Write to the Point!

A Neighborhood Studios Program at the Mark Twain House

Burns Documentary Fails To Capture Twain’s Zestful Life

By Nick Sherman

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

There is quite a difference between a bit of deadpan humor and nearly four hours of monotony.

While director Ken Burns’s works are often described in reviews as “fascinating” and “vivid,” those critics are just not critical enough when it comes to Mark Twain: A Film Directed By Ken Burns.

Certainly a subject such as America’s greatest writer can capture the audience’s attention – but if this is the case, what was it that had half the audience asleep?

The problem certainly didn’t lie in the subject matter. There has perhaps never lived a more interesting individual than Mark Twain, and a biographical documentary on Twain should certainly interest the young journalists who made up the audience.

But the execution of the video left much to be desired. Be it the repetitive musical score, the emotionless voice of narration or the unappealing photography, the many insufficient elements of production offer a wide variety of choices to blame for the film’s failure.

I may be considered too harsh, but Twain himself, ever the cynic, may even have found enjoyment in pointing out the production’s flaws.

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