A is for Atom – Nuclear Documentary by Adam Curtis

This is a five-part documentary by British filmmaker Adam Curtis about the rise of nuclear energy in the United States. These sections make up A is for Atom which is a 1-hour segment of a much longer science and politics television series called Pandora’s Box.  It chronicles the development of the nuclear power industry and shows clearly how little was ever understood about what would happen or what should be done during a nuclear accident.

Parts 2 – 5 after the jump

Continue reading

The Living Dead – Adam Curtis Documentary About Cold War Mind Control

Adam Curtis makes fascinating documentary films for the British Broadcasting Corporation. This one is about the manipulation of memory, or the attempt to manipulate it, by governments during the Cold War era. It features several scientists and psychology experts who worked for either the U.S. or Soviet governments trying to figure out how to control minds.

I post the work of Curtis because his filmmaking is actually quite a lot like my own in several ways. This film bears a relationship to my latest film, Yellow Plastic Raygun, which is also about memory and how it influences the future. Curtis dwells in the domain of documentary, a form that I have serious misgivings about, while I dwell in the domain of art – or direct mind control if you will! I like Curtis’ use of corporate, military, instructional, and entertainment films as his raw visual material. He mixes it up with what is actually a rather simplistic script relating information that is not especially insightful. The film seems to suggest something more under the surface because of its imagery which often bears no relationship whatsoever to the information being related by the voice-over. This is a tricky area for documentary that brings it perilously close to the realm of art. You don’t quite know what it is that you are actually watching. I like that but I also distrust it.  But Curtis appears to me to be making a documentary about his own feelings and artistic interpretations of the factual material.  He is not trying to teach or inform at all.  He is simply trying to create an impression.  The words of the documentary could be replaced with gibberish.  In fact, it would probably be a slightly better film if they were!

The Living Dead – Part 1 (watch the next 5 parts after the jump)

Memory is perhaps the single most important quality of existence. We are simply memory machines walking around and recording. All of our activities point toward an ever-increasing ability to record and remember. We are building memory. The idea, pursued in the first half of this documentary, of wiping out unpleasant memories that are assumed to be destroying the health of an individual, seems to me to be misguided and foolish. I have always viewed it as the job of every human to be able to stare straight into the most horrific scene, remember it, and not allow it to take control. Very simple. You must be able to look at anything… and continue to eat your ice cream.

Continue reading

Documentary Film: The Century of the Self

The Century of the Self is a 2002 British documentary by Adam Curtis that explains how the psychological theories of Sigmund Freud were used by those in power to control the dangerous masses in democratic countries. Many of the most basic ideas behind American marketing and public relations during the 20th century, including the focus group, were invented by Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays. The American economy was converted into a consumer economy that relied upon people wanting things and feeling a need for things that were designed to increase the feeling of want.

The idea underlying this entire documentary, its fundamental observation is simply that in a democracy nearly the entire population is made up of stupid cow-like people who can be very easily controlled into thinking of themselves as unique individuals who are making their own decisions. The fact is that people, for the most part, are cannon fodder. They are willing to throw their sons and daughters into the meat grinder of war for the pretense of defending an economic structure completely dependent upon people earnestly believing that they really really need the new version of the iPhone. The mind control has worked. You can tell from the lines in front of the Best Buy at midnight waiting for the new Xbox. If you find yourself standing in line to buy the first new iPhone, you are simply mindless meat strung between bones without the slightest capacity for self-direction.  You are one of the people in the crowd being laughed at by the guy in the window at the top of the skyscraper.

But it gets even worse.  If you are making a call on your iPhone you are very likely the same mindless meat as the person waiting in line to buy the phone.  Phone calls don’t exist anymore.  They are now just pools of water where you throw your quarters and make a wish.

The series consists of four episodes. Each episode is presented in six parts on YouTube. You can find all the related parts if you click through to YouTube.

Episode 1: “Happiness Machines”
Episode 2: “The Engineering of Consent”
Episode 3: “There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed”
Episode 4: “Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering”