Movie Monologue Monday – Peter Finch in Network

For this week’s Movie Monologue Monday I’m going to look at Peter Finch’s Oscar winning performance in Network. Show it to your class and use the questions (below) to spark a conversation about the piece.

Finch portrays a news anchor who’s low-rated show is about to be cancelled until he becomes unhinged and starts speaking the truth. The more he raves, the more his ratings soar. The film was released in 1976 and it’s truly chilling to watch because it’s just as timely now as it was then.

This is a fine example of a performance where the character is enraged and out of control, yet does not assault the viewer with volume. Rather, he takes on a journey with peaks and valleys, drawing us into the madness. He seduces us into getting as angry as he is, culminating in a cathartic unified scream from the balconies of New York. No matter how many times I watch it I always have to duct tape my arms to the chair to stop myself from running to the window and screaming at the neighbours.

Class Exercise

Watch the video and discuss these questions. Don’t worry about whether or not everyone has seen the whole movie. Fill in the missing details using what you see, hear, and imagine.

  • Discuss the way the actor is shot in the first two minutes of the speech and the specific choices made by the director. (Hint: He’s first shown on a TV screen, then from far away in the studio and then gradually closer and closer.)
  • The character is a very angry state, verging on madness. Yet we can hear and clearly understand what he is saying. What choices did the actor make in his performance to make sure we could understand him?
  • Do you think that one person could cause so many people to yell out their windows today? Why or why not?
  • This scene was written and filmed 38 years ago. Do you think the message is relevant to our own time? Why or why not?

About the author

Craig Mason