Critiques of Warrendale and A Married Couple:
"This classic of direct cinema clearly established Allan King as a leading practitioner of the approach". (Jean, Bruce. "Warrendale". Sight and Sound)
"Through the film is an undeniable emotional experience, it does raise the formal and ethical questions similar to those poised by other direct cinema films: . . .the violation of privacy". ( Zimmerman, William. Canadian Welfare Magazine)
The film "suffers...too frequently from an almost grotesque over-indulgence; they intrude where they don't belong, they invade privacies in a thoroughly distasteful manner, presumably on the pretext of 'objectivity' and 'honesty', and they involve the audience not in understanding but in voyeurism." (Rosenthal, Alan. "Fiction Documentary: A Married Couple". Film Quarterly)
"We had a long, long battle with censorship in Ontario which was very costly, and took a lot of time. The language, which was virtually unprecedented in Canada. The amount of swearing in the film hadn't been used in a film before in Canada. (Allan King, in Dawson, Jan. "Warrendale" Sight and Sound)
About the Films
Warrendale was filmed at The Warrendale School, a treatment centre for emotionally disturbed children. King and his crew filmed over 40 hours of footage to make a two hour film. While it was originally intended for television release, the CBC decided not to air it due to some of the language used. Instead it was released in theatres.
"In killing the film, the CBC shows the kind of contempt it has for its audience which it doesn't believe is strong enough to take the film's contents."
The film shows the way that the children at the school and their caregivers interact and deal with each other. The climax of the film is when the cook, a good friend of the children, suddenly dies.
A Married Couple is a film about Billy and Antoniette. King wanted to find a couple whose marriage was in trouble and film their life to show what can really happen in a marriage. During the course of the filming the couple's marriage deteriorated and almost ended.
Again this film is very difficult to watch because of the tension and desire of the audience to turn away, something that King does not allow the audience to do. What filters through is the natural counterbalance between harsh moments, and tender ones, as seen in this clip of breakfast conversation.
Unlike Warrendale, King considers A Married Couple to be fictional. In the editing process the course of events was dramatically changed in order to catch the audience's attention and climax at the right times.
One of the most interesting criticisms of Warrendale deals also with the entire style of Direct Cinema: that of privacy. Many of the scenes in Warrendale are extremely emotional and as a result very uncomfortable. Even during the filming of his traditional documentaries, and later in his fiction films, King has created a feeling of not being able to look away. This feeling is all the more powerful in Warrendale because the audience knows it is real and neither staged or controlled.
During filming of A Married Couple Billy wanted the right to veto anything that he was too embarrassed to have seen. What is interesting is that A Married Couple did not seem to get the same criticism for invasion of privacy that Warrendale did. There are several possible explanations for this. Some might claim that what is upsetting is that the children are on film without their knowledge. However, if we compare this film to the film Children In Conflict which is not as disturbing, we can see that perhaps the audience is uncomfortable not because it is an invasion of privacy, but because in Warrendale we are not told what is going on, and as a result have to decide for ourselves, as in this clip of a child being restrained.
The fact that people assumed the worst tells us what people expect from our society. While this may not have been the response that King was looking for it did result in people learning about themselves and their views of the world.
© 1998 Hannah Rasmussen