International Writers Magazine: Review
Directed by Shane Meadows
Big Arty Productions
now and then a film emerges that grabs you by the eyeballs and prevents
you from ever being the same. Britain hasnt achieved this
since Ewan McGregor asked "who needs reasons when youve
got heroin?" But we have done it again. Arising from the incredible
imagination and personal experiences of writer and director Shane
Meadows, this exceptional exploration of the skinhead subculture
gives American History X a run for its morals.
Set in eighties Britain, this film follows Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) a young
and impressionable school boy as he becomes involved in a skinhead gang.
At first, Shaun is seduced by Woody and his gang of friendly teenage mods
who initiate him into their world of Fred Perry, steel toe caps and braces.
However, when gang leader Combo, played by Stephen Graham (Goal!) returns
from prison the entire atmosphere of the film becomes extremely intense
and uncomfortable to watch.
Combos return divides the group in two: the mods that exist as the
image in the shallowest sense and devote their disposable income to fashion
and music, and the skinheads who have an ulterior motive. Unfortunately
Shaun decides to follow the latter option where he is introduced to the
sickening anti-multiculturist perspective of traditional skinheads. The
film really interacts with reality when the pair attend a National Front
meeting. The NF, notorious for their fascist mottos, acted as the working
class coping strategy for unemployment and offered its members an easy
target to blame; the foreign community. In the astounding sequences of
racial violence in the film, Meadows demonstrates the damaging affects
that this influence had on society. Considering the beliefs held by the
British National Party that circulates today, unfortunately these scenes
are not far from home.
Throughout the film, Meadows points his finger into the family home and
suggests that these troubled relationships are to blame for the state
in which we find our country. Although Shaun inhabits a comfortable home,
his widowed mother reminding us that this racist ambassador is just a
child, his father figure Combo is not so secure. Meadows never lets us
fully penetrate the guarded inner psyche of Combo, however the film does
explore the effects his leadership has on Shaun. The relationship demonstrates
the vulnerable impressionability of youths which is all too current in
contemporary culture. Today, we are a society desensitised to youth violence.
Every morning we wake up to a story competing against the previous day
to shock the public and more often than not the age of the villain is
the hook to the article. Therefore, Meadows comment on this moral
panic is extremely relevant as Turgoose connotes Britains demise
in the hands of this corrupt generation. By referencing this growing problem,
Meadows is tapping into an existing fear amongst society and injecting
it into the film.
Meadows interpretation of the era is outstanding. The aesthetics of the
film conjure with precision the atmosphere of the eighties, beginning
with the title sequence that references iconic moments of the decade,
such as the rise of Thatcherism, CD production and the rubix cube fad.
The scenes are washed in stained colouring that will remind you of your
Nans house and the costumes are loud and so detailed they are pivotal
to voicing the attitude of the generation. Shot from a very angular perspective,
even the framing of the images are reminiscent of the sharp contours of
infamous mod Rod Stewarts classic suits. The soundtrack is a key
contribution as Meadows has carefully selected a mixture of ska, reggae
and punk to convey the varied influences of the culture. However, in particular
scenes where the atmosphere is not so light emotive piano movie
music compliments our feelings of sadness about the horrific situations
onscreen. This is an example of how the film compels us to become emotionally
involved and perhaps is Meadows way of enforcing sympathy in the viewer,
not for the character, but for England.
The script in this film is completely invisible and the actors are mostly
unknown, making this representation of our society even more disturbingly
real. This film is utterly breathtaking, the most troubling message behind
it being that this really is the state of our country, this is England.
© Tiffany Lee November 2007
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