Tuesday, 12 May 2009

I'm mad as hell......

In the film Network T.V. presenter Howard Beale (Peter Finch) breaks down live on air. He rails against all the problems of society and finishes with the cry ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore’. Beale then invites his viewers to go to their windows and shout the same response and many do. The UBS T.V. network give Beale his own show which becomes a ratings winner as he pours out his invective and the ‘mad as hell’ line becomes his catchphrase.

Network is an excoriating satire on the ills of the broadcasting media. The T.V. network isn’t interested in the message or the effect it has on viewers and on society, they are only interested in ratings. Eventually Beale begins to lose viewers as his message becomes more depressing and he calls for the public to oppose a UBS merger. In the search for even higher ratings producer Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) arranges with a terrorist group to have Beale assassinated. The film ends with Beale being shot to death live on air and as the narrator states that Beale was the first man ever murdered because of bad ratings, an array of televisions play newscasts reporting the incident matter-of-factly, intermixed with the noise of commercials.

Network won four Oscars including a posthumous award for Peter Finch and its message seems as relevant today as it did back in 1976. I couldn't help thinking about the film as I reflected on the frustrations many people are feeling and expressing over the issues facing our society. The film also seems relevant with the questions it raises about the way the media handle coverage of those issues. Anyway, check out Finch's brilliant performance.

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