classified 15

Manipulating The Message


Please note: This was screened in July 2017

Sidney Lumet
Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch
117 mins, 1976, USA

Conceived, written and released in America during the Watergate crisis, Network is screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky’s meticulously researched, highly articulate attack on the demoralisation and dehumanisation of American life as exemplified by the crude commercialisation of television news.

After receiving his notice due to low ratings, the once celebrated network news anchor - and quite possibly unhinged - Howard Beale (Peter Finch) announces in protest live on air that he’ll commit suicide onscreen the following week. Pulled from the airwaves but later reinstated by Diana Christiansen (Faye Dunaway), a ratings-hungry programming executive who is prepared to do anything for better numbers, Beale’s increasingly wild on-air performances see him turn into a nationwide hit, a kind of messianic visionary and spokesman for inarticulate rage.

Network caused a sensation in 1977. Nominated for 10 Oscars, it won four (including one for Chayefsky’s sensational screenplay) and stirred up huge debate about the decaying values of television and the media. Beale’s iconic slogan “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore” transcended the film and entered into common parlance. Seen today, its biting satire almost feels like prophecy... it's an all too prescient classic, and its blurring of the lines between entertainment and manipulation has never felt so relevant.

With thanks to Park Circus.