A major piece of television documentary making that’s been allowed out of the archives, Civilisation: A Personal View
was first screened on BBC2 in 1969, having been in production for several years beforehand. Its ambition was clear from the off, giving that it was aiming to chart the history of Western philosophy, culture and art since not far off the dawn of time. What’s most remarkable, though, is just how well it did with the task in hand.
Civilisation: A Personal View was presented by the late Kenneth Clark, an art historian, and the programme was commissioned under the watch of David Attenborough. And across 13 episodes, it’s an engrossing piece of work, that remains as relevant and interesting today. Inevitably, the format is nowhere near as groundbreaking as it once was, which is unsurprising given that it established a template that many chose to follow. But the breadth and depth of the content, distilled with real skill by Clark, is what made it one of the most talked about, and popular, television series of its day.
And how lovely it is that the entire show has been remastered in high definition. Originally for the rebroadcasting of the entire series on BBC Four, Civilisation: A Personal View has now found a home it never expected to have on Blu-ray. The added clarity, appreciating the age of the source material, is a real and unexpected bonus, and Civilisation: A Personal View may just prove to be one of the most interesting and vital Blu-ray releases of the year. An astonishing piece of work. --Jon Foster
Starring: Kenneth Clark (Pres/Narr) In 1966 BBC Television embarked on its most ambitious documentary series to date. The eminent art historian Lord Clark was commissioned to write and present an epic examination of Western European culture, defining what he considered to be the crucial phases of its development. Civilisation: A Personal View by Lord Clark would be more than two years in the making, with filming in over 100 locations across 13 countries. The lavish series was hailed as a masterpiece when it was first transmitted in 1969.From the fall of the Roman Empire to the Industrial Revolution and beyond, Clark's compelling narrative is accompanied by breathtaking colour photography of Europe's greatest landmarks. This 'history of ideas as illustrated by art and music' remains the benchmark for the numerous programmes it inspired.Includes a specially written 36 page illustrated booklet of viewing notes to accompany this DVD. DVD extras: Sir David Attenborough remembers the making of Civilisation and Photo gallery of behind-the-scenes stills.