Fascinating Video Essays

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What Are These Things Called Love? Transcript

My latest video essay collaboration with Fusion was published last week. 

Subscribers to the newsletter will know it’s been a challenging story. Here is the final version of the script (version number 7!)

What Are These Things Called Love? Words: Adam Westbrook

It’s one of the most popular and powerful stories of our time …that in a universe of immeasurable size…in a galaxy filled with 300 billion stars….on one of millions of planets that can sustain life…filled with 7 billion human beings… living in 2800 cities in 196 countries…that among all this…we will all…one day…meet our soul-mate.

And if you don’t believe it, then you’re the minority.

I saw one survey that said that 84 percent of young Americans believe The One is out there somewhere.

Look at Google’s archive of books and you see the word has exploded in popularity in the last 100 years.

But go back before 1900 and the word is hardly used at all…and you know why? Because it didn’t exist!

This guy - Samuel Taylor Coleridge - invented it in 1822.

So the word isn’t even 200 years old but 84 percent of us are so certain the concept’s real.

But love it turns out is a little bit more complicated…

Here’s a tender scene from one of the oldest love stories ever told. On the right is Achilles - the mythical warrior and the tragic love story between him and Petraculus is central to the plot of Homer’s epic poem The Illiad.

But there’s a great twist…something that didn’t get repeated for a long time…because Petraculus you might have noticed…is a dude.

People still argue about whether there was anything sexual between these guys, but really it doesn’t matter - the bromance was real.

And in ancient greece - a country pretty much always at war - the bond between brothers in arms was what really mattered.

People still fell in love…but romance as we know’s hard to imagine but it really didn’t exist at all..and it certainly wasn’t celebrated.

That is, until a new love story came along…
So there’s this guy called William of Aquitaine…he was a Duke in the south of france in the middle ages… but when he wasn’t jousting he fancied himself as a Troubadour - a sort of medieval singer/songwriter.

And his songs sound nice enough…but they were mostly about tricking women into having sex with him, or comparing them to horses. Charming.

Then - probably stealing ideas from some Arabic poetry which was popular at the time - he switched the roles and made the woman the powerful character - so desirable any man would dedicate his life to her.

For the first time (in the West anyway) the idea of romantic love between a man and a woman became an ideal - a fantasy.. from Rapunzel to Romeo and Juliet love stories celebrated men pursuing unattainable women.

So yes, our entire idea of romance was invented by a sexist douchebag.

But now the love stories we told looked completely different…and the bromance the greeks believed in..well that was made illegal for a very long time.

Society now celebrated love and romance - with anyone really…as long as they weren’t your husband or wife!

Yes, as strange as it sounds, for most of history marriages have been more like a business arrangement, and you didn’t want feelings to get in the way.

These are wedding portraits amazingly and they’re not exactly full of passion.

Then a Dutch artist called Frans Hals painted this. And it tells us everything about how marriage changed.

Couples married for love, they held hands and kissed in public -things that had never been seen in Europe before.

Right, but then it changed again!

Because nearly 700 years later, Europe was obsessed with a novel about a young artist who falls in love with his friend Charlotte.

The only problem - and I’m sure you’ve heard this one before - is that Charlotte is already engaged to someone else

The young artist’s solution to the problem has a big impact - literally.

The Sorrows of Young Werther published by Wolfgang von Goethe in 1744 was like 50 Shades of Grey without the handcuffs. It was insanely popular - men started dressing like the main character - and some even shot themselves, in what’s considered to be the first case of copycat suicides in history.

This all helped launch the romantic movement - the most passionate but also dark version of love we’d ever seen. We assume the romantic movement was - well, romantic, but the reality was different.  

Gave us some of our best art though - Keats, Beethoven, Blake…and a young poet called Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who in 1822 wrote in a letter to a friend: “To be happy in married life, one must have…a soul mate.”
We think the concept of love is something eternal and universal…but it changes all the time!

And it’s funny… each time, it seems to come from the stories we’re telling…

And isn’t that more true NOW than ever…?

Unlike epic poems or novels, movies and TV shows work best with simple stories…

And while the idea of romance has been around for a long time, now it’s been transformed into the most simple and idealistic version of all.

And now we expect our lover, our best friend, our companion AND the best sex we ever had…in one person!

Thing is…it’s not just movies…

For a hundred years companies have used this story to sell us things…

And in our age of consumerism we’ve somehow turned love itself into a shopping trip…

Swipe left, swipe right…always keeping our eyes open for an upgrade..

But with such simple and idealistic expectations are putting too much pressure on other people? And on ourselves?

So our version of love is not the first, and you know what, it’s probably not the last..

In a hundred years we might be telling a completely different love story - all we’re waiting for, is for someone to write it.

Filed under Adam Westbrook delve Fusion video essay script transcript history of love Samuel Taylor Coleridge Achilles Wolfgang Von Goethe Sorrows of Young Werther Romanticism William of Aquitaine history

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Fiction and nonfiction share two essential elements—imagination and emotion—and that’s where the use of reenactments in documentaries betrays the filmmaker. The essence of imagination is seeing what isn’t there—getting an idea on the basis of another idea—and the reenactment is, for the most part, a short-circuiting of imagination.

In “The Jinx,” whatever chill might be aroused by the notion of plastic bags filled with Morris Black’s body parts floating in a bay is dispelled by the actual vision of some other plastic bags, procured and filled and tossed on Jarecki’s behalf and filmed by Jarecki…

Such reenactments are insults to the audience—they assume that audiences can’t imagine anything like what the filmmaker is getting at—and they reflect the filmmaker’s own sense of impotence to create, by the assemblage of nonfiction material, an idea of what he has in mind. It’s a lack of confidence not just in the assembled material but in his own creative power.

Richard Brody in The New Yorker (via thirdsomething)

Filed under The Jinx Reenactments history nonfiction storytelling directing

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From the cutting room floor…

I’ve been working on a new video essay which is almost done.  As usual, once a rough cut is done I end up reshaping and cutting shots and even whole sequences. 

I’m still spending as much time as I can refining my process. One of the things I have realised just recently is that I have been mixing the creation and analysis stages of making a video essay together, which is a big no-no.

So I’ll often begin analysing a story design before I’ve even made a draft of it, and I’ll try and create and analyse on the same day. Your brain can’t switch from one to the other so easily, so now I’m updating my process to make sure church and state remain separated. 

Here are a couple of shots which I dropped on Monday, after realising they weren’t essential to the story. 

Filed under showyourwork editing Adam Westbrook storytelling cutting room floor video essay history delve

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Have you seen our new video essay yet? It’s a weird and almost unbelievable history of the start of #ww1 a hundred years ago. Even if you think you know the story, you’ll be surprised by what we found. Head over to to watch it now, for free. #history #greatwar #learning

Filed under greatwar ww1 learning history

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#alittlehistoryoftheworld No.24 We’ve made it to one of the biggest #milestones in the #history of #humanity. In 476AD the #RomanEmpire crumbled, and with it the whole of #AncientHistory ended too. A line was drawn under 3500 years of history. #Europe entered the Dark Ages. #ancientrome #ancientegypt #darkages #war #collapseofcivilisation

Filed under europe milestones darkages war collapseofcivilisation ancienthistory romanempire ancientegypt alittlehistoryoftheworld ancientrome humanity history

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A new video essay from delve

100 summers ago the countries of Europe collapsed quickly into war: it was sudden but also kind of inevitable. Countless books have been written since about the causes of the Great War, but in this video essay we offer an alternative history. By tracing the story backwards in time we stumble upon a very unexpected cause and discover that sometimes the most harmless of things can have terrible consequences. 

Story Design & Direction: Adam Westbrook 
Animation: Adam Westbrook
Additional Photography: Brett Walsh
Archive footage from the US National Archives released in the public domain
Stock footage via Videohive and Pond5
All photographs in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Satie’s Gymnopedie No. 2 performed by Kevin McLeod
Additional music and sound effects via AudioJungle 
Story assistance from Caroline Vanier, Cody Delistraty and Chris Schaefer.

Here are the books I used in researching this essay.

Filed under Adam Westbrook Ww1 ww1 kaiser wilhelm ii history documentary history documentary video essay delve books alfred mahan max hastings margaret macmillan barbara tuchman dreadnoughts germany britain europe war world war cause and effect robert massie

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A Little History of the World No.20

We’ve reached the time of the Romans. You can divide the roman era into two distinct periods. For 500 years it was a Republic with senators and governors. Then, in the last century BCE, it became an empire: autocratic and ruthless. In this first period the republic grew from the centre of Italy to dominate most of Europe; it spent most of its time suppressing local tribes and crushing a slave revolt (the thing with Spartacus). 

Filed under europe senators italy spartacus governors ancienthistory romans ruthless republic alittlehistoryoftheworld ancientrome slave empire history

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A Little History of the World No. 19

Right, back to the Mediterranean. With the Greek age winding down, a new society was growing from humble roots in the centre of Italy. After taking control of Italy they came up against their greatest enemy: the Carthaginians. That sparked an epic expedition in 218BCE. Hannibal would eventually lose and the Romans would dominate Europe for centuries. 

Filed under europe alps italy expedition ancienthistory carthage mediterranean carthaginians elephants romans greek alittlehistoryoftheworld ancientrome hannibal history

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A Little History of the World No. 18

It is one of the most important countries in the world today, and this is how it all got started. In 220 BCE a warlord called Shih Huang-ti conquered all the other war lords to unite China under one ruler. It would stay like this for more than 2000 years. Shih-Huang-ti was obsessed with finding a potion for immortality; ironically he died after drinking Mercury, which he thought would make him live for ever. 

Filed under mercury shih asia chinesehistory immortality china huang alittlehistoryoftheworld emperor warlord history

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A Little History of the World No.16 

Back to the Mediterranean and it’s time to meet one of the most incredible figures in ancient history. After the assassination of his father Phillip, Alexander was crowned King of Macedonia, a small country north of Greece. But that wasn’t enough for him. Over the next 12 years he marched eastwards and in a very short time ruled a huge kingdom that stretched all the way to India.

What’s even more incredible is how young he was; seriously you should go and find out more about him. 

Filed under egypt ancienthistory alittlehistoryoftheworld mediterranean macedonia delvetv asia greece persia history alexanderthegreat alexander the great

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A Little History of the World No.15

So far history has mostly been focused around the Mediterranean Sea. But civilisations were thriving all over the world. To the east, in what we now call India and China great cities were built. These societies had great thinkers too and around this time their ideas about love life and the universe began to spread. You’ll recognise their names: Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.

(P.S. yet, the little histories are back! There’ll be at least one a week over the summer - more at

Filed under life confucianism love mediterranean ancienthistory universe india civilisations delvetv buddhism china alittlehistoryoftheworld confucious buddha taoism history

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A Little History of the World No.13

Here’s one of history’s remarkable stories: a small tribe from what we now call #Iran rebelled against the Babylonians who ruled them. Within a few years they changed the map, and their king Cyrus I ruled over a huge stretch of land. He called himself The King of Kings. His son and grandson Darius and Xerxes would carry on his empire after he died. 

Learn more history at

Filed under iran xerxes remarkable babylonians ancienthistory greece cyrus darius alittlehistoryoftheworld persia babylon ancientegypt history