Peter Watkins’ unsettling film, made for British television in 1965, shows an alternative history of the Cold War, in which the diehard stances of both East and West come to a head and the Soviet Union launches warheads at Great Britain. Perfectly imitating newsreel style, The War Game is a masterful illusion. It won the Oscar for best documentary. Much of the film’s strength lies in the contrast between images of the horrifying aftermath of nuclear war and the complacent, patronizing attitudes of politicians. Although it is pure fiction, this depiction of people dealing with the fallout – in all the senses of the word – of an atomic attack is nevertheless one of the more emotionally disturbing works screening at this year’s festival.
Academy Awards 1967 – Oscar for Best Documentary Feature; BAFTA Awards 1967 – Best Short Film; Venice IFF 1966 – Special Prize
Peter Watkins began his film career at the close of the 1950s. By the mid-1960s, he was directing features for BBC television, including quasi-documentary works, such as The War Game. Although much of his later work was in real documentaries, he also directed well-received feature films, including Privilege (1967) and Punishment Park (1971). In 1987, Watkins directed the monumental 14-hour epic documentary Resan, once again taking up the theme of the global arms race.
1959 The Diary of an Unknown Soldier (short)
1965 Zabawa w wojnę / The War Game
1967 Przywilej / Privilege
1971 Punishment Park
1987 Resan (doc.)
1994 Fritänkaren (video)
2000 La commune (Paris, 1871)