What does the BBC make of his obsessive methods? It’s in reaction to the failure of great attempts to change the world, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and change the world. You see, the thing I’m trying to get at is that the ideology of our time says that what you feel and what you want emotionally are the most important thing. There are elements of it in Cameron’s cabinet at the moment. The film is the most ambitious statement of Curtis’s methods and his message since his 2004 series The Power of Nightmares, which prophetically examined the ways that western governments exploit fears of terrorism to exert control. I think they’ve retreated into a dark, pessimistic apocalypticism, which I fight against. It was really bonkers, but actually I think it worked. I’m terribly proud of that film. Each weekday morning, spend a few moments exploring the emotional and practical facets of creating with guides and interviews from different working artist. Subscribe here. So, yes, that was why I was researching Ayn Rand, because I think Ayn Rand’s an absolutely fascinating example of another of these weird manifestations of the resurgence of conservatism. Let’s just stay at home and have tea. If you ever talk to conspiracy theorists, thatâs the sense you get from them. Collective self-expression is what was politics. I sometimes wonder whether conspiracy theories are an attempt to re-enchant the world in a distorted way. I met Hans Ulrich Obrist the other day, and he said the same thing. So the BBC has said, “Would you like to do something more with it?” And I think, actually, it’d be quite good just to expand it a bit. Goodwin spends weeks with a bank of six laptops and six tape machines collecting it all – and then brings it back and gives it to Curtis in plastic lunch boxes full of small computer drives. The BBC’s so complicated, but at the moment I’m plugged into three different areas. ■ His work includes the series Pandora’s Box (1992), which looked at the dangers of technocratic solutions to political problems, and The Mayfair Set (1999), which traced the emergence of the global arms trade and the casino economy to a group of gamblers – James Goldsmith, David Stirling and others – who met at the Clermont Club in Mayfair, London. One of the things that’s supposed to define our time is freedom of choice, but actually there’s no choice in politics. In fact, we may be working at this very moment, just as you are reading these very words. That’s really the connection. I do like his films a lot, but I don’t really think they’re like mine at all. Kickstarterâs creator-focused newsletter. Technology, in particular social media, becomes the ally of those forces. I know that you can make ideas interesting and attractive by using those things. It was a dead end. No, we all had very different tastes. There you are, I got existentialism in again! “So that’s fine by them.”, It’s his belief that we lack a journalism or art that can dramatise the shape of our globalised and digitalised world. There is another definition of freedom which simply says, âIn whose service is perfect freedom.â By giving yourself up to the Lord, you free yourself of the narrow cage of your own desires and your own selfishness. Or fictional films? They’ll come back. It’s a by-product, again, of an ideology which encourages you to prioritize what you think and what you feel and what you want as the center of the universe. Because part of what my job is, is to tell stories—good journalism—but then argue a point about that to provoke, saying, “Have you thought about seeing the world like this?” Quite frankly, because it went up on the Internet, I got some pretty vicious reactions from America, but I think that was much more worthwhile than lots of nice worthy showings in a cinema in Wisconsin. And then you can let it loose and let people watch it and unlike a television thing they can wallow in it a bit. The model that Curtis’s films have always aspired to, he says, is that of the archetypal great American novelist, John Dos Passos, whose books he describes as “the most satisfying thing I have ever read”. Theyâre all wearing exactly the same clothes and same hats. It went away from this idea that it was just selling goods that are all like each other, so everyone looked the same and wore the same clothes. A lot of the art lot just think it’s enough to put things next to each other without commenting. And it’s about collage of history as well. Wikipedia tells me something about your schooldays and the Art Room at Sevenoaks School in Kent. There was a lot of sensitivity about it, and they were aware of it, but they weren’t frightened of it. He’d come back from Afghanistan with all the unedited rushes of everything we ever shot in Afghanistan from the bureau in Kabul. ■ Bitter Lake, his first film shot exclusively for BBC iPlayer, came out last year and continues to be downloaded several thousand times each week. Two weeks ago he came back from Moscow with 43 terabytes of everything we ever shot in Russia for the last 60 years. I was wondering whether making It Felt Like a Kiss freed you up to attempt that? Interview with Dr Herta Herzog. We have the same desires, ambitions, and fears. [Paul] Greengrass was there. I, as an individual, want to be free to do what I want to do. Documentary film maker Adam Curtis' website. I believe in progress, and what I was trying to say in that film—it wasn’t really angry—is that the Congo represents to us how difficult it is to change the world. And actually, I think the most interesting thing of our time is why journalists don’t do that any longer. There’s nothing we can do. Have you noticed how all the music we hear today is almost archaeological? The documentary-maker’s new film, HyperNormalisation, continues his … The men and women—mostly men—who will make films that refuse to have any commentary because they don’t want to “mediate,” but it disguises the fact that they’ve got nothing to say. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying. Hello, youâve reached the end of this page. Maybe consumerism gets stuck. You express your anger with the system in an imaginative way as an alternative to the failure of the left. Adam Curtis: The Medium and the Message. Have they learned to put up with you since then? . That’s my audience, I do know them, and it’s big. I thought: Mr Surkov.”. Trailer for new Adam Curtis film Bitter Lake coming soon to BBC iPlayer. Of the three AWOBMOLG films, the third one was my favorite. It doesnât mean itâs bad and it doesnât mean itâs a fake thing. I know there’s an audience out there who aren’t going to read Prospect, The Economist, and New Statesman, but are really fascinated about this funny area where politics, culture, and art all cross over with each other and influence each other. In The Power of Nightmares, people knew that already—I was just saying, well, it’s sort of true. But that tradition of English conservatism is dead and buried, isn’t it? What happened from the early 1970s on was a shift, which said self-expression is the new politics. The liberal in me is going, “Well, we can both coexist,” but for the moment they’ve taken a liking to me. Maybe whatâs trying to get back into our world is enchantment, and the only way it can come back in is in these strange distorted ways. The global technology companies not only feed a mirror of our obsessions back to us, but increasingly try to normalise our behaviour – collecting data about our health and our habits and selling us a fixed idea of who we should be and what we should like (“if you liked that, you will like this”). It’s a fly-on-the-wall thing with that family and it’s so beautifully shot. I think one of the most unexamined areas at the moment is how stuck people feel. We’ll look back historically and think, “What was all that about? Well, quite frankly, I didn’t even have to go to what’s called Editorial Policy for that. In this case, he traces the conflict in Syria back to the “shuttle diplomacy” of Henry Kissinger in 1974-75. The irony of this feedback is that it is fuels prejudice and is fuelled by anger. “You have to do a bit of detective work. How power flows through it. In The Mayfair Set, I wanted to take a group of people, like you would do in a novel. They were in love, I decided. But it was very strong within the neo-conservative movement right from the Seventies because the person they hated was Henry Kissinger. You mention him as an influence. Itâs very difficult to see. . . If you were a novelist you could see they were larger than life and people would like them for that. Since then politicians haven’t really had a story. At that age, it just got me. It’s not just the resurgence of an old type of conservatism, it is something rather odd, which we haven’t fully got the dimensions of, which is now running out of control, or has gone absurd. I was saying that they were exaggerating as well, but it wasn’t specifically a political point. Capitalism reinvented itself and started to sell you a much wider range of products so you could express yourself. Thinking just in terms of the fate of the Conservative party, the story they’re probably telling themselves is, “We are the class that was born to lead and here we are again leading.”. It’s amazing. I’m larky, I can create certain kinds of mood, but they’re basically journalistic flourishes. In their reaction to Kissinger and détente you see the roots of all the wars that America’s fought subsequently. Because the Internet people are much happier with jumping around, because that’s how they use the Internet: they’re happier with collaging stuff in even bigger chunks. And then goes sort of mad about it and becomes a sort of precursor of UKIP [British anti-European Union political party]. That’s the story they’re telling themselves, but that ain’t gonna work with us, is it? Or deliberately putting things together to say something. But animals, oh yeah! And then we are fucked.”. I couldn’t understand, then, because they had no story. Yeah, most films I make aren’t really very angry, they’re more quizzical, sometimes a bit sardonic. Yes, but, it was just there because it was a shot put in . It’s just what intrigues me most, because I think where most journalism falls down, in Britain especially, is this obsession that power only comes through Westminster. Tim Adams . Because that’s not explaining it. The most recent powerful example of it in the US was the Civil Rights Movement. I was interested by two moments. And also collages, quotes from newsreels, cinema, newspapers. It was a novel called USA by John Dos Passos. Actually, I got into terrible trouble just after the punk era when I began to point out to people that actually what aspects of punk were saying were not that dissimilar to what Mrs. Thatcher was saying, which is “I want to be me,” to quote a Sex Pistols song. So he was a really good teacher and he allowed us just to romp and you see in the experimentation of Andy Gill, who’s the guitarist of Gang of Four, you see the same influence—it’s experimental. There are different definitions of freedom. I mean, it was fun, but basically Mrs. Thatcher was on the coattails of something bigger, she wasn’t the leader of it, and punk was just another manifestation of it. Chris Darke The more angry users are, the more extreme their emotional states, the more they click, and the more money rolls into Twitter and Facebook and the rest. “So for example I have everything the BBC has ever shot for 60 years in Russia sitting on 58 terabytes of drives,” he says. “I wanted to try to explain Syria,” Curtis says. There are other things that could free you from that. And you’ve also got the resources of sound and image to be able to express that. But they needed a film like that to rally round, even after Fahrenheit 9/11. It’s quite rich and fulfilling. I’ve always been nomadic. Because they were just great stories and also they were sympathetic in a funny sort of way. Many of them were beaten up; some of them were killed. ■ Developed a signature style of television essay that told stories of contemporary culture using archive footage and pop culture imagery. ■ In 2013 he collaborated with trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack to create an immersive “gilm” – part gig, part film – Everything is Going According to Plan.
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