6th June 2011, Walthamstow….
Last night intrepid film fans braved the sweaty horror of a severely delayed Victoria line service to sample the delights of East 17. No, not the early ’90s purveyors adolescent pop and Take That’s main rivals (sadly!), but Jess’s lovely house in Walthamstow (the name of East 17’s first album – don’t ask me why I know this). After a splendid sausage sarnie dinner complete with homemade relish, Magnums, and a few of the film fascists coming under attack by one of the cats, we settled down to watch the ‘not quite a comedy’ This is England.
The film is set in 1983, and is the story of 12 year old Shaun, who is taken under the wing of a group of local skinheads after being bullied at school. Although the early part of the film is quite comic, the atmosphere changes with the arrival of Combo, a violent ex-con with racist tendencies.
The fairly bleak portrayal of Britain in the ’80s and the politics surrounding the Falklands War was mingled with some of the usual things you find when people of a certain age look back at the ’80s – Rubik’s Cube, big hair, people dressed like Boy George – but avoided the rose-tinted nostalgia those people can be prone to.
The film was extremely thought-provoking and, amongst other things, led to discussion on whether an unpredictable, violent man is scarier than an educated bigot with the capacity to convince others to subscribe to his views.
As Jess said when giving her reasons for choosing the film, you keep thinking about it long after you’ve watched it.
Thomas Turgoose, the actor who played Shaun, was only 13 when the film was shot. He had never acted before, had been banned from his school play for behaving badly and apparently even demanded £5 to turn up for the film’s auditions! This probably explains his behaviour when interviewed by Jess’s brother! Whatever his past behaviour, he put in an amazing performance.
The film is actually based on the real-life childhood experiences of the director Shane Meadows, and he says that many of the events in the film actually happened. He wrote about this in the Guardian in 2007 after the film came out, an article definitely worth reading.
Last year, Meadows directed 4 episodes of This is England ’86 for Channel 4, which featured the same cast but focused on Lol, one of the female members of the gang. Vicky McClure, the actress who plays Lol, recently won a Best Actress BAFTA.
The summer is throwing up lots of opportunities for film-related fun, including Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House, and a film music prom at the Albert Hall on August 12th. Planning is already under way for the former, and I propose queuing up for promenade tickets on the day for the latter, but we can discuss that next time. Other suggestions for cinema-based club outings would be gratefully received!
Until July, my fascist brothers and sisters, stay undemocratic and full of spicy fascist variety!
THIS IS NOT A DEMOCRACY