Oliver Stone’s Edinburgh speech and his worldview

StoneYesterday I encountered Oliver Stone in person. BAFTA and Oscar winner, producer/director of JFK, Nixon and most recently a documentary series of interviews with Vladimir Putin, he was picking up an honorary doctorate at our daughter’s graduation ceremony in Edinburgh. As a revealing cultural moment, I thought it deserved a post here dissecting his narrative of the world.

Oliver Stone is a great film director, who makes serious films that tackle the big narrative of geopolitical issues. He isn’t a Spielberg mass entertainer, nor does he paint the dream world of Richard Curtis. He does grit.  Like the best he is a big personality. I imagine he isn’t easy to please on set. But my first impression of him was of studied disinterest. As the honoured guest he sat front and centre in the McEwan Hall, the eyes of all upon him. His presentation and speech was in the middle of the programme, so half the graduands walked up to be ceremonially doffed with the famous cap immediately in front of him. Yet he spent the time very obviously writing his speech! Around him ranks of academics clapped each person as they passed. Oliver looked down and scribbled. How important do you have to think you are that you can’t enter into the occasion and congratulate their success? Even when his speech was finally ready, he couldn’t bring himself to clap. But this is the culture of pride and self-obsession, and Hollywood is its summit. What a tragedy that great men who shape the culture have forgotten how to walk humbly in public.

His speech was unforgettable. Like the preacher at a wedding who majors on the evil of divorce, he addressed a gathering of arts students on the certain imminent threat of nuclear apocalypse, all within a secular liberal framework.  Sobering stuff for graduation day. Yet strangely, I agreed with some of what he said. Allow me to unpick his narrative of the world, to find the truth, and expose the fundamental flaws. Continue reading “Oliver Stone’s Edinburgh speech and his worldview”