BITTER LAKE (Adam Curtis, 2015, UK)

Man + Bird = Birdman or Manbird?

Bitter Lake is a work that has already been peculiarly played out in our subconscious with a saturnine oddity. Yet it is the non-linearity of political ideas as narrated to us by the mainstream media that Curtis salvages, excavating the past, connecting the dots. By offering us a glimpse into the system, the machine, the epoch of our times, which we would rather forget, a tortuous historiography emerges that slays the now with something much more terrifying: that fatalism and hegemony are inseparable. This is a fable, parable, and thesis on the story of Afghanistan. It could even be a dream; the hyper reality of the archive footage and the hypnotic simulacra exhibited intercut with a rifling voice over signifying an imaginary realm subject to all degrees of hyperbole could only be contemporaneous of news culture. Curtis hypothesises Wahhabism, a religious orthodoxy and cult, as an ideological contest in the Islamic world with which the Western power elite has reconciled, obscured and inadvertently help to flourish as a form of religious and political demagoguery. The nightmarish poetry of Bitter Lake comes from Curtis’ soundscapes that have in the past borrowed copiously from John Carpenter to Brian Eno, discordantly intervening to unsettle. Since Curtis relies solely on archive news footage we are left with an image of Afghanistan that is suspiciously monolithic and even alien reiterating an aura of opacity contiguous to the war. An idea of labelling something postmodern appears defunct yet Curtis’ work captures our age of uncertainty with a notably judicious political logic that is neither didactic nor altruistic but altogether more horrific.


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