The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011) – series review


The Story of Film: An Odyssey is a 15-part mini-series (1 hour for each episode) written, directed and narrated by Mark Cousins. It is a documentary series which follows the evolution of film and all of its aspects from the invention of film, all the way to Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

In an interview with Cousins about the mini-series, he claims that at heart, it’s a film. One. 15 hour. Film.

I don’t know anyone who’d be willing to sit down for 15 hours to watch a documentary but I do know many who’d be willing to watch 1 hour of film history 15 separated times and for those who would be willing, I’d reconsider.

I began watching the series feeling adventurous and thirsty for information, and for the first 6 or so episodes, I was satisfied. Then the series began to take a turn for the worse as a supposed documentation on the history of film became a compilation of Mark Cousins commentating on classic foreign movies that he liked.

I’m not saying that the films aren’t relevant to the story of film as a whole, but most of them were. The series began with Cousins guiding the audience through the tale of how cinema began, how editing was invented, how cameras work etc. But later in the series, Cousins begins to guide us through films that play no card in the deck of film evolution. And if they do hold a card, he won’t tell you which one.

There was one moment in the series that made me (kind of) snap. A moment where Cousins was commenting on a film which was a documentary of a man confronting an ex-military official. The two men began fighting in the room where the interview was taking place and the cameraman continued to hold the camera “still” without moving his place.

Cousins claimed this moment to be “revolutionary” in how realist cinema found its image where in actuality, it was more like a home movie.

In the latter (and generally weaker) half of the series, Mark does occasionally bring up some good films with some interesting points but the damage was already done and I still wouldn’t consider this to be a reliable source of information on how film came to be the way it is today.

To sit through an hour long episode where one man is talking about foreign films and classic films and what-not takes will, will that can only be found within someone who bears a genuine interest in film. So if you hold that interest, you may find this series to be either very interesting, or just interesting enough. I’m belong to the latter category.

The series does shift from factual to opinionated very quickly in the series and there were many moments in the latter half where I was rolling my eyes at the screen but for the former half and select moments of the latter, I was intrigued.

There were foreign films mentioned in this series that I doubt I would ever have heard of elsewhere and I did learn a lot about how film started but Cousins’ opinion on what is important in film which becomes apparent later in the series left a mark.

I wouldn’t recommend that you lob your computer at a wall and sprint to your local store to buy the DVD. But I would recommend that if you have at least a semi-strong interest in film and you are willing to sit through an hour every night for 15 nights (separated or together), this series can be pretty interesting.

What did you think of The Story of Film: An Odyssey? Leave your comment on the side and don’t forget to follow my Instagram page for movie posters.

Categories: TV

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