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4.7 out of 5 stars
171
4.7 out of 5 stars
The Ascent Of Man : Complete BBC Series [DVD] [1973]
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 July 2014
I am a cerebral man. This four dvd collection appeals to the very core of my being. I shall draw your attention to two of Jacob Bronowski's perspectives on the ascent of man.

One is that humans are the only animal to make love face to face. Combined with the observation that the human female is the only female of any animal to have an orgasm and we have a direction to take our understanding of these findings.

Two is the view that only a human is both solitary and social.

In the case of the observation concerning making love you could say this encourages social/family development. Or you could say it's learn and move on. Another fundamental outlook of Dr Bronowski is that science, in science nothing is certain. The parallel with the certainties of Nazi Germany is compellingly put.

The stifling of human intellect in childhood is seen as an enemy of civilisation. Conformity is a killer. Civilisation limits the imagination of the child. It is the individual who carries integrity with ease. I despair at the debilitating conformity around me.

It is true I longed for the most up to date information on much of the scientific analysis. DNA, for example, seems to be on the road to eradicating crime altogether. I would have liked to see the latest developments. But do not let this distract you from the Doctor's lecture on the human animal (if you are concerned about 'man' for mankind). His insights never falter. I could not help but notice the story is one of individuals. Never the ignoramus that is society.
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on 6 February 2014
i've been watching this in handy bite-sized chunks with my son who is too young to have seen it first time round. Compared wuith modern documentaries it may seem a little dated, but I love the fact that it doesn't suffer from flashy costumed reenactments to illustrate every point. Bronowski clearly not only knows his subject but delivers it clearly and concisely. It's like sitting in on an accessible academic lecture transported to the actual location. Oh how i wish I'd had this chap teach me maths.
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on 22 May 2017
Great documentary with a man insanely passionate about the subject. Stands the test of time really well and makes you think about the social aspect of human history as much as physical and technological
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on 17 May 2017
Easily one of the best documentaries I have ever seen, while Bronowxki is a little dry as a presenter he still manages to engage the audience. It is informative and entertaining. Would be a great aid to students but well worth watching for anyone interested in history and especially how man became what he is today.
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on 1 August 2017
A fabulous collection and is a mine of information about how human kind developed. This should be on every school/college reading list. I cannot recommend this highly enough.
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on 10 August 2017
Still great if a little dated (like this review)
I'd forgotten that Bronowski walks around a desert in a leather jacket!
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on 16 September 2017
Brilliant stuff
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on 20 October 2017
Truly beautiful and insightful...a must
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on 8 October 2005
An epic investigation into human civilisation and one of the jewels in the BBC's crown, Jacob Bronowski's 'The Ascent of Man' was one of the most gripping and absorbing television experiences I have ever witnessed. At an age when I should have been going off down the pub and making a nuisance of myself, I stayed in, week after week to watch this production.
Bronowski, by the 1970's, was a well-known figure on British television - an intellectual and a scientist who could communicate the complex without sounding simplistic or making the viewer feel stupid. But 'The Ascent of Man' seemed a programme too far. The BBC charter, and the BBC's experience, might emphasise the need to educate and inform, as well as entertain, but surely an exploration of this nature was too vast and too cerebral for prime-time viewing? There were many who felt that it was pretentious of the BBC and that it would be played to a distinctly minority audience.
The result was not simply that Bronowski produced groundbreaking television and set the tone for the future, his exploration of human civilisation crossed the bridge of irony - the British public was not merely ready to watch this programme, they wanted exploration and enquiry, and they wanted the sort of production Bronowski could deliver. Here we had intelligent, intellectual analysis which was sustained by human values, not cold science! Bronowski conveyed passion and excitement and made knowledge and learning warm with emotion and anticipation!
Bronowski could inject passion into a fossil! He comes across as such a lover of life. This is not just a quick history of the world ... this is excitement captured on television, and now on DVD. The great quality of 'The Ascent of Man' is that Bronowski does not set out to deliver fact, incontrovertible statements set in stone - rather he sets out to question and to sow in the minds of the viewer the seeds of doubt, the questions which will stimulate them to enquire, to enquire, and enquire again and never to take for granted. The scientific method is not the cold pursuit of certainties ... it is the human dynamic of uncertainty and the artistry of explanation. Science and history are alive.
And Bronowski never makes this point more clearly than when he kneels in a concentration camp and plucks up a handful of earth. It is a scene of such humility and compassion, it never fails to bring tears to my eyes. Evil lies in blind acceptance and obedience. The essence of civilisation is in questioning, doubting, thinking outside the box. And, in 'The Ascent of Man', the BBC brought the box into the living room and delivered out of it one of the epic pieces of television history and one of the most civilising productions any media has yet carried. Magnificent. Five stars is just for starters!
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on 22 September 2011
I've learnt more in the course of watching this compelling series than I did during seven years of secondary school education.

It's not simply a matter of Jacob Bronowski's intellect, but his own life experience and essential humanity that shines through and informs every word. I've never seen anyone conflate the arts and science as he does - and with such charisma, as though he's sharing some secret knowledge with you. You can't help but be flattered by his concentrated attention.

It's a masterclass in the art of the authored documentary, effortlessly juxtaposing different periods, personalities and ideas and always with a satisfying visual style - from the framing of individual shots to the staging of elaborate set-ups (see the surreal opening to Programme 11 about the imperfection of knowledge in which a giant human head sits incongruously on the beach with an assortment of scanners, cameras and other devices arranged about it).

It's not simply the story itself and how Bronowski chooses to tell it, but how he encourages you to think about the nature of human progress - our journey - and the limits of our own knowledge that is most affecting. He makes you think, rather than simply 'receive'; he makes you care, rather than simply understand.

There's an additional nostalgic pleasure to be had that was not available to the original audience in 1973 - whether its the giant computer with its childlike rendering of atomic structures, the locations populated with what are now considered vintage cars or Bronowski's own delightfully idiosyncratic wardrobe.

There's also the awareness that man's ascent has accelerated in the decades since the series was produced and you can't help but imagine how Bronowski might have enthused about the multitude of new discoveries and inventions since - the new planets, new elements, new leaps in DNA analysis, the discovery of the missing links between man and ape, the new age of telephony, computing and internet etc.

There's also a lesson here for contemporary programmer-makers: the most compelling instrument in the medium remains the power and personality of the human voice.

I can't recommend this highly enough and - if you're any kind of media student or content producer - it's a must-have.
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