The Forgotten Faces

Peter Watkins is the film director whose work you likely haven’t seen, but definitely should.

He is best known for his work in the 1960s and 1970s, including Culloden, The War Game, and Punishment Park. The common method for these films was to take a “you are there”, documentary approach and treat the camera as if it were an actual witness to the events as they unfolded. So while it may be a bit jarring to see and hear a TV film crew interviewing and reacting to Scottish rebels in 1745, you see his point in doing so pretty easily.

It was certainly a method commonly used in comedy, but Watkins uses it to great dramatic effect, particularly notably in The War Game, a 1965 film that documents the aftereffects of a nuclear detonation over an area of Kent. It was such a horrific film that the BBC, who produced it, refused to broadcast it on TV and the film was not shown publicly in the UK until 1985. Watkins did not take kindly to this suppression of his work and left the UK. He has since lived and made films in Sweden, the United States, Denmark, Canada, Lithuania and France. His most recent film was La Commune in 2000, on the Paris Commune. (It’s probably his last film too, as he no longer gives interviews and has largely withdrawn from public life.)

Another trademark of Watkins’ work is to use people who are entirely untrained in acting, or are at most amateur theatre performers. He began this practice with his early amateur films but kept on with it throughout his career.

It’s one of these early amateur films I want to draw your attention to today. It’s The Forgotten Faces, an 18 minute film made in 1960 with amateur performers in a back street in Canterbury. It’s an impressionistic view of the Hungarian Revolution in October 1956.

In all the work and thought I’d invested in Nights of Fire, this film was always in the back of my mind but I never mentioned it until now.

I hope you find it interesting.

Nights of Fire is still on track for a March release.

About brtrain
This blog is mostly devoted to posts, work and resources on "serious" conflict simulation games.

8 Responses to The Forgotten Faces

  1. Pete S/ SP says:

    Thanks for bringing the film to my attention Brian. I’d watched Punishment Park and The War Game before but was unaware of this one.

    Looking forward to the release of the game.



    • brtrain says:

      He made another one about the same time, Diary of an Unknown Soldier which is about the last day in the life of a British soldier in WW I. I don’t know if it is also on Youtube but it is an extra (along with Forgotten Faces) on my DVD release of Culloden and the War Game.
      The BFI shop offers a double DVD of Culloden and The War Game for not much, and a DVD of Privilege (another very interesting film) with the two short amateur films for a bit more.

  2. HowardD says:

    Thanks Brian, that BFI thread led to some other fascinating films. ‘It Happened Here’ (1965) makes great viewing for the Codeword Cromwell game, an urban companion to BFI’s ‘Went the Day Well’ (1942).

  3. Persio says:

    That’s brilliant. Thanks for recommending

  4. happywanderer says:

    …a brilliant bit of filmography Brian.

    Engrossing to see these ‘young revolutionaries’ revolt against Communist oppression and brutal central government – an idea dangerously flirted with by today’s ‘young revolutionaries’ who know not the face of such dictatorships and fantasise about communism as a way forward.

    Thanks for posting this.

    …indeed, a cautionary tale…

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