Civilisations (2)

We spent the cold weekend in a glut of watching television – four episodes of Civilisations to catch up with those who have already watched the whole series. I have been cautious of writing about it until I had had a chance of seeing more of the episodes. I was initially sceptical that the BBC had chosen three presenters, but, particularly now that I have seen one done by David Olusoga, I can see the point of it, as it does very effectively convey the different view points of post-colonialism: Schama who has incorporated the great monuments of the east as a counterpoint and enlargement of an essentially still European narrative, big on Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Velázquez, a sense of the heroic; Mary Beard who attempts to shift the narrative away from the makers towards the viewers and the way people look at works of art; and David Olusoga who analyses interestingly the way that European civilisation bulldozed its way disregardingly through other other people’s cultures. Occasionally, I dislike the curious soft focus which the cameramen use relentlessly and the unnecessary heroicisation of the presenter, particularly, oddly, the only female presenter. But, in general, I think it is an admirable and instructive re-writing, if not demolition, of Clark.

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3 thoughts on “Civilisations (2)

  1. I agree, it’s good and it certainly begins to correct the major Clark omissions — Spain, Scandinavia, China, India, Africa, landscape — but it involves music much less well than Clark, and, unlike Attenborough, it remains ‘talking heads’ rather than being films whose images tell the story.

    With those caveats, it is very good and will be essential viewing in the coming weeks.

  2. It’s almost like a new sport watching and listening to people beat up on poor old KC but frankly a lot of the “debate” is fairly ridiculous…there’s a critique on Radio Four just now that leapt straight from Rousseau to Hitler and isn’t showing much subtlety in any other terms. So much criticism has been ‘post-colonial’ for a looooooonnnng time already. The whole reason the term civilisation was used of course was partly to re-make a series of programmes that would already have a brand identity…

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