Hailed as a breakthrough when it was first broadcast in 1964, Peter Watkins' "Culloden" - which brilliantly reconstructs the famous battle of 1746 - stunned viewers by approaching its historical subject matter in the style of contemporary TV news coverage. Watkins' "The War Game", about a limited nuclear attack on Kent, blended fact and fiction to create a disturbing vision of the personal and public consequences of such an attack. Banned from TV screens for twenty years, it was through its cinema release in 1966 - and its Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1967 - that it gained a loyal and vociferous following.
Brilliant examples of documentary realism
- Culloden / The War Game review by JO
Culloden, made in 1964 on a shoestring budget, re-enacts the famous battle between the Jacobite clans and the English forces of 1746. The film was shot in the style of a news report with interviews with individual soldiers on the battlefield. The anachronism between the news report and the actual battle was innovative but perhaps resembles the broadcasts coming out of the Vietnam War at the time. It serves to disorient the spectator and offers a commentary on the way the media reports war. Most impressive is the way Watkins shifts the audiences perspective of the battle making you question your involvement in the events depicted. Watkins focuses on several different viewpoints: eyewitnesses, the perspective of common people and the Dukr of Cornwall’s biographer who views the battle scene through a telescope narrating the events that unfold (but the viewer doesn’t always see). At times satirical, at times distressing this is a brilliant and, for its time, radical movie about the horrors of war.