In the early years of the 20th Century, Marconi revolutionised communication, Queen Victoria died, and Australia federated. What’s more, imagination took off as the Wright Brothers flew over America, Pavlov questioned the thought process, Picasso challenged perception and Einstein explained relativity. The workers, inspired by Marx, were stirring; empires were far-flung and expanding; and European aristocrats were surprised to see that wealth could come to ordinary people like Americans.
Bruce Petty combines animation, photography and historical footage to explore the achievements and conflicts of the 20th century. This clip is narrated by Neville Thiele.
Summary by Antoinette Starkiewicz
Here is what Bruce Petty does best: unfurling complex ideas, forging inventive connections and making it all simple for us to understand.
Employing the advantages of animation, he compresses decades into minutes of real time and wars, revolutions and triumphs into pulsating doodles. All this is disciplined by the knowing, gently ironic voice-over and a sparkling soundscape which captures the excitement of each decade.
Bruce Petty animates the 20th century’s achievements and conflicts in a cavalcade of doodles and rare newsreels from the past, guided by a thoughtful voice-over (Neville Thiele), so we can better understand the present.
If history books could be as entertaining and thought provoking as The Mad Century we would all be much keener students. True to his first calling as a political cartoonist, director-animator Bruce Petty looks behind the meaning of concepts, clichés and appearances.
No field of human endeavour escapes his fertile brain: art, music, industry, science, political grandstanding, human rights and human foibles are inventively connected and regularly examined for their true meaning. Well named, the mad 20th century is held up to the light so we may see some reason in it and better understand how history evolves and shapes us.
No other animation director has Petty’s array of gifts: the eye of an outstanding political cartoonist and commentator, a grasp of history made even more brilliant by decades of experience, and a satirical, human touch, so rare in this age of technology. With the Flash program now part of his palette and his son (sound designer Sam Petty) as part of his team, Bruce Petty illuminates our minds (again!) as no other animator can.
Bruce Petty’s filmography also includes the Oscar-winnning Leisure (1976), Hearts and Minds (1968) and Global Haywire (2007).
The Mad Century screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival and was broadcast on SBS Television in 2000.
Notes by Antoinette Starkiewicz