Presenting Information in Documentary Films.

A simple session asking you to compare the ways in which two filmmakers convey information to us.

1. Frederick Wiseman, American Documentarist; Hospital (1970) produced, directed and edited by Frederick Wiseman.
`look at the sequence of the art student examined by doctors who suspects he has been given a poisoned pill by a stranger in the park.
1.1 statement by the director
1.2 titles
1.3 the patient who swallowed a pill

"The outstanding and inexplicable quality of Wiseman's cinema is his ability to be ever present, to capture with his camera and recorder a half spoken word or the shadow of a lie without ever seeming to intrude or to condition the way his subjects behave in the presence of the film crew. " David Robinson, The Times, Nov.30, 1973.

"The standards I use in the selection [of a subject] are first that I can get permission to film, and second, that it's a place that is considered reasonably good or even superior institution of its kind, and is not a sitting duck institution. There must be a sense that people are making a general effort however short of some ideal standard that may fall." Wiseman in Thomas Atkins, Frederick Wiseman, Simon and Schuster NWY 1978.

2. Peter Greenaway, Act of God, made for Thames television; written by Peter Greenaway, with photography by Peter George; edited Andy Whatmore, and with music by Michael Nyman. 28 mins.
2.1 titles and early passages
2.2 an apocryphal story
2.3 the Welsh rugby team.

"I use number and alphabet counts - universal systems as an alternative to the anecdotes of narration. It could produce arid results. However I began to feel I was denying myself what I really wanted to do - which was to tell stories. .... whilst using a lot of these systems, my films are also critical of them and mock them..." Peter Greenway, from Hacker and Price, Take Ten, OUP Oxford 1992.



Peter Greenway, from Hacker and Price, Take Ten, OUP Oxford 1992.
Thomas Atkins, Frederick Wiseman, Simon and Schuster NWY 1978.


Jill Craigie

The Newsreels




CLASSIFICATION , a systematic distribution or arrangement; to arrange or distribute in classes according to a method or system.

NARRATIVE, an account or narration, to narrate (1656) ; to give an account of....

aim of the lecture ;
• to explore the objective and subjective possibilities of Classification;
• to compare and contrast the impulse to classify witht he impulse to narrate;
• to explore these ideas in film, science and literature, and specifically in the work of Peter Greenaway;
• to show you examples of the relationship established between image and text
• to explore meaning within classification.


• Harriet Ritvo, The Platypus and the Mermaid, Harvard Uni Press 1997
• Peter Vergo, The New Museology, Reakton Books London 1989
• Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever, Uni of Chicago Press 1995
• Douglas Crimp, On the Museum’s Ruins, MIT Press Cambridge Mass 1993
• Nicholas Parsons, The Book of Literary Lists, Sidgwick and Jackson London 1985
• Francis Spufford, The Chatto Book of Cabbages and Kings Chatto and Windus 1989
• John Onians, Bearers of Meaning, The Classical Orders...Princeton Univ Press Preinceton 1989
• Jurgis Baltrusaitis, Aberrations (Le Brun’s Animal Physiognomy) MIT Press Cambridge Mass 1989

• Peter Greenaway, Prospero’s Books, Four Walls Eight Windows New York, 1991
• Peter Greenaway, The Stairs Project Munich, Merrell Holberton, London 1995
• Peter Greenaway, 100 Allegories to represent the World, Merrell Holberton, London 1998


?During the term some films by Greenaway will be shown- some documentaries, some feature.
The examples will be chosen from the titles here printed in bold.

01. Death of a Composer (1999)
02. 8? Women (1999)
03. Bridge, The (1997)
04. Pillow Book, The (1996)
05. Lumière et Compagnie (1995)
0 6. Stairs 1 Geneva (1995)
07. Darwin (1993) (TV)
0 8. Baby of Macon, The (1993)
09. Rosa (1992)
10. Walk Through Prospero's Library, A (1991) (TV)
11. M Is for Man, Music, Mozart (1991) (TV)
12. Prospero's Books (1991)
13. Hubert Bals Handshake (1989)
14. TV Dante: The Inferno Cantos I-VIII, A (1989) (TV)
15. Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover, The (1989)
16. Death in the Seine (1988)
17. Fear of Drowning (1988)
18. Drowning by Numbers (1988)
19. Belly of an Architect, The (1987)
20. Inside Rooms: 26 Bathrooms, London & Oxfordshire, 1985 (1985)
21. Zed & Two Noughts, A (1985)
22. Making a Splash (1984)*
23. Coastline, The (1983)
24. Four American Composers (1983)
25. Draughtsman's Contract, The (1982)
26. Terence Conran (1981)
27. Act of God (1980) (TV)
28. Country Diary (1980)
29. Falls, The (1980)
30. Lacock Village (1980)
31. Leeds Castle (1979)
32. Women Artists (1979)
33. Zandra Rhodes (1979)
34. 1-100 (1978)
35. Cut Above the Rest (1978)
36. Eddie Kid (1978)
37. Walk Through H, A (1978)
38. Dear Phone (1977)
39. Goole by Numbers (1976)
40. Vertical Features Remake (1976)
41. Water (1975)
42. Water Wrackets (1975)
43. Windows (1975)
44. H Is for House (1973)
45. Erosion (1971)
46. Intervals (1969)
47. 5 Postcards From Capital Cities (1967)
48. Revolution (1967)
49. Train (1966)
50. Tree (1966)
51. Death of Sentiment (1962)