‘Bitter Lake’ lacks in substance

Bitter Lake lacks in substance

Brett Stover

140-Character Review: If you like 2+ hour docs containing 45 minutes of actual information, you should watch this. If artsy docs aren’t your thing, don’t. 3/5
bitterlake“Bitter Lake,” a recent film by acclaimed British journalist and director Adam Curtis, was near the top of my personal list highly-anticipated films at this year’s Festival. The movie looks at Western influence on Islamic peoples in the Middle East. However, the film opted for an “artsy” feel over an informative one and in doing so disappointed (some) viewers.
To preface this: “Bitter Lake” is not a bad documentary. There is something to be said for a more postmodernist style of storytelling. Some people may enjoy watching a U.S. soldier play with a bird for more than three minutes. (Some people in the theater around me nodded off during this section and others.) However, if you’re looking for an information-filled analysis of United States-Middle East relations in the last 100 years, this film isn’t for you.
Curtis juxtaposes a bizarre variety of songs, including the theme from Kanye’s “Runaway,” with hours of archival footage. One has to wonder if any actual film was cut, or if there is literally not another minute of ancient film from Afghanistan to add to the 137-minute documentary. Occasional narration breaks up these shots to provide a thread of causation that winds from a meeting between FDR and a Saudi king in the 1940s (the movie’s title is a reference to the saltwater lake in the middle of the Suez Canal where the two met) to Reagan and Russia in the ’80s to ISIS today.
As Gertrude said in Hamlet, “More matter, less art.”
By Brett Stover