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(aka 'The Freethinker')

Directed by Peter Watkins
Sweden 1994


A unique nonlinear biopic on August Strindberg (1849-1912); it tells in great detail about the life and work of the idealistic Swedish playwright (one of the fathers of modern theater), novelist, and painter. It covers his messy personal life and his revolutionary works of art that challenged the conventions of the time. It was produced and directed by Peter Watkins ("The War Game"/"Edvard Munch"/"Punishment Park") over a two-year period with the aid of 24 high school students from Sweden's Norden Folk High School.


The film's slow-pace and unfriendly cinematic look might scare off some folks, but the film is designed as a learning experience, refreshingly (if you may) academic in tone, that gives you a chance to reflect on the controversial artist's life and reach out for more than the usual things found in a typical biopic. There's also a dual aim, besides providing information, to raise questions of the mass media today and in the way it manipulates and controls the news and that for the most part the news organizations are owned by a few giant corporations or moguls. Strindberg was also critical of the media during his time, and the filmmaker easily morphs into the rabble-rousing Strindberg taking on the modern despots who oppose free thinkers.

Excerpt from Dennis Schwartz review located HERE

Theatrical Release: September 3rd, 1994

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DVD Review: New Yorker (2-disc) - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution New Yorker Video - Region 0 - NTSC
Runtime 2:14:24 (Disc 1) + 2:19:45 (Disc 2) 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.83 + 6.65 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Disc 1


Disc 2

Audio Swedish (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, French, None

Release Information:
Studio: New Yorker Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Also Available digital listing
• 16-page liner notes booklet with essay/letter by Peter Watkins 

DVD Release Date: November 6th, 2007

Keep Case
Chapters: 12 + 12





Unfortunately this is not at the same standards as the rest of the stellar Project X DVDs we have reviewed from producer Oliver Groom (ex. Sult, The War Game/ Culloden etc.). Although I have strong suspicions the source material is far more to blame than the transfer, regardless this image is fraught with heavy aliasing which reflects quite poorly on the presentation of the film. 'You can't make a silk purse from a sow' ear' may be the appropriate epitaph of this particular progressive 2-disc dual-layered DVD package. Watkins' films would probably be less affronted than most by a weak transfer as his cerebral and observational brand of cinema relies more on its challenging obtuse conventions than striking, retina-exploding, visuals. I feel that the, very clean, image (with occasional artifacts) released by New Yorker may be the best this particular film will look on digital as it is such a clandestine effort. We should be quite pleased it is available at all outside the Swedish school system (where it was once included as part of the curriculum). The audio was much stronger than the image quality and is supported by optional English or French subtitles. 

There are no extras aside from a 16-page liner notes booklet with words by Watkins and a few photos. The film is divided into 24 chapters (12 on each disc) which compromise about 2 1/4 hours each disc. So you have over 5 1/2 hours of film but surprisingly it didn't grate on me - and once I got into the groove - I began to see it as a realistic biopic interpretation of a complex and enigmatic man. I'd take the easy route and see this would suit Watkins fans, but I honestly feel many others may get something out of it as well. At least this review will prepare you for its length and conservative pacing. Give it a try if you are keen. 

Gary W. Tooze



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Distribution New Yorker Video - Region 0 - NTSC


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