True Films

The Ascent of Man


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Filmed in 1973, this 13-part BBC production made great waves when it was broadcast in America. It was one of the first hits on public television, and made PBS cool. Written by the mathematician Jacob Bronowski, it’s billed as a personal history of humanity. Filmed on location around the world, the series is a rousing, philosophical celebration of science, invention and art. I thought that it might not have the same gravitas it had 40 years ago, but the newly restored DVD version keeps its power. Bronowski is deeply optimistic, surprisingly contemporary, and very sympathetic to the current ideas of emergence and self-organized systems. His account could have been written yesterday. The thing that struck me most about his ode to humanity was Bronowski’s precise, pithy, almost poetic style. He’s a fabulous presenter, a remarkable person, and while watching him you think, yes, if he is an example of what humans are, then they have indeed ascended. I learned a whole lot from this poem, and recommend it as one of the best short histories of humans written so far.

— KK

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The Ascent of Man
Jacob Bronowski, Mick Jackson and Adrian Malone
1972, 676 min
$72, DVD (5-disc set)

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

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Posted December 17, 2009 at 5:00 am | comments



Comments
  • Don Rocin

    I was young when I watched this series, but the image of Bronowski reaching into the waste pond at Auschwitz, where the ashes of millions of people lay, has never left me – partly because of the act itself, but mostly because for his stunning diatribe against dogma and its arrogant claim to absolute knowledge.