An Englishman abroad: evening land and the struggles of Peter Watkins within Scandinavian film culture of the 1970s

John R. Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article analyses Aftenlandet (Evening Land), a film made for the Danish Film Institute in 1976 by Peter Watkins, one of the world’s most politically radical directors and a pioneer of docudrama. The aim is to provide a detailed historical account of the life cycle of a key but hitherto critically neglected film in the director’s career: his last to be professionally funded for nearly 25 years and one that saw Watkins working within the very particular milieu of Denmark, investigating, often controversially, the perceived political fault lines of Danish society during the 1970s. The article traces how this English-born filmmaker came to be working in Scandinavia, details the production of Evening Land and provides a close critical reading of the film’s various themes and techniques as well as considering its reception and aftermath. Correspondence and production files from Watkins’ own personal archive reveal the difficulties the filmmaker clearly experienced as something of ‘an Englishman abroad’ attempting to find a place for himself within Scandinavian film culture of the period. The article asserts that this experience eventually contributed to Watkins’ decision to quit Scandinavia altogether following the completion of Evening Land, a decision that would inadvertently propel Watkins out of the world of professional filmmaking for nearly a quarter century. The article argues, however, that Evening Land, a film long obscure and critically neglected, still has cultural resonance and applicability to our own times in the twenty-first century.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Scandinavian Cinema
Early online date3 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 May 2024


  • Denmark
  • controversies
  • docudrama
  • exile
  • nuclear armament
  • political cinema
  • radical cinema
  • terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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