Terry Gilliam Visits a Video Store & Talks About His Favorite Movies and Actors

Let­ting a beloved film direc­tor wan­der through the aisles of a well-stocked video store feels like such guar­an­teed YouTube fod­der that it’s a sur­prise it real­ly hasn’t been done until recent­ly. But then I remind myself that the video store itself is a thing of the past, and to see one so well stocked, Library of Alexan­dria style, is news itself. For the above video, the direc­tor brows­ing the DVDs is none oth­er than mad­cap genius Ter­ry Gilliam. The video store is Paris’ JM Video. The chat as expect­ed is mar­velous. (Only 20 min­utes? I’m sure many of us could lis­ten to Gilliam rab­bit on about his favorite films for twice, thrice that.)

Along the way, here are some things we learn:

  • Some of his favorite film­mak­ers are Stan­ley Kubrick, Lina Wert­muller, Fed­eri­co Felli­ni, and one of his cur­rent friends, Albert Dupon­tel, the French actor-direc­tor who has used Gilliam in sev­er­al of his films.
  • He is thanked in the cred­its of Tarantino’s Reser­voir Dogs. Why? Because when Taran­ti­no was at the Sun­dance Insti­tute with his script, it was only Gilliam who imme­di­ate­ly saw the bril­liant screen­play for what it was, and encour­aged Taran­ti­no to stay true to him­self.
  • He’s not a fan of Die Hard, but it was the scene where Bruce Willis talks to his wife while pick­ing glass shards out of his foot that revealed a vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty in the actor. It led to Gilliam cast­ing Bruce Willis in 12 Mon­keys. Sim­i­lar­ly, he was able to work with Brad Pitt and get him to flip his cool and hand­some demeanor on its head for the man­ic co-star­ring role.
  • Gilliam stole the idea of mul­ti­ple actors play­ing the same title char­ac­ter in The Imag­i­nar­i­um of Doc­tor Par­nas­sus (after lead actor Heath Ledger died dur­ing shoot­ing) from Luis Buñuel’s
    That Obscure Object of Desire. In that film, two women play the same char­ac­ter inter­change­ably. If it’s good enough for Buñuel…
  • Eisenstein’s Ivan the Ter­ri­ble (parts one and two) is a “dan­ger­ous” film, because it was one of Putin’s most watched movies. (Not that we should stop watch­ing Eisen­stein.) Gilliam’s way of pro­nounc­ing Putin as “pou­tine” is inten­tion­al, no?
  • Being a fan of Mon­ty Python was a good way of get­ting cast in a Gilliam film. The direc­tor knows he would have not worked with Sean Con­nery (in Time Ban­dits) or Robert DeNiro (in Brazil) if both didn’t know his work on the clas­sic com­e­dy. (It also helps to have pro­duc­ers who go golf­ing with A‑list actors.)
  • He diss­es Christo­pher Nolan (“tech­ni­cal­ly bril­liant” but then “the films become video games” with “no grav­i­ty”), and repeats a swipe against Spielberg’s Schindler’s List that he heard from Kubrick. (“It’s a film about suc­cess.”)
  • He imag­ines a bet­ter clos­ing edit to Close Encoun­ters that ends upon see­ing the legs of the alien as the hatch opens. Then we would have had some­thing to talk about on the way home, he says.

There’s anoth­er video in the series fea­tur­ing David Cro­nen­berg, along with vis­its from Michael Bay, Asghar Farha­di, Audrey Diwan, Dario Argen­to, and many more.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ter­ry Gilliam Reveals the Secrets of Mon­ty Python Ani­ma­tions: A 1974 How-To Guide

Ter­ry Gilliam on the Dif­fer­ence Between Kubrick & Spiel­berg: Kubrick Makes You Think, Spiel­berg Wraps Every­thing Up with Neat Lit­tle Bows

Ter­ry Gilliam Explains His Nev­er-End­ing Fas­ci­na­tion with Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus”

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

A First Glimpse of Moonage Daydream, the New “Immersive Cinematic Experience” David Bowie Film

Above you can get a first glimpse of Moon­age Day­dream–a new film that The Guardian calls a “glo­ri­ous, shapeshift­ing eulo­gy to David Bowie.” Direct­ed by Brett Mor­gen (oth­er­wise known for Cobain: Mon­tage of Heck), the film cre­ates for view­ers “an immer­sive cin­e­mat­ic expe­ri­ence” and “an audio-visu­al space odyssey,” using nev­er-before-seen con­cert footage. Moon­age Day­dream “not only illu­mi­nates the enig­mat­ic lega­cy of David Bowie but also serves as a guide to liv­ing a ful­fill­ing and mean­ing­ful life in the 21st Cen­tu­ry.”

Pre­mier­ing at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val this month, the film will arrive at the­aters in Sep­tem­ber, and then stream on HBO and HBO Max next spring. You can read more about the film and its pro­duc­tion at Rolling Stone.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent 

David Bowie on Why It’s Crazy to Make Art–and We Do It Any­way (1998)

Bowie’s Book­shelf: A New Essay Col­lec­tion on The 100 Books That Changed David Bowie’s Life

When David Bowie Launched His Own Inter­net Ser­vice Provider: The Rise and Fall of BowieNet (1998)

David Bowie Songs Reimag­ined as Pulp Fic­tion Book Cov­ers: Space Odd­i­ty, Heroes, Life on Mars & More

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How Much Would It Cost to Build the Colosseum Today?

Last year we told you about the plan to install a retractable floor in the Colos­se­um, thus restor­ing a fea­ture it boast­ed in its ancient glo­ry days. Though the state pledged €10 mil­lion, the bud­get of an ambi­tious ren­o­va­tion will sure­ly come to many times that — but still, we may imag­ine, only a frac­tion of the mon­ey it took to build the Colos­se­um in the first place. In fact we have to imag­ine it, since we have no records of what that icon of Rome actu­al­ly cost. In the video above, his­to­ry Youtu­ber Gar­rett Ryan, cre­ator of the chan­nel Told in Stone, does so by not just mar­shal­ing all his knowl­edge of the ancient world but also crowd­sourc­ing oth­ers’ knowl­edge of mod­ern con­struc­tion tech­niques and expens­es.

First, Ryan must reck­on the cost of the Colos­se­um in ses­ter­tii, the “big brass coins” com­mon in Rome of the first cen­tu­ry AD. “At the time the Colos­se­um was built,” he says, “one ses­ter­tius could buy two loaves of bread, four cups of cheap wine, or a sin­gle cup of good wine.”

The aver­age unskilled labor­er could expect to earn around four ses­ter­tii per day, and this project need­ed thou­sands of such labor­ers to exca­vate its foun­da­tion trench alone. Then came the lay­ing of the foun­da­tion itself, fol­lowed by the build­ing of the super­struc­ture, which remains for­mi­da­ble even in the ruined state we know today. Its mate­ri­als includ­ed 100,000 cubic meters of traver­tine — “rough­ly one-fifti­eth, inci­den­tal­ly, of all traver­tine ever quar­ried by the Romans.”

A good deal of traver­tine also went into the Get­ty Cen­ter, per­haps the clos­est thing to a Colos­se­um-scale con­struc­tion project in mod­ern-day Amer­i­ca. The Get­ty’s total cost came to $733 mil­lion, a price tag befit­ting the wealth syn­ony­mous with its name. But it still came cheap­er than the Colos­se­um by Ryan’s esti­mate, or at least by most of the esti­mates at which he arrives. Con­sult­ing with sev­er­al of his view­ers expe­ri­enced in archi­tec­ture and con­struc­tion, he cal­cu­lates that build­ing an exact repli­ca of the Colos­se­um in today’s Unit­ed States — tak­ing into account the much greater effi­cien­cy of cur­rent tools, as well as the much greater cost of labor — rough­ly equiv­a­lent to $150,000,000 to more than $1 bil­lion. That amount of mon­ey obvi­ous­ly exists in our world; whether we pos­sess the nec­es­sary ambi­tion is less clear. Then again, ancient Rome did­n’t have Lego.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Build­ing The Colos­se­um: The Icon of Rome

When the Colos­se­um in Rome Became the Home of Hun­dreds of Exot­ic Plant Species

Rome’s Colos­se­um Will Get a New Retractable Floor by 2023 — Just as It Had in Ancient Times

High-Res­o­lu­tion Walk­ing Tours of Italy’s Most His­toric Places: The Colos­se­um, Pom­peii, St. Peter’s Basil­i­ca & More

How Did the Romans Make Con­crete That Lasts Longer Than Mod­ern Con­crete? The Mys­tery Final­ly Solved

The Roman Colos­se­um Has a Twin in Tunisia: Dis­cov­er the Amphithe­ater of El Jem, One of the Best-Pre­served Roman Ruins in the World

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

How Korean Things Are Made: Watch Mesmerizing Videos Showing the Making of Traditional Clothes, Teapots, Buddhist Instruments & More

It would be awful­ly clichéd to call Seoul, where I live, a place of con­trasts between old and new. And yet that tex­ture real­ly does man­i­fest every­where in Kore­an life, most pal­pa­bly on the streets of the cap­i­tal. In my favorite neigh­bor­hoods, one pass­es through a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent eras walk­ing down a sin­gle alley. “Third-wave” cof­fee shops and “newtro” bars coex­ist with fam­i­ly restau­rants unchanged for decades and even small indus­tri­al work­shops. Those work­shops pro­duce cloth­ing, plumb­ing fix­tures, print­ed mat­ter, elec­tron­ics, and much else besides, in many cas­es late into the night. For all its rep­u­ta­tion as a high-tech “Asian Tiger,” this remains, clear­ly and present­ly, a coun­try that makes things.

You can see just how Korea makes things on the Youtube chan­nel All Process of World, which has drawn tens of mil­lions of views with its videos of fac­to­ries: fac­to­ries mak­ing forksbricks, sliced tuna, sheep­skin jack­etsbowl­ing balls, humanoid robots. The scale of these Kore­an indus­tri­al oper­a­tions ranges from the mas­sive to the arti­sanal; some prod­ucts are unique to twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry life, and oth­ers have been in use for cen­turies.

On the tra­di­tion­al side, All Process of World has pro­vid­ed close-up views of the mak­ing of ceram­ic teapots, wood­en win­dow frames (as you would see in a clas­si­cal Kore­an hanok), hand­held per­cus­sive mok­tak to aid Bud­dhist monks in their chants, and even jeogori, the dis­tinc­tive jack­ets worn with han­bok dress­es.

Judg­ing by the com­ments, All Process of World’s many view­ers hail from around the globe. This should­n’t come as a sur­prise, giv­en Kore­a’s new­found world­wide pop­u­lar­i­ty. But that so-called “Kore­an wave” owes less to the appeal of Kore­a’s tra­di­tion­al cul­ture than its mod­ern one, less to its rus­tic yet ele­gant pot­tery and bril­liant­ly col­or­ful for­mal­wear than to BTS and “Gang­nam Style,” Par­a­site and Squid Game — whose “robot girl” appears on a rug made in one All Process of World video. Anoth­er shows us the pro­duc­tion of an equal­ly mod­ern item, the face masks seen every­where in Korea dur­ing the past two years. Just a few weeks ago, the gov­ern­ment gave us the okay to take those masks off out­doors. While hop­ing for the arrival of ful­ly post-COVID era, we’d do well to keep in mind how the past always seems to find its way into the present.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Watch a Kore­an Mas­ter Crafts­man Make a Kim­chi Pot by Hand, All Accord­ing to Ancient Tra­di­tion

The Art of the Japan­ese Teapot: Watch a Mas­ter Crafts­man at Work, from the Begin­ning Until the Star­tling End

How a Kore­an Pot­ter Found a “Beau­ti­ful Life” Through His Art: A Short, Life-Affirm­ing Doc­u­men­tary

How Japan­ese Things Are Made in 309 Videos: Bam­boo Tea Whisks, Hina Dolls, Steel Balls & More

Mod­ern Artists Show How the Ancient Greeks & Romans Made Coins, Vas­es & Arti­sanal Glass

Three Pink Floyd Songs Played on the Tra­di­tion­al Kore­an Gayageum: “Com­fort­ably Numb,” “Anoth­er Brick in the Wall” & “Great Gig in the Sky”

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

Behold the Augsburg Book of Miracles, a Brilliantly-Illuminated Manuscript of Supernatural Phenomena from Renaissance Germany

When we speak of a “lost art,” we do not always mean that humans have for­got­ten cer­tain pro­duc­tion meth­ods. Mod­ern crafts­peo­ple can recov­er or rea­son­ably approx­i­mate old tech­niques and mate­ri­als, and pro­duce arti­facts that can be passed off as authen­tic by the unscrupu­lous. The spir­it of the thing, how­ev­er, can nev­er be recov­ered. Try as they might, schol­ars and con­ser­va­tors will nev­er be able to enter the mind of a Medieval scribe or man­u­script illu­mi­na­tor. Their social world has dis­ap­peared into a dis­tant mist; we can only dim­ly guess at what their lives were like.

Thus, for many years, the recep­tion of Hierony­mus Bosch — the bizarre fan­ta­sist from the Nether­lands whose visions of Earth, Heav­en, and Hell have amused and ter­ri­fied view­ers — stressed the pro­to-Sur­re­al­ism of his work, assum­ing he must have had oth­er inten­tions than pros­e­ly­tiz­ing.

Most recent inter­pre­ta­tion, how­ev­er, has pulled in the oth­er direc­tion, stress­ing the degree to which Bosch and his con­tem­po­raries believed in a uni­verse that was exact­ly as weird as he depict­ed it, no exag­ger­a­tion nec­es­sary; empha­siz­ing how Bosch felt an urgent need to spare view­ers of his work from the fates he showed in his art.

What passed through the mind of the illu­mi­na­tor of the man­u­script shown here, the Augs­burg Book of Mirac­u­lous Signs? We can nev­er know. At best, schol­ars have set­tled on a name — artist and print­mak­er Hans Burgk­mair the Younger — though lit­tle is known about him And we have a date, 1552, when this “curi­ous and lav­ish­ly illus­trat­ed man­u­script appeared in the Swabi­an Impe­r­i­al Free city of Augs­burg, then a part of the Holy Roman Empire, locat­ed in present-day Ger­many,” Maria Popo­va writes at the Mar­gin­a­lian. In the video at the top from Hochela­ga, you can learn more about the “bizarre text” and the “mean­ing behind its unique con­tents” and “scenes of calami­ty and chaos.”

The strange book presents “in remark­able detail and wild­ly imag­i­na­tive art­work, Medieval Europe’s grow­ing obses­sions with signs sent from ‘God,’ ” Popo­va writes, “a tes­ta­ment to the basic human propen­si­ty for mag­i­cal think­ing.” More specif­i­cal­ly, The Book of Mir­a­cles recounts a host of Bib­li­cal signs and won­ders in chrono­log­i­cal order: from the first book of the Old Tes­ta­ment to the spec­tac­u­lar end of the New. In-between are “hal­lu­ci­na­to­ry accounts of clas­si­cal and con­tem­po­rary celes­tial phe­nom­e­na,” Tim Smith-Laing writes at Apol­lo. “The man­u­script com­pris­es noth­ing less than a pic­ture chron­i­cle of the world’s past, present and future, in 192 mir­a­cles.”

While Protes­tant Chris­tian­i­ty con­demned Medieval mag­ic, “the recur­rence of mir­a­cles in the Bible meant that the Protes­tant reform­ers of the six­teenth cen­tu­ry could not reject such won­ders as super­sti­tions in the way they scorned Catholic beliefs,” Mari­na Warn­er writes at The New York Review of Books. Ger­man reform­ers were on high alert for the mirac­u­lous and omi­nous: “The six­teenth-cen­tu­ry Zwinglian cler­gy­man Johann Jakob Wick filled twen­ty-four albums with reports of such won­ders in broad­sheets and pam­phlets,” see­ing signs in the birth of a two-head­ed calf or “an unfor­tu­nate, flip­per-hand­ed infant.”

All of which is to say that we have lit­tle rea­son to doubt that the cre­ator of The Book of Mir­a­cles meant the work as an earnest warn­ing to its read­ers, although its won­drous images might look to us like pro­to-fan­ta­sy or sci-fi illus­tra­tion. The book illus­trates 1533 reports of fly­ing drag­ons in Bohemia, an event, notes The Guardian, that “went on for sev­er­al days, with over four hun­dred of them, both big and small, fly­ing togeth­er.” It shows a comet appear­ing in 1506, one that stayed for sev­er­al days and nights “and turned its tail towards Spain.” There­by fol­lowed “a lot of fruit,” which was then “com­plete­ly destroyed by cater­pil­lars or rats,” then a vio­lent earth­quake in Con­stan­tino­ple.

The very ten­u­ous con­nec­tion between dis­parate nat­ur­al phe­nom­e­na, the hearsay reports of mag­i­cal hap­pen­ings, you can read about all of these signs and won­ders in a repub­lished ver­sion by Taschen, in Eng­lish, French, and Ger­man. It is, Popo­va writes, “a sin­gu­lar shrine to some of the most eter­nal of human hopes and fears, and, above all, our immutable long­ing for grace, for mer­cy, for the mirac­u­lous.” See more images from The Book of Mir­a­cles at The Guardian.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Dig­i­tal Archive of Hierony­mus Bosch’s Com­plete Works: Zoom In & Explore His Sur­re­al Art

The Medieval Mas­ter­piece, the Book of Kells, Has Been Dig­i­tized and Put Online

The Illu­mi­nat­ed Man­u­scripts of Medieval Europe: A Free Online Course from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Col­orado

160,000+ Medieval Man­u­scripts Online: Where to Find Them

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Martin Scorsese Foundation Launches Virtual Screening Room, Letting You Watch Restored Classic Films for Free

Since 1990, Mar­tin Scors­ese has devot­ed the non-film­mak­ing part of his career to film preser­va­tion, whether that means the clas­sics of Hol­ly­wood or world cin­e­ma. The over 900 restora­tions that he’s helped fund through the Film Foun­da­tion non-prof­it have been the sub­ject of Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion box sets, spe­cial anniver­sary screen­ings and fes­ti­val show­ings, and now a spe­cial month­ly online screen­ing room will give view­ers a chance to see some famil­iar and not-so-famil­iar films that have been saved from destruc­tion.

Accord­ing to the wel­come mes­sage at the Restora­tion Screen­ing Room, “Pre­sen­ta­tions will take place with­in a 24-hour win­dow on the sec­ond Mon­day of each month, along with Spe­cial Fea­tures about the films and their restora­tion process. Month­ly pro­gram­ming will encom­pass a broad array of restora­tions, includ­ing clas­sic and inde­pen­dent films, doc­u­men­taries, and silent films from around the world.’”

As of this writ­ing, the win­dow has closed for its inau­gur­al film, Pow­ell and Pressburger’s 1945 I Know Where I’m Going! but you can still click through to see the extras that come with the film: an Intro­duc­tion by Scors­ese; an inter­view with Scorsese’s long-time edi­tor Thel­ma Schoon­mak­er (who was also Powell’s spouse for six years until 1990 and who worked on the restora­tion); Kent Jones inter­view­ing Kevin Mac­don­ald, the grand­son of Press­burg­er and his biog­ra­ph­er; the Film Foundation’s Mar­garet Bodde inter­view­ing Til­da Swin­ton, a huge fan of the film; direc­tors Joan­na Hogg and Scors­ese talk­ing about the film; a before and after look at the restora­tion; an image gallery; and final­ly a links page called “explore” that is quite over­whelm­ing in its thor­ough­ness.

The 4K restoration’s next stop is the Cri­te­ri­on Chan­nel, so if you sub­scribe to that paid ser­vice, find it there. But the Film Foundation’s pre­mieres are com­plete­ly free and fea­ture a live chat on the screen­ing night.

In the com­ing months look for­ward to Fellini’s La Stra­da (June 13), Govin­dan Aravindan’s Kum­mat­ty (July 11), a dou­ble fea­ture of The Chase (d. Arthur Rip­ley) and Detour (d. Edgar G. Ulmer) (August 8); Sarah Maldoror’s Sam­bizan­ga (Sep. 12), Mar­lon Brando’s One Eyed Jacks (Octo­ber 10); John Huston’s Moulin Rouge (Novem­ber 14); and Jonas Mekas’ Lost Lost Lost on Decem­ber 12.

The site has no trail­ers, but we’ve got you cov­ered:

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Art of Restor­ing Clas­sic Films: Cri­te­ri­on Shows You How It Refreshed Two Hitch­cock Movies

Icon­ic Film from 1896 Restored with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence: Watch an AI-Upscaled Ver­sion of the Lumière Broth­ers’ The Arrival of a Train at La Cio­tat Sta­tion

The Joy of Watch­ing Old, Dam­aged Things Get Restored: Why the World is Cap­ti­vat­ed by Restora­tion Videos

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

The Scream Explained: What’s Really Happening in Edvard Munch’s World-Famous Painting

The Scream is not scream­ing. “One of the famous in the images of art,” Edvard Munch’s most wide­ly seen paint­ing “has become, for us, a uni­ver­sal sym­bol of angst and anx­i­ety.” Munch paint­ed it in 1893, when “Europe was at the birth of the mod­ern era, and the image reflects the anx­i­eties that trou­bled the world.” How­ev­er many fin-de-siè­cle Euro­peans felt like scream­ing for one rea­son or anoth­er, the cen­tral fig­ure of The Scream isn’t one of them: “rather, it is hold­ing its hands over its ears, to block out the scream.” So gal­lerist and Youtu­ber James Payne reveals on the lat­est episode of his series Great Art Explained, which does­n’t just exam­ine Munch’s icon­ic work of art, but places it in the con­text of his career and his time.

Dur­ing most of Munch’s life, “Euro­pean cities were going through tru­ly excep­tion­al changes. Indus­tri­al­iza­tion and eco­nom­ic shifts brought fear, obses­sions, dis­eases, polit­i­cal unrest, and rad­i­cal­ism. Ques­tions were being raised about soci­ety, and the chang­ing role of man with­in it: about our psy­che, our social respon­si­bil­i­ties, and most rad­i­cal of all, about the exis­tence of God.” It was hard­ly the most suit­able time or place for the men­tal­ly trou­bled, but then, Munch seems to have pos­sessed more psy­cho­log­i­cal for­ti­tude than he let the pub­lic know. A savvy self-pro­mot­er, he under­stood the val­ue of liv­ing like some­one whose ter­ri­ble per­cep­tions keep him on the brink of total break­down.

But then, Munch nev­er did have it easy. “His moth­er and his sis­ter both died of tuber­cu­lo­sis. His father and grand­fa­ther suf­fered from depres­sion, and anoth­er sis­ter, Lau­ra, from pneu­mo­nia. His only broth­er would lat­er die of pneu­mo­nia.” He found solace in art, a pur­suit strong­ly opposed by his reli­gious father, and even­tu­al­ly joined the bohemi­an world, a milieu that encour­aged him to let his inner world shape his aes­thet­ic. Draw­ing inspi­ra­tion from the French Impres­sion­ists and the dra­ma of August Strind­berg, Munch even­tu­al­ly found his way to start­ing a cycle of paint­ings called The Frieze of Life.

It was dur­ing his work on The Frieze of Life that, accord­ing to a diary entry of Jan­u­ary 22nd, 1892, Munch found him­self walk­ing along a fjord. “I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord — the sun was set­ting, and the clouds turn­ing blood red. I sensed a scream pass­ing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I paint­ed this pic­ture, paint­ed the clouds as actu­al blood. The col­or shrieked.” The fjord was on the way back from the asy­lum to which his beloved younger sis­ter had recent­ly been con­fined; Payne imag­ines that her “screams of ter­ror must have haunt­ed him as he walked away.” From these grim ori­gins, The Scream emerged to become an oft-ref­er­enced and high­ly relat­able image — even to those who see in it noth­ing more than their own frus­tra­tion at receiv­ing too much e‑mail.

Relat­ed con­tent:

How Edvard Munch Sig­naled His Bohemi­an Rebel­lion with Cig­a­rettes (1895): A Video Essay

Explore 7,600 Works of Art by Edvard Munch: They’re Now Dig­i­tized and Free Online

The Life & Work of Edvard Munch, Explored by Pat­ti Smith and Char­lotte Gains­bourg

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Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

Watch Hannah Arendt’s Final Interview (1973)

Even before the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump, as some crit­ics began to see the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a win, talk turned to his­tor­i­cal names of anti-fas­cism: George Orwell, Sin­clair Lewis, and, espe­cial­ly, Han­nah Arendt, author of The Ori­gins of Total­i­tar­i­an­ism, On Rev­o­lu­tion, and Eich­mann in Jerusalem, her series of arti­cles for The New York­er about the tri­al of the Naz­i’s chief bureau­crat. Arendt close­ly observed author­i­tar­i­an regimes and their after­math, detail­ing the way ide­ol­o­gy seeps in through banal polit­i­cal careerism.

Since 2016, her warn­ings have seemed all-too-pre­scient, espe­cial­ly after a coup attempt last Jan­u­ary that has been all-but hand-waved out of polit­i­cal mem­o­ry by the GOP and its media appa­ra­tus, while can­di­dates who deny the legit­i­ma­cy of elec­tion out­comes they don’t like increas­ing­ly get their names on bal­lots. The degree to which Arendt saw the polit­i­cal con­di­tions of her time, and maybe ours, with clar­i­ty has less to do with fore­knowl­edge and more with a deep knowl­edge of the past. Cor­rup­tion, tyran­ny, deceit, in all their many forms, have not changed much in their essen­tial char­ac­ter since the records of antiq­ui­ty were set down.

“Dark times,” she wrote in the 1968 pref­ace to her col­lec­tion of essays Men in Dark Times, “are not only not new, they are no rar­i­ty in his­to­ry, although,” she adds, “they were per­haps unknown in Amer­i­can his­to­ry, which oth­er­wise has its fair share, past and present, of crime and dis­as­ter.” Had her assess­ment changed a few years lat­er, in what would be her final inter­view, above, in 1973 (aired on French TV in 1974)? Had dark times come for the U.S.? The Yom Kip­pur War had just begun, the seem­ing­ly-end­less Viet­nam War dragged on, and the Water­gate scan­dal had hit its crescen­do.

Still, Arendt con­tin­ued to feel a cer­tain guard­ed opti­mism about her adopt­ed coun­try, which, she says, is “not a nation-state” like Ger­many or France:

This coun­try is unit­ed nei­ther by her­itage, nor by mem­o­ry, nor by soil, nor by lan­guage, nor by ori­gin from the same. There are no natives here. The natives were the Indi­ans. Every­one else are cit­i­zens. And these cit­i­zens are unit­ed only by one thing and this is true: That is, you become a cit­i­zen in the Unit­ed States by a sim­ple con­sent to the Con­sti­tu­tion. The con­sti­tu­tion – that is a scrap of paper accord­ing to the French as well as the Ger­man com­mon opin­ion, & you can change it. No, here it is a sacred doc­u­ment. It is the con­stant remem­brance of one sacred act. And that is the act of foun­da­tion. And the foun­da­tion is to make a union out of whol­ly dis­parate eth­nic minori­ties and reli­gions, and (a) still have a union, and (b) do not assim­i­late or lev­el down these dif­fer­ences. And all of this is very dif­fi­cult to under­stand for a for­eign­er. It’s what a for­eign­er nev­er under­stands.

Whether or not Amer­i­cans under­stood them­selves that way in 1973, or under­stand our­selves this way today, Arendt points to an ide­al that makes the demo­c­ra­t­ic process in the U.S. unique; when, that is, it is allowed to func­tion as osten­si­bly designed, by the con­sent of the gov­erned rather than the tyran­ny of an oli­garchy. Arendt died two years lat­er, as the war in Viet­nam final­ly came to an inglo­ri­ous end. You can watched her full tele­vised inter­view — with Eng­lish trans­la­tions by the uploader, Phi­los­o­phy Over­dose — above, or find it pub­lished in the book, Han­nah Arendt: The Last Inter­view and Oth­er Con­ver­sa­tions.

What would Arendt have had to say to our time of MAGA, COVID-19 and elec­tion denial­ism, mass polit­i­cal racism, misog­y­ny, homo­pho­bia, and xeno­pho­bia? Per­haps her most suc­cinct state­ment on how to rec­og­nize the dark times comes from that same 1968 pref­ace:

I bor­row the term from Brecht’s famous poem ‘To Pos­ter­i­ty,’ which men­tions the dis­or­der and the hunger, the mas­sacres and the slaugh­ter­ers, the out­rage over injus­tice and the despair ‘when there was only wrong and no out­rage,’ the legit­i­mate hatred that makes you ugly nev­er­the­less, the well-found­ed wrath that makes the voice grow hoarse. All this was real enough as it took place in pub­lic; there was noth­ing secret or mys­te­ri­ous about it. And still, it was by no means vis­i­ble to all, nor was it at all easy to per­ceive it; for, until the very moment when cat­a­stro­phe over­took every­thing and every­body, it was cov­ered up not by real­i­ties but by the high­ly effi­cient talk and dou­ble-talk of near­ly all offi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tives who, with­out inter­rup­tion and in many inge­nious vari­a­tions, explained away unpleas­ant facts and jus­ti­fied con­cerns. When we think of dark times and of peo­ple liv­ing and mov­ing in them, we have to take this cam­ou­flage, ema­nat­ing from and spread by ‘the estab­lish­ment’ – or ‘the sys­tem,’ as it was then called – also into account. If it is the func­tion of the pub­lic realm to throw light on the affairs of men by pro­vid­ing a space of appear­ances in which they can show in deed and word, for bet­ter or worse, who they are and what they can do, then dark­ness has come when this light is extin­guished by ‘cred­i­bil­i­ty gaps’ and ‘invis­i­ble gov­ern­ment,’ by speech that does not dis­close what is but sweeps it under the car­pet, by exhor­ta­tions, moral and oth­er­wise, that, under the pre­text of uphold­ing old truths, degrade all truth to mean­ing­less triv­i­al­i­ty.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Han­nah Arendt Explains How Pro­pa­gan­da Uses Lies to Erode All Truth & Moral­i­ty: Insights from The Ori­gins of Total­i­tar­i­an­ism

Large Archive of Han­nah Arendt’s Papers Dig­i­tized by the Library of Con­gress: Read Her Lec­tures, Drafts of Arti­cles, Notes & Cor­re­spon­dence

Han­nah Arendt Explains Why Democ­ra­cies Need to Safe­guard the Free Press & Truth … to Defend Them­selves Against Dic­ta­tors and Their Lies

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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