The Living Dead – part 3 The Attic by Adam Curtis (1995)

The Living Dead: Three Films About the Power of the Past is the second major BBC television documentary series by
British filmmaker Adam Curtis. It was originally broadcast on BBC Two in 1995. In the series, Curtis examines the different ways that history and memory (both national and individual) have been used and manipulated by politicians and others.

In this episode, broadcast on 13 June 1995, the national aspirations of Margaret Thatcher are examined, particularly the way in which she used public sentiment in an attempt to capture the national spirit embodied in the famous speeches and writings of the wartime prime minister, Winston Churchill. Curtis argues that by harking back, or summoning the spirit of Britain’s “glorious past”, to fulfil short-term political or national ends, the process backfired in the long-run, trapping the invoker in the societal maladies of the present day.

The example provided is the wartime levels of patriotism invoked in the Falklands War crisis, in which Thatcher’s rugged determination matched national sentiment, only to dissipate a few years later with events such as the poll tax riots, which contributed to her resignation.

The title is a reference to the attic flat at the top of 10 Downing Street created during Thatcher’s refurbishment of the house which did away with the prime minister’s old living quarters on the lower floors, replacing them with 18th-century boardrooms. Scenes from Thatcher’s premiership are intercut with scenes from the psychological horror film The Innocents (1961), a film adaptation of Henry James’s novella The Turn of the Screw.

Adam Curtis (born 1955) is an English documentary filmmaker. Curtis says that his favourite theme is "power and how it works in society", and his works explore areas of sociology, philosophy and political history. Curtis describes his work as journalism that happens to be expounded via the medium of film. His films have won four BAFTAs. He has been closely associated with the BBC throughout his career.

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