PRINT March 2006


Watkins’s Edvard Munch

PETER WATKINS AND Edvard Munch: two singular, intractable, often misunderstood artistic personalities, each enjoying a revival and both bound together by Watkins’s personality-melding biopic. Newly released on DVD to coincide with Munch’s current retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Edvard Munch (1973) is an essay with actors that has the form and tropes of a documentary film: direct address, contrapuntal voice-over, casual framing, vérité zooms. Nearly three hours in length, the movie is densely edited and largely achronological. The dramatic scenes are fragmentary—often a succession of close-ups—but not oblique. In no sense esoteric and always class-conscious, Watkins takes pains to establish the Norwegian artist’s miserable, death-haunted childhood, the social milieu into which he was born, and the bohemian circle to which he gravitated—with particular attention to

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