12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Still groundbreaking, a work of art,
This review is from: Peeping Tom [DVD] (DVD)
Rarely has a film been loved and hated as much as Peeping Tom. The censor's reaction has of course gone down in history, and rumours persist of longer, more complete cuts being out there somewhere.
Peeping Tom still has the power to divide audiences, with viewers typically split between finding it fascinating or boring. Given the manner in which cinema has upped the ante on depictions of sadism and brutality since Powell made this film, it's not surprising that many are disappointed with the lack of graphic violence or gore on display, or the films disdain for a conventional "thriller" type atmosphere.
However, on a cerebral level, Peeping Tom retains its capacity to disturb. Rarely has a film depicted the process of a killer being created so chillingly, nor the manner in which such individuals are capable of conflicted, dualistic personalities. Consider how many serial killers have been described to be charming and kind by others who knew them (Dennis Nilsen or Ted Bundy for example). The scenes showing this transition from shy man-child to confident killer are masterful, with Carl Boehm overcoming other more obvious limitations in his casting (the accent mainly) to portray this aspect unerringly.
Yes, Peeping Tom is a flawed film in some respects, but I believe it to be a masterpiece nonetheless. Its detractors point to the staged and somewhat theatrical feel of it and the melodramatic ending, but the extent to which it immerses you in the murky and deeply melancholy inner world of such a damaged man, as well as a grimy and realistic view of British society in the late 50's, more than compensate. It is an intriguing and complex film, raising questions about our own desire to watch what we are seeing on the screen, and begs discussion about its numerous themes and subtexts. It is quite rightly in my opinion described as a work of art, with all of the demands that art places upon the appreciator to lose themselves a little in the pursuit of some semi-hidden and undefinable truth.