Anarchist films

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

I’ve been think of writing about this for a while, since I saw Reds again in about 2 decades. Very good film, particularly as it portrays the hopes the Russian revolution produced as well as the failure of Bolshevism.

So are there any good anarchist films? I don’t necessarily mean films by or about anarchists, but ones with an anarchist message or which anarchists can enjoy. I’ll mention three good ones, before discussing a not-so-good one based on a classic anarchist comic.

First off is Reds. The actress who portrayed Emma Goldman deserved her Oscar, as can be seen from this clip:

Maureen Stapleton in "Reds" (1981) (2/2)

It presents a good summary of the problems associated with the Bolshevik regime. It really was a mess, a mess that cannot be fully explained by the civil war and blockade. I should also point out that Goldman was well aware of the problems associated with the civil war – that was why she took so long to break with the Bolsheviks. However, her understanding of the problems facing the revolution was deeper than the superficial perspective of apologists for Leninism – in part due to her anarchist politics which had always stressed that revolutions are not easy (see Kropotkin’s The Conquest of Bread and Act for Yourselves).

I should also note that Reds portrayal of Reed’s disillusionment with Bolshevism (something denied by modern-day Leninists) echoes Goldman’s opinions on the subject. Unfortunately, it seems impossible to say for sure who is right – but hope that Reed did escape his infatuation with Leninism (an infatuation which saw him, like Victor Serge, defend party dictatorship).

Moving on, the next film I would have to include is Matewan (by John Sayles). This is about a Miners’ strike in West Virginia and is an absolute classic. Here is a simply brilliant scene:

Matewan (1987) - The Union

The movie is an impressive piece of cinema on a strike and union organising – something which is rarely covered in movies. Interestingly, what happened next in the strike is even more impressive. The miners’ came out and the whole of the area became a battlefield with an army of strikers fighting it out with the bosses goons. Unfortunately, appeals to their American patriotism got them to unarm.

Of the last good movies, I need to mention Land and Freedom. This is about the Spanish Revolution and is by a Trotskyist director (which explains why it’s about the POUM militia). It is the story of an English Communist Party member who goes to Spain to fight for the Republic, joins the POUM militia by mistake and ends up seeing the counter-revolutionary role of the CP first hand. When he rips up his membership card, we all cheered in the cinema (causing one Stalinist to shout out “Tories” at us!).

As well as action scenes, the film makes the debate to collectivise the land interesting. Here is a moving scene after the militia frees a village and is burying their dead:

Land and Freedom - International

I should mention that the words of The International was written by an anarchist, Eugène Pottier (1816–1887), in June 1871 after the Paris Commune (of which he was a member). He was a follower of Proudhon, like most of the French Section of the First International.

Finally, the not-so-good film -- V for Vendetta. The comic book by Alan Moore is a classic. V’s address to the nation is a brilliant piece of anarchist propaganda – unsurprisingly, as Moore considers himself an anarchist. The film, well, gutted the politics from the comic. The only reference to anarchism is when someone robs a shop and shouts out “Anarchy in the UK” as they escape – talk about missing the point!

Here is the trailer:

V for Vendetta

If you have not read the book, it is passable (the best bits are lifted straight from it). As my partner said, it was quite political for a mainstream Hollywood film and it may get people interested in reading the graphic novel. If so, then I’ll forgive it somewhat! So while an okayish film, please watch it before you read the comic book – you will enjoy it much more.

And here is Alan Moore discussing his masterpiece:

Alan Moore talks - 01 - V For Vendetta

So, have I missed anything obvious? Any other anarchist films people would recommend?

Comments

I would definitely consider

I would definitely consider Fight Club as another classic anarchist film.

I think Fight Club has more

I think Fight Club has more to do with fascism than anarchism. It's about pissed-off men who imagine destroying society to reconcile their insecurities and disempowerment. Plus it presents an authoritarian mindset and male chauvinism that is not in keeping with anarchism.

In my opinion Fight Club

In my opinion Fight Club isn't as much about politics as it is about philosophy. It has a stronger nihilism message than anarchism.

*FIGHT CLUB SPOILER ALERT* I

*FIGHT CLUB SPOILER ALERT*
I disagree with the last two comments. Although you are right that fight club sends a more philisophical message that a political one, it is basically centered on anarchy. Tyler Durden (The protaginist) lives a commercial life, but then, realising the pointlessness and restrictive boundaries that keep his mind from being spiritually free, he creates an alter ego (Brad Pitt) who is smarter, smoother and better in bed than him. His alter ego's main goal is to live a minimalistic life in a run down house, talking the protaginist into living with him. The start a fight club and begin freeing men of their mental bounds. Eventually they initiate the alter egos plan of creating anarchy called ''project Mayhem". Cheesy, I know. The goal of project mayhem is to destroy all the physical things that keep us from being free in lie. (eg credit card companies.) The aftermath is actually described to the protagisinst by Brad Pitts character, as hunting elk in the ruins of the rockerfeller center. So it technically has everything to do with anarchy in the second half of it, just in a different way to Reds or a historical movie.

but, unlike what a true

but, unlike what a true anarchist would do, he subjugated men to his will. he threatened punishment and told his followers they were worthless, while anarchism states that bc of humanity's worth they should not b put under law.

Anarchism doesn't necessitate

Anarchism doesn't necessitate that humanity has to have value. All anarchism requires is the idea that being dominated is undesirable and all systems of domination should be destroyed.

I also don't remember Tyler threatening to punish any of the members of Fight Club or Project Mayhem.

I second this notion!

I second this notion!

Tyler is probably more an

Tyler is probably more an anarcho-primitivist than anything else. He's anti-civ as hell.

What about Apocalypse Now?

What about Apocalypse Now? The guy who stayed in Vietnam realized he was waging a war for ruler's in the U.S. and remained separate admonishing the ruling class and lending himself to voluntarily protecting an anarchist peoples.

Peter Watkins' 345 minutes

Peter Watkins' 345 minutes long (ignore the 220 'theatrical' cut) 'La Commune (Paris, 1871)' should be required watching for the likes of yourself. I have to admit that I haven't watched it yet, but Peter Watkins is an incredible film-maker and, if the opinions of people I respect are anything to go by, he does the event justice.

Thanks for this collection!

Thanks for this collection! Seen anything since that should be added to my queue?

i don't consider reds ana v

i don't consider reds ana v for vendetta anarho movies really... :/

and you didn't mention sacco and vanzzeti, a movie from 1971. it is a story of two anarchists who were charged and unfairly tried for murder when it was really for their political convictions.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067698/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLmqCk0BUfo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZ4A26GwhEs

Umm... Reds is about Emma

Umm... Reds is about Emma Goldman, one of the most note worthy of anarchists of that time. "Anarchism is the great liberator of man from the phantoms that have held him captive; it is the arbiter and pacifier of the two forces for individual and social harmony" A quote by Emma Goldman

v for vendetta was about

v for vendetta was about freeing ourselves from government. that's pretty anarchic

what about a clockwork orange

what about a clockwork orange ?

The matrix - the machines can

The matrix - the machines can be viewed as a near perfect metaphor for the state.

I agree, but "The Counsel" of

I agree, but "The Counsel" of Zion, although libertarian, is still a centralized governing body.

Kind of an un-nuanced

Kind of an un-nuanced analysis? The Matrix is absolutely a metaphor for the Spectacle if there ever was one. The machines are less important than the system of control they act as the managers of.

Anarchism in America -

Libertarias, about women

Libertarias, about women anarchists in the Spanish Revolution.

find "anarchist cookbook" for

find "anarchist cookbook" for some 'anarchic' feelings of jeuness with sore "anarchic" terror of separative private interests; personaly i think the film is generated for a subtile strong anti-aarchism, didnt 'check' the authours though

fight club is clearly an

fight club is clearly an anacrchist movie remember that anarchist is made by the chaos!

anarchism does not mean

anarchism does not mean chaos. that's a huge misconception. it means the lack of a government, and the lack of power. this is not the same as the lack of organization - a state of anarchy could be highly organized

bullshiting

bullshiting

there's no such thing as lack

there's no such thing as lack of power - read foucault. however, this person is not bullshitting he/she is attempting to elucidate the general spirit of the term

but power should be as even

but power should be as even as possible. spread through the society

Isn't "1984" a fairly

Isn't "1984" a fairly elementary story of anarchy, at least on an individual & philosophical level?

And what about "Pump Up The Volume"? Okay, it's just anarchy against an unjust school system, but still the same theory.

1984 is Anti-Authoritarian

1984 is Anti-Authoritarian and Anti-Totalitarian, but not Anarchist.

We at least get a nod.

We at least get a nod. Emma-nuel Gold-stein

anti-authoritarian is what

anti-authoritarian is what anarchists are

The question of anarchism and

The question of anarchism and film is very complex, not simply reducible to films that may seem anarchistic (i.e. anti-authoritarian) in spirit or even in subject matter. In film history, the first anarchist collective in France. Le Cinema du Peuple, produced several films including La Commune, directed by Armand Guerra, before WWI, a film which ended with footage of actual survivors of the Commune. The most anarchistic directors of narrative films would have to include Jean Vigo (son of an anarchist), who made Zero for Conduct, and Luis Bunuel (though he probably considered himself a communist). Check out Richard Porton's book on anarchism and cinema for a full treatment of the subject. There are also a number of experimental/essayistic film and videomakers in the U.S. who make anarchist media. Immodestly, let me note Sherry Millner's works, some of which I co-directed or co-wrote, and which include the first situationist film made in the U.S. (in 1976) Disaster, among many other works, including Shoplifting: It's a Crime? and Scenes from the Micro-War.

I just want to point out the

I just want to point out the " not-so-good film -- V for Vendetta" , at the time of this comment , is rated higher than the rest of the movies listed here on IMDB.

V is an anarchist. It's

V is an anarchist. It's clearer in the graphic novels, but the film is fantastic. I wish they'd make a film of 'The Dispossessed'... oh, wouldn't that be lovely?

wtf

wtf

pointbreak

pointbreak

I really enjoyed the movie V

I really enjoyed the movie V for Vendetta, though I have never read the comic book so it is hard for me to try and compare the two. Point Break on the other hand was a really awesome movie... Dave

You forgot "Themroc". They

You forgot "Themroc". They don't speak a single word in the whole movie. It includes orgies, killing and eating policemen, incest and living in a dumpster. And it's French. And even has a pretty good cast, many of them continued in a successful career later.

Wages of Fear, Z, State of

Wages of Fear, Z, State of Siege, Battle of Algiers

Whattabout The Beach. The

Whattabout The Beach. The book's better than the film but it still presents a group of diverse people living together without significant coercion, which is what Anarchy's all about right? Shows some main problems too but I don't think its a perfect parallel for society.

I remember The Edukators being a quite enjoyable film. Its only about some German anti-capitalists and doesn't have any particular message I think.

Pan's Labyrinth featured anti-Franco guerilla's.

the edukators is great!!

the edukators is great!! realy loved that film :)

Salt of the Earth

Salt of the Earth

1.What to do in case of

1.What to do in case of fire
story of some anarchists

2. The Others
not anarchist but antiauthoritarian for sure

3.The Educators
anarchists

4.The Wave
antifascist

5.Land and Freedom
anarchist

What to do in case of fire -

What to do in case of fire - great German film about some ex-anarchists from eastern germany who used to make films about bombing places and causing riots. They plant a bomb in a house that doesn't explode for 20 years (because it was poorly made). When it does explode, an investigation is launched and eventually their old film reels are taken as evidence. So now these ex-anarchists (who are now, with the exception of 2 of them, upstanding members of society) mist break into the police station and destroy their films with another homemade bomb.

La belle Verte

V for vendetta, for me

V for vendetta, for me personally was a big eye opener as I had never seen any anarchy related movies. There are a lot of common points in the movie that are occuring right now and also know quite a few people who have been brought into the movement.
I do understand its not really meant to be THE go to movie for an up and coming revolutionary, but it stresses on the fact that an idea can change the world. Which is a very strong message, all that aside, I do agree with your points im not trying to disprove anything you say :)
Also thank you for posting those other movies, much appreciated!

P.s another good movie to suggest would be " the trotsky" or somethjng along those ljnes, may not be about anarchism persay, bit it sends a strong message to stick to your ideals and to stand up when you see something wrong

If you want to obtain much

If you want to obtain much from this piece of writing then you have to
apply such techniques to your won website.

Bold Native is an animal

Bold Native is an animal liberation film where the activists free the animals against the corporations, great watch, and it shows the different ways of fighting for animal rights (i.e. against and with the corporations)

Propaganda, a North Korean film about the West on, of course, propaganda... incorporates anarchist philosophy/ideals

The new 2013 film the East looks good, evo-'terror' group fucking with the corporations, same principle as Bold native, haven't seen it yet though.

They Live

Post new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

AddThis

  


Like what you are reading?  Get a notification whenever we post a new article to

Anarchist Writers via Facebook or Twitter

where you can also like and comment on our articles


 

Posting comments

 Like most sites we have a major problem with bots trying to post spam into the comments section.  While looking for a better solution we are reduced to only on turning on the ability to anonymously comment for brief periods around the posting of new articles.  But if you are a regular visitor you can comment at any time by creating an account on the site and logging in before posting. But the Spammers also set up accounts so to reduce the workload of deleting those we only turn on the ability to create accounts for brief periods which we announce on our Twitter & Facebook accounts so follow those to hear when we have that turned on.  We do want you to be able to engage with us via the comments and we are very sorry for the fact that we can't find a better way of dealing with spam.