Expressionist
painter it is one of the best films ever made about the artistic process.
Focusing initially on Munch's formative years in late 19th Century Krist-iana
(now Oslo), Watkins uses his trademark style to create a vivid picture of the
emotional, political and social upheavals that would have such an effect on
Munch joins a group of radical writers, artists and students who gather to protest
about the existing order they are referred to by the Bour-geoise as "That
wild gypsy bunch".
Most were from the middle classes and many were women. They live their lives
in a Bohemian way and create their own 'ten command-ments', including 'Never
to borrow less than 5 Krona' and 'Never to fail to make a scandal in the Kristiana
Edvard Munch's painting goes through several developing stages the artist
is shown creating a style of art that coincides with a part of his life and
a moment in history.
Each canvas is met with scathing criticism and draws him deeper into the depression
that blighted the final years of his life. "Illness, insanity and death," Munch
says, "are the angels that watched over my cradle and accompanied me all my
Eventually the vicious attacks by both the critics and the public drive him
to leave his home country for Berlin, where he joins another group of Bohemians
at The Black Pig, led by the notorious Swedish playwright August Strindberg,
and where he meets the tragic Dagny Juell the daughter of a Norwegian
doctor. With this group he becomes part of the cultural storm that is to sweep
The roles are played with characters talking into the camera, explaining how
they fit into the life of Edvard Munch and telling their stories in a matter-of-fact
and sometimes very frank way. The film is exceptionally well acted and gives
a unique insight into the lives of the people from 19th Century Europe.
There have been countess film biographies of famous artists but only a handful
can be considered major works in their own right. The Masters of Cinema Series
is proud to present Watkins original, extended 211 minute TV version of what
is regarded by many as an extraordinary feat of film-making.
From the much respected English director of Punishment Park, Culloden and The
War Game, Edvard Munch is widely credited with being one of the best
films about an artist ever made.
A huge recent theatrical box office hit in France upon its re-release,
it is the first time the film has been available on DVD in the UK.
Recommended to those who enjoyed Artificial Eye's Van Gogh (Maurice Pialat,
1993); Lust for Life (Vincente Minnelli, 1956); Caravaggio (Derek Jarman, 1986);
Pollock (Ed Harris, 2000).
With a running time of 211 minutes, Edvard
Munch is available now on DVD (released 22 October (2007). Catalogue No:
EKA40255 | Country: Norway/ Sweden | Certificate TBC | Biography/Drama |
Year: 1976; RRP £19.99.
Special features: New director-approved high-definition restoration of the
longer TV version | Useful English narrative and freshly-translated optional
English subtitles | Optional SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
| 112-page book with a Peter Watkins self interview, with writing by Joseph
Gomez, and a timeline of Munch's life.