Main Page
Alphabetical Menu
The "C" Menu

The Century of the Self (Unrated)

Release Date: August 12th, 2005 (NYC-Cinema Village)
Directed by Adam Curtis.

BASIC PREMISE: A four-part documentary about the evolution of the mass-consumerism in the US and UK over the past 100 years.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: This documentary was originally shown on BBC television in the UK. Its structure is very organized into four one-hour episodes: "Happiness Machines", "The Engineering of Consent", "There is a Policeman in Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed" and "Eight People Sipping Wine Kettering". Each episode is each to watch because there are enough visuals that explain the concepts and concepts are often repeated. Out of all the facts, the two important individuals who are referred to most frequently are Sigmund Freud and Edward Bernays--who is also Freud's nephew. Freud believed that psychoanalysis is a strong power that can be used to manipulate the masses. He also believed that individuals have innate emotions--many of which are sexual. Bernays used his uncle's concepts about the power of the mind to promote capitalism. There is a funny scene that shows women smoking cigarettes because he made them believe that cigarettes are a phallic symbol of the male sexual organ. Bernays basically changed the market from just having needs to also having wants. Predictably, after these wants were created, commercials were also changed to appeal to new audience in a different way, i.e. using good-looking women in an ad to promote a car. In the first and second episodes, these themes of commercialism's manipulation and power are frequently repeated--but the clips and interviews are all entertaining and lively. The documentary becomes very interesting as a seemingly different belief arise in the third and fourth episodes. This belief is that everyone is unique and special, rather than part of a whole that is all the same. Individuals have different feeling, tastes, and opinions that change very quickly. Ironically, this rise of individualism does not diminish capitalism because the market simply adjusts to these specific demands. This led to the birth of panels which help companies get to know the changing demand of the public. It all comes back to Freud whose seemingly crazy beliefs that people's inner emotions have a lot of power once externalized through the media is still haunting consumerism to this very day.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Despite a lot of background information about the evolution of mass-consumerism, this documentary fails to say anything intellectually surprising. , it often feels like a typical college lecture with all of its redundancies and overlapping themes. What remains for you to take with you is that no matter how hard you try, you can never escape the power of commercialism in this world. The real question is whether or not the feelings one has toward a product are real or not. The answer depends on whether or not you a smart consumer who truly knows what you desire without anyone telling you how to think or feel. That situation is very rare, though, unless you never ask your friends/family for their opinions and never watch television--which also happens to be a form of hypnosis.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Redundant and predictable at times.


THE BOTTOM LINE: An interesting, occasionally repetitive documentary with a lot of lively background information about the very timely concept of mass-consumerism.

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run). This film has a separate admission for its two parts, with two one-hour episodes in each part. After watching the first part, I suggest that you take at least a few hours for a break just to rest your mind and to absorb everything before you watch the second part.

Main Page
Alphabetical Menu
The "C" Menu

Avi Offer
The NYC Movie Guru
Privacy Policy