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Joseph Campbell: The Hero's Journey
featuring: Joseph Campbell, George Lucas, and Peter Donat

directors: Janelle Balnicke and David Kennard

58 minutes (E) 1987/ 1989 / 2003
Acacia DVD Region 2 retail


RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Trudi Topham
Here's a wonderful and very special thing. Joseph Campbell, one of the most important and influential scholars of our time, passed away in 1987 leaving the world his legacy: The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Think of it as the grand unification theory of world mythology. The chances are that you will only have heard of this essay if you're a writer or classicist. If you've no idea what the essay is or who Campbell is, perhaps this will help you: without either, George Lucas says he could not have written Star Wars.

This documentary is not about that essay: it is about the man who wrote it, and the life that led him to the point where he could produce the work for which he is most well-known. It offers a fascinating insight into how he saw the world and, more importantly, it gives us a chance to see a great deal of the man himself.

Campbell as presented here was a charismatic and highly intelligent man, always questioning the world and looking for new ways of seeing. In every film clip, every interview, he is enthusiastic about his studies and findings, and he applies his observations to myth and reality alike.

The documentary itself is quite casual in style. It meanders within the vaguest boundaries of a structure, like an elderly relative relaying anecdotes and wandering off on a tangent now and again. There is just enough structure to bring it back into line before it drifts too far, without it ending up formulaic and dull. It helps that at least 65 percent of the whole thing is Campbell in his own words speaking about his own life from his own perspective. There are clumsy moments, such as the narrator speaking over Campbell now and again when you'd really rather here what the guy himself was saying, but overall the documentary is a lively and involving 'biographical portrait'.

There are no extras on the DVD, and it comes in at just under an hour, but it's a must for anyone remotely interested in mythology, theology, psychology or writing. While it will tell you nothing more than reading The Hero With A Thousand Faces will, it will give you an insight into the man himself, which will enhance your enjoyment of reading such a text.
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