When most people hear the phrase “15 hour documentary” they shudder, and rightly so. Even when it is cut into 15 one hour segments, it is too much for most people. It would certainly be too much for me. Except in this case, it wasn’t. That’s because it was bloody brilliant.
The Story of Film: An Odyssey was a highly ambitious attempt to condense the entire history of cinema from all around the world into one fifteen-part documentary. To attempt such a thing is impressive. To achieve it, is to run out of superlatives.
Starting back in the 19th century and the invention of film and running right up to the present day, covering film-making everywhere from Hollywood to Japan, from the Ukraine to Nollywood. It touches on an astonishing amount of areas and references over 1000 films.
Running in pretty much chronological order, it takes one area at a time and carefully dissects it, to show not only what the films were about and what the film-makers were trying to do, but to place them in a socio-political context so we can better understand why certain regions produced certain films.
Each part is fascinating and the creator/narrator Mark Cousins, has such a genuine love and knowledge of film that it shines through in such a way that the time just whizzes by, even if you aren’t a cinephile. Unless you have a PhD in film studies or the such, it is highly unlikely that you will go away from the experience having learnt nothing and if you’re anything like me, will leave you wanting to watch even more films to patch up the ludicrously large gaps in your film knowledge.
It is based on a book from 2004, with the same title and though I have not yet read it (it arrived from the library only a couple of days ago) I have heard it is excellent and can’t wait to get stuck in.
This originally aired a couple of years ago, but was so good I felt compelled to recommend it. It was shown in the UK on Channel 4 so might be available to watch through their online services, but is also available on DVD. It is a sound investment, informative and entertaining.