Culloden Review

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Peter Watkin's faux-documentary look at the Battle of Culloden between the Jacobite pretender to the throne, Bonnie Prince Charlie, and the English forces that defeated him.


Placed alongside Ken Russell's recently released films on Delius and Elgar, this BFI TV classic cruelly exposes the inadequacies of current programming, putting all those zeitgeisty reality shows and home makeover programmes firmly in their place.

This account of Culloden, the last battle fought on the British mainland, was Peter Watkins' first professional assignment, and it displays an intellect and innovation that puts most contemporary filmmaking to shame. Its biggest strength is to treat the battle as if it were contemporary, with cameras 'embedded' in the units and witness to every shift in fortunes. What's more, it doesn't shy away from the complexity of the conflict, taking in Irish, French, Scottish and English combatants of various religious and political viewpoints. It's intimate, informative and ingenious in its deployment of limited resources.

Impassioned and provocative...something mainstream British cinema has long ceased to be.