on 23 June 2009
'The Century of the Self' is an acclaimed and multiple award-winning documentary by U.K. filmmaker Adam Curtis.
Split into four, individual 1-hour episodes, and originally aired on BBC, this documentary masterfully describes the impact of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, his theories on the perception of the human mind and the ways public relations agencies and politicians have used this during the last 100 years for their "engineering of consent".
Among the main characters are Freud himself and his nephew Edward Bernays, who was the first to use psychological techniques in advertising. He is often seen as the "father of the public relations industry". However, 'The Century of the Self' also asks deeper questions about the roots and methods of modern consumerism, representative democracy and its implications. Furthermore, it questions the modern way we see ourselves, the attitude to fashion and superficiality.
The business and, increasingly, the political world uses PR to read and fulfill our desires, to make their products or speeches as pleasing as possible to us. Curtis raises the question of the intentions and roots of this fact. Where once the political process was about engaging people's rational, conscious minds, as well as facilitating their needs as a society, the documentary shows how by employing the tactics of psychoanalysis, politicians appeal to irrational, primitive impulses that have little apparent bearing on issues outside of the narrow self-interest of a consumer population. Ultimately, Adam Curtis explores the psychological methods now massively introduced into politics.
The movie won several prestigious awards, including: Best Documentary Series (Broadcast Awards), Historical Film Of The Year (Longman-History Today Awards), Best Documentary (Royal Television Society and Indie Awards) and Best Documentary Series (Grierson Documentary Awards).
If you enjoyed Curtis' 'The power of nightmares', you will really hold your breath on this one.