Sunday, January 5, 2014

Kenneth Clark`s "Civilisation"

The last two or three years, occasionaly a local channel played a documentary-series that from the first view catched my attention. For these simple reasons.
First of all , it look old (Before i got the info, I thought it was from late 70`s or something) , and as much old is something the less politically-correct it is. 2nd the narrator, the great landscapes and the whole picture in general are very impressive. Its really suprizing in how many locations they had visit for this documentary and the variety these series have. 

The title of the documentary i`m talking about is "Civilisation". And its about European art and philosophy and every aspect of it. 
When i was watching that , afterwards i was describing it to friends but because i was always missing the opening i did not knew the name of the documentary and the one that the tv programm has written was different. Few weeks ago i saw a theme about it at a Swedish blog (Sorry i forgot its name). From the pictures posted there 
i immediately recognized that its the same series i`m watching the last years. After a research i did,  it seems that its a very famous documentary which lately also released as blu-ray.
The full title is "Civilisation : A Personal View by Kenneth Clark". Click on it to see more info at wikipedia. 

I mentioned some of the many positives. Negatives? Fortunately very few. One of them is that the most important era (Hellenic & Roman antiquity) that shaped the what we call today Western Civilization is missing. (To a point thats understandable. Such a huge, big-budget production will take twice the episodes to  cover this era. Ofcourse there is references, but still...). Also , the episode 13 is not really needed. For example, from my point of view, scyscrapers is not a product of any civilization or culture but a symptom of a sick and dying world. Without a doubt, humanitarianism is indeed spiritually inferior.

Here is the full documentary (Click on each title) on youtube along with the official description for each episode.

Episode 1 
In this the first episode Clark--travelling from Byzantine Ravenna to the Celtic Hebrides, from the Norway of the Vikings to Charlemagne's chapel at Aachen--tells his story of the Dark Ages, the six centuries following the collapse of the Roman Empire.

Episode 2
Clark tells of the sudden reawakening of European civilisation in the 12th century. He traces it from its first manifestations in the Cluny Abbey to the Basilica of St Denis and finally to its high point, the building of Chartres cathedral.

Episode 3
Beginning at a castle in the Loire and then traveling through the hills of Tuscany and Umbria to the cathedral baptistry at Pisa, Clark examines both the aspirations and achievements of the later Middle Ages in France and Italy.

Episode 4
Visiting Florence, Clark argues that European thought gained a new impetus from its rediscovery of its classical past. He also visits the palaces at Urbino and Mantua and other centres of (Renaissance) civilisation.

Episode 5
Here Clark takes the viewer back to 16th century Papal Rome--noting the convergence of Christianity and antiquity. He discusses Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci; the courtyards of the Vatican; the rooms decorated for the Pope by Raphael; and the Sistine Chapel.

Episode 6
Clark takes the viewer back to the Reformation--to the Germany of Albrecht Duerer and Martin Luther and the world of the humanists Erasmus, Montaigne, and Shakespeare.

Episode 7
Again in the Rome of Michelangelo and Bernini, Clark tells of the Catholic Church's fight against the Protestant north--the Counter-Reformation-- and the Church's new splendour symbolised by the glory of St. Peter’s.

Episode 8
Clark tells of new worlds in space and in a drop of water--worlds that the telescope and microscope revealed--and the new realism in the Dutch paintings of Rembrandt and others artists that took the observation of human character to a higher stage of development.

Episode 9
Clark talks of the harmonious flow and complex symmetries of the works of Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart and the reflection of their music in the architecture of the Rococo churches and palaces of Bavaria.

Episode 10
Clark discusses the Age of Enlightenment, tracing it from the polite conversations of the elegant Parisian salons of the 18th century to subsequent revolutionary politics, the great European palaces of Blenheim and Versailles, and finally Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

Episode 11
Belief in the divinity of nature, Clark argues, usurped Christianity’s position as the chief creative force in Western civilisation and ushered in the Romantic movement. Clark visits Tintern Abbey and the Alps and discusses the landscape paintings of Turner and Constable.

Episode 12
Clark argues that the French Revolution led to the dictatorship of Napoleon and the dreary bureaucracies of the 19th century, and he traces the disillusionment of the artists of Romanticism--from Beethoven's music to Byron's poetry, Delacroix's paintings, and Rodin's sculpture.

Episode 13
Clark concludes the series with a discussion of the materialism and humanitarianism of the 19th and 20th centuries. He visits the industrial landscape of 19th century England and the skyscrapers of 20th century New York. He argues that the achievements of the engineers and scientists—such as Brunel and Rutherford—have been matched by those of the great reformers like Wilberforce and Shaftsbury.


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