When I went to America to make The Fall I had no idea at all of filming there. I had no plans. I had gone to the New York Film Festival as my two films Tonite Let's all Make Love in London and Benefit of the Doubt were opening for the first time, on a single programme called 'The London Scene'. Anyway… I was offered some money to make a film about the New York Scene… with complete freedom fortunately, so I could do, find and film whatever I liked… I set off to film the people, events, happenings, artists, victims, places that seemed to me to be relevant to exposing that sickness in the society, already reflected in a culture itself obsessed with violence… Far from being exhilarated I was angry and shattered… I came back to England with hours of film which all seemed to have built up to nothing. No great breakthrough. Only breakdown.


I started to write a script, for the first time in my life a fiction script, that would incorporate the documentary film. It was impossible to make a documentary film about protest, this was protest at one remove. My problem was to make my film an act itself, if possible. Protest had become worse than impotent, it had become fashionable, which means being finally made palatable, possessed and castrated by the Media... To expose the protest movement itself as finally impotent to effect real change, full of people acting out their own catharsis in do it yourself off-off Broadway plays, poetry meetings and so on was an act of betrayal - I am on their side. I hate what they hate - But participation in Destruction Happenings, inside "art", was as morally insane as ignoring the facts of the asian war, the race riots, the development of Alphaville.

It was inevitable now that one had to act violently to confront a violent society which had law, if not morality, on its side. I started to write a script about my own experience, passively making a documentary film about protest, deciding to film the ultimate act of protest, a public act of violence. From this basic idea I developed "the plot" for my film which was to be about somebody who planned an act of political assassination… This is what I went back to America with the intention of filming. I would film fictional inserts, of myself, deciding finally to commit an act of political assassination on film... The day after I arrived Martin Luther King was assassinated. Now this absolutely shattered me… it was such a terrible loss - but also - because I got so involved in my imagined act of political assassination - I felt responsible for the act. I imagined I had done it myself… I could no longer distinguish between fiction and reality... I collapsed. I fell to pieces. This I suppose is the end of the film. Except the day I left Robert Kennedy was shot dead…

Peter Whitehead 1969



Peter Whitehead - The Fall - Jimi Tenor - Press - Video