Between the poles of Eisensteinian aesthetics: Editing patterns in Peter Watkins’ biographical films | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 4, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2042-7891
  • E-ISSN: 2042-7905



The ‘Brechtianisms’ of editing in Peter Watkins’ films have largely escaped critical attention, doubtless as a result of their medium-specific nature, whereby the links between those formal elements and Brecht – as primarily a stage practitioner – are obscured. This article employs the ideas of Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein, who shares Brecht’s indebtedness to Marxist dialectics and Russian formalism, to reveal and investigate both the convergences and divergences between the two artists and Watkins. I argue that Watkins’ biographic films Edvard Munch (1974) and Fritänkaren/The Freethinker (1994) illustrate the trajectory that has led Watkins from Eisensteinian montage of attractions to the Soviet practitioner and theorist’s intellectual montage as a dominant structural method. The article further points out that the strong affinities of The Freethinker’s formal operations with those of Brecht’s own works for the stage and screen are attributable broadly to the film’s refusal to subsume its stylistic unorthodoxies to the logic of psychological realism.


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