BBC documentalist Adam Curtis explores the age of self-expressing, how the Power manipulates the masses, how the machines created a dream world. Basically, all his films are about an illusion we all stuck in. 

The Century Of The Self, 2002

If you take a look at the pictures of the 20s or 30s, probably one of the most charming and exciting time of XX century, we’ll figure out that people are wearing all the same clothes and hats and haircuts. They are beautiful, very new, fashionable, unusual – yes because it’s the time of revolution in politics, culture, art. They were all self-expressing, but kinda all in the same way. The real era of self-expression, according to Adam Curtis, is the 60s and 70s: I made a series called “The Century of the Self” where I showed that in the ’70s capitalism went through a great big shift. Capitalism reinvented itself and started to sell you a much wider range of products so you could express yourself, – he tells The Creative Independent.

The Century Of The Self Is about how rising power have used Freud’s theories to try to control a dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy. The heart of the story is not just Sigmund Freud but also the other members of the Freud family. For example, Edward Berney, Freud’s nephew, who is almost completely unknown today. However, his influence on the XX century was nearly as great as his uncle’s, because Berney was the first to use Freud’s ideas to manipulate the masses. Briefly, how to make people want the things they do not need to control them.

The Power Of Nightmares, 2004

Today people have lost faith in ideologism because the history of politics has too many examples when politicians offered optimistic visions and never kept their promises. Increasingly politicians are seen only as managers of public life. But nowadays they have discovered a new role – the role of protectors. Instead of realizing our dreams they say that they will rescue us from many dangers we do not even see or understand. The documentary speaks about the big part of these dangers are the illusion.

 

It Felt Like A Kiss, 2009

The story of how America set out remake the world. 50 years ago it felt like a kiss. According to Adam Curtis, the film is “the story of an enchanted world that was built by American power as it became supreme…and how those living in that dream world responded to it”. Also, a theater production preceded the TV series as a part of Manchester International Festival in July 2009.

 

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, 2011

“This is the story about rising of machines and how they made us believe we could create a stable world that will last forever”, – says the trailer. The story begins in 1950 in New York with a famous philosopher and writer Ayn Rand.  She called her philosophy “objectivism” and she expressed it in her plays and novels (the most famous, probably, areThe Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged). The basis of her philosophy was that if the man wants to live on Earth his only goal should be achieving his own happiness.

We live in dream world created by the machines, where we are all free and express ourselves. But the machines also brought the idea that we are all components of a system. The antagonist in the series is a Hippy society – free without machines.

HyperNormalisation, 2016

It is the newest series by Adam Curtis. “We live in the world where powerful deceive us. We know they lie. They know we know they lie” – says the trailer. In this documentary, Adam Curtis claims 21-century public is more than aware of how the Power function, aware of how it manipulates us, but does nothing. And that is normal. Today’s world is the world of “post-truth”, of hypernormalisation.

Some people blame Adam Curtis for uncompromisingness of his position. Forgetting this point, which we can not completely deny, Curtis’ documentaries are a great source of knowledge, and they are stylish and inspiring anyway.

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