Dark River : A Film Review

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Dark River

Written and Directed by Clio Barnard. Produced by Tracy O’Riordan. Cast : Ruth Wilson as Alice, Mark Stanley as Joe Bell, Seán Bean as Richard Bell, Esme Creed-Miles as Young Alice, Aiden McCullough as Young Joe, Shane Atwood as Tower, Steve Garth as Jim, Una McNulty as Susan Bell, Jonah Russell as Pete, Paul Robertson as Dec, Music by Harry Escott, (credit with PJ Harvey song of An Acre of Land), Cinematography by Adriano Goldman, Edited by Luka Dunkley, Nick Fenton, Production companies, Film4, Left Bank Pictures, Moonspun Pictures. Distributed by Arrow Films. Duration 1hr 29 mins. Certificate 15. Language, English. Country United Kingdom.  Supported by BFI and Wellcome Foundation.

Directors words

The third (after her The Arbor and The Selfish Giant) Clio Barnard film Dark River is a stark rural set familial drama which is unrelentingly grim and a reflection of contemporary unspoken and also prominent incidences of sexual abuse that are now surfacing as never before with revelatory troubling concerns. How Dark River is an example of the hidden domestic sexual abuse which is a scourge of society and is very hard to uncover is brought through the skilful yet sometimes evasive and metaphorical direction taken.  The water of the river in the Yorkshire setting is a place where it is both custodian and cleanser of the revelations made. Dark River is credited with a connection having been made to the book Trespass by Rose Tremain in its title closing credits.

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Beginning

Alice played with grace and substance by Ruth Wilson is returning to the place which is where she was once abused.  Having opened the film with her shearing sheep with equal speed and ease as men on contract farm work the sunny disposition of a shared lunch break is overtaken by the need to return home and lay claim to the farm she left fifteen years earlier.

Here she finds her brother Joe who is played by a strong oxen type of a young man in his thirties by Mark Stanley who must and does create a brooding sometimes menacing and broken keeper of the land of their father.

It begins with a lovely song by PJ Harvey, whose voice like that of Nora Jones, is set back into the folds of radio playlists for late time listening. Seldom is the story as close to the brooding melody and words of “An acre of land.” Differently it is to the scapes of the dales Clio Barnards cinematic eye is cast which is as a mostly dark and seldom warm environment. Beautiful it is but it foreshadows the emotions soon to be brought forth. The Bradford of The Selfish Giant is Beyond this environment. Where the poverty and determination sometimes playful and joyous in that film appeared occasionally no sense of joy is seen here. The landscape is the lasting thing but having returned to where she grew up, the home is too much a haunted place full of recurrent traumatic memories.

There is no mention of any substance to their mother and another departure is not made to explain the relationship which is like having a table with a missing leg. Instead the darkness is kept to be contained in the reaction and emotional torment faced by Alice in all kinds of confronting forms. By choosing to go back she is laying down a recapturing of her rightful legacy as a form of affront to the misdeeds and dreadful abuse she suffered there.

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Recovery

It is not possible or easy to reclaim the land in a bonding or empathetic sense, which is where Clio Barnard is taking the film. The river is not cleansing but is a habitat itself suffused with memory. Water is a splendid cinematic medium as a certain recent film testifies to. Alice in going back is troubling from the outset. She is firstly unable to live in the house. She instead chooses to life in the adjacent prefab. She has immediate flashbacks. The flashbacks are with her also in the life she has just left. Esme Creed-Miles as Young Alice, Aiden McCullough as Young Joe, create a bleak vision of the childhood tensions brilliantly and others such as Shane Atwood as Tower, provide a range of solid character parts.

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As well as visits to agricultural markets and the occasional pub, the landscape is significantly large as the land is shown with Yorkshire itself a broad scoping individual of a natural territory which the lens follows a formidable elemental beast. The North Sea is not far away from the river running to it. The weather and conditions are harsh and uncompromising. The skies are huge. The fields and boundaries wide. Some opening shots show the idyllic stone wall close cropped fields and padlocked animals as well as the straggling electricity pylons marching across the land of the white rose of Yorkshire as some behemoth. In exploring the two sides of the story. The land and its occupants it appears as though an attempt which Is unfortunately not achieved of a divination of some sort being sought or impending doom at the door.

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Landlocked

Joe is the custodian of the land and is brought to consider the harm caused by his father and carries with it an unspoken sorrow and guilt in having been there and unable to stop it. As well as his own lack of fatherly guidance to find a rebalancing for he is deeply at odds with the cruelty of the world and the bigger picture is someway seen through his innocence. There is talk of the big big world and his sole or limited excursions away from the farm concerned delivery of potato seedlings to and from Ireland.

 

That is seen as another green field. Where the grass is greener and the ways strange but a set of values of equivalence but not if his own. Such a position as we know is a gigantic misnomer. Keeping with Noe his sense of belonging is more complex than the film is able to document. It relies on conversations of alternative means of farming when challenged by Alice to make it work and go forward. The strength was and is in the soil and I heard Michael Longley speak of the isolation in Co. Mayo in its remoteness and his muse Carrigskeewaun. The town land of the place giving a broad expanse for the imagination to go wild and be entrained by belonging.

 

That land is mostly empty through immigration and escape to the towns near and far. Yet it remains a muse.

Here my imagination

Tangles through a turfstack

Like skeins of sheep’s wool:

Is a bull’s horn silting

With powdery seashells. extract from M. Longley’s poetry.

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Binaries

The land is cast almost as the ultimate boundary and to it, nature we all return. The lines of Longley’s poems infuse this sense of separation by the necessity of language, names , nomenclature to express their permanence as they newly cast out repetitions of themselves in life’s great mystery of binary codes. The powdery shells of calcium carbonate cast off.

Different lands but primordial things speaking back to us through the land as nature sustains location.

Dark River takes care to reveal this in Joe, and Alice is similarly a symbol for the land. How it is conveyed is through the absence of the connectiveness she yearns for that Joe possibly still possesses. The drama is the conflict of the two as metaphorical damaged people. The harm being internalised in Joe and he does not even know but Alice soon becomes distraught apart from her own remaking sense of belonging. Joe is approached by a land agent after Alice applies for tenancy rights. He is taken aback by the arrogance of Alice with her citing neglect of the farm and decline down to him. The buildings are in disrepair, the land boundaries broken in some places and tillage and unkept fields not consistent with tenancy agreements.

 

Mending fences

There is a period when the differences could be mended though Joe points out some home truths. The clear inability now she’s back, of Alice to unburden the hurt and harm and the unwitnessed haunting and recurring themes which we visit by flashback. The river is a retreat and a temporary escape. In previous times Alice had made her lover a young farmer called Spider and he is an occasional entry to the film. Joe is deeply disturbed by the possible change of role and the methods Alice uses to work the farm.

When Joe applies for the farm he is approached by land agents who want to remove both of them whatever the methods deployed. Without criminal or lawless action but by manipulation and blackmail the land agents set in play a set of irreversible actions.

There is a confused end to the film in which retreat is to flashback to carry the fathers hurtful and saturating part in the story. Alice is confronted by a set of new challenges which unfold from Joe’s disturbed mind. There is no remission from the causes of harm nor any satisfactory outcome possible but time is constant and this is a period of both their life’s which set them in conflict with each other and in need of repair.

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Conclusion ###3

Very occasionally a film comes along to reach into the dark corners of domestic abuse and also the wider incidences in institutional abuses. Sports, entertainment and many Religious institutions are presently in the headlines along with organised criminal and community sexual abuse being uncovered across these islands. This tires hard to tackle the subject through a story taken from the core of the book Trespass by Rose Tremain and visualising and dramatising a single woman’s story.

This story departs greatly from the land ideal and the places ‘genus loci’ being ultimately eroded and land speaking like Longley’s Carrigskeewaun being almost a skeleton of the earths bones being seen again after mans tilling and ancient furrowing of its surface to raise a life on. An Acre of Land – the song speaks of ancient giving and the scrawny legacy it represents unkept. The environment is key as is our relation to it is the message and the human being is sinful in every respect and often unworthy as a keeper. Alice is a retrieval missionary but is thwarted by the sibling ownership of equal resonance. Almost the child is the father of the man in Hugh Leonard’s sense.

from the graphic violence and incest visited on Audrun by her father and brother to Anthony’s near-romantic love for his careless and selfish mother. Then, engineering them into an impossibly volatile situation – kickstarted by Anthony’s immediate attraction to the crumbling Mas Lunel, and Audrun’s determination that it should not be sold – she leaves them to reap the consequences of their wonky desires and impetuous actions.” A reviewers take on Trespass.

The subject matter is a momentous multi layered one which is hard to dial into. Landscape is evoked as a contestable territory where vices are in conflict through the unresolved past and methods and approach’s carry the leaden crook sacrifice of innocence as the nature is fought with and contested without remorse, solace or forgiveness. Like many cases the time has past where the perpetrator has long gone and ultimately the sins of the father are left as remnants of history to be picked over like crows on a sheeps skull. A difficult slightly wandering and confusing watch but a worthy effort on a subject so difficult to handle or bring insight to.

John Graham

02 March 2018

Belfast

Showing on 02 March 2018 until 08 March 2018 at Queens Film Theatre.

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Fires were Started : A Film Review

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The complete Humphrey Jennings disc two. Fire were Started. 1943. Documentary. 

35m Director Humphrey Jennings
Production Company Crown Film Unit
Producer Ian Dalrymple
Script Humphrey Jennings
Story Collaboration Maurice Richardson
Photography C.M. Pennington-Richards
Cast: Commanding Officer George Gravett (Sub-Officer Dykes); Leading Fireman Philip Wilson-Dickson (Section Officer Walters); Leading Fireman Fred Griffiths (Johnny Daniels); Leading Fireman Loris Rey (‘Colonel’ J. Rumbold); Fireman Johnny Houghton (S.H. ‘Jacko’ Jackson)

The Blitz depicted

War on Britain some 75 years on from the blitz – the frequent and widespread bombing of cities, ports, towns, strategic infrastructure by German War planes – is catalogued in documentary form by the rereleased BFI film Fires were Started.

7 September 1940 saw the first bombardment in the London docks.  That place before the war the vital trade port for the United Kingdom and now dispersed but still a joyous sight and feature of humanity converting itself to other things in peacetime.  The Olympic Park for example.  This 1943 film was also known as I was a Fireman. Because of the war continuing and various attempts at capturing the times not just in newsreels or cinema propaganda stoic bravado their were people conscious of the individual moments which put the fear of God into people not on the frontline.                             The frontline was brought to them.

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Mass-Observation

As a documentary maker Humphrey Jennings was a very driven man.  As the upper middle class background gave him a sense of entitlement, and took it upon himself to forge allegiance with anthropologist Tom Harrison a group known as Mass-Observation in 1935.  For whatever reason he never went to war andcinstead became an academic and some say dilettante not realising the ‘whatever’ wheels and cogs making Britain tick.  It’s industrial health. An irony surely exists in their organisation. When it came to expression, beyond writing, painting, he got to know the power of film and embarked on experimentation even dabbling in surrealism.

Making the film

Fires were Started is a bizarre title in itself.  A meaning existing, they deliberately in 1943 started fires to represent 1940 scenes. London can take it was a 1940 film of his along with Listen to Britain. 1943. Even after the film considered herechecdeveloped a by now perceptive forward thinking imaginative underrated work called Diary for Timothy 1945 wondering what future lay ahead.  This profound piece and idea is often discovered in Newspapers or novels of the time in prospective articles etc. but applying thoughts on the future on film must be and remain unique. Actors were given scripts to follow in this documentary therefore subverting the form to begin with.  This was not done to sway the argument or construct falsehoods but became necessary because setting up in the midst of war, using people to take part in recently gathered history, finding film stock, finding time and locations etc. would have been a burden to anyone.  What was that film Martin Scorsese did in London docklands ‘recreatively’ and costing a forrtune equal to the war debt? Jennings also employed another dynamic of realism and avoided commentary.  This in itself must have had contemporaries have hairs stand up on the back of their neck and that includes the war time children.  I remember watching war ‘documentary’ as a youngster and have a spine tingling moment or two.  On reflection I was assuming perhaps the clowns with guns and bombs outside in the street dictating what way our lives should be in the sevenitites were no different from these warlords except the men who went to war as well as being conscripted went in the most part willingly.

This film blog is included as a remembrance, not a commemoration or as celebratory homage to the losses in all conflicts around the world.  This 11 November 2016 is again a time to reflect on violence applied in all its forms.

 

John Graham

11 November 2016

Belfast

Apologies for not providing a blog on the intended review (Gimme danger which is on at QFT Belfast from Friday – also note the epic Napoleon is screening from 12.00am at QFT this Sunday.) It is somewhere in the ether and I’m still trying to track it down as it’s for the most part written on a rock chronicles type film. I will post of and when it turns up as it raised quite a lot of things. Take for instance this weeks Democrat/Republican Election in the USA which you may have heard of. Michigan were Jim Ostenberg (Iggy Pop) hails from which Gimme Danger is all about actually stands aside only one other state in America, New Hampshire in it not having inclusion in the normal electoral form used everywhere else. Being the radical state it once was – I point this out as a distinction worth exploring in the psyche of this American Iggy – it resembles the election format of GB more! A lady who watched the Election on a Portuguese channel to improve her Portuguese told me this oddity.

I, Daniel Blake : A Film Review


Director, Ken Loach, Screenplay, Paul Laverty.  Cast. Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Dylan McKiernan, Briana Shann, Kate Rutter, Sharon Percy, Kema Sikazwe. (English dialogue) Duration. 1hr 40mins. Camera (color), Robbie Ryan; editor, Jonathan Morris; music, George Fenton; production designers, Fergus Clegg, Linda Wilson; costume designer, Joanne Slater; sound (Dolby Digital), Ray Beckett; sound editor, Kevin Brazier; line producer, Eimhear McMahon; casting, Kahleen Crawford. Production. U.K.- (France-Belgium) A Le Pacte (in France) release of a Sixteen Films, Why Not Prods., Wild Bunch (Rebecca O’Brien), BFI, BBC Films, Les Films du Fleuve, France 2 Cinéma, Canal Plus, France Télévisions, Le Pacte, Cinéart, Ciné Plus, VOO and Be tv production. 

  #WeAreAllDanielBlake

Side by side not taking sides

If you want to avoid a politcally charged piece based around the outrages perpetuated our name in Great Britain and Northern Ireand, on which this film has attempted in its narrow focus to show then I suggest you go to the bottom of the review and the conclusion instead of wading through the politics.  I find people’s perceptions of the politics intruiging and repulsive from the so-called support mechanism of handouts on legal advice and support through the class orientated Legal system – access to justice and the like pure fantasy and peripheral – other ‘agencies’ – charity wars where they are in High Streets ‘chugging’ being unpleasant in a face frame as you pass, to handing out supermarket disposals at food banks then you can get a bit distraught and ashamed.  So move on.

Moving on the story

This journey is a script opening eyes to actors then audiences.  Research needs dictate the timeline for this compressed schedules so the assembled team can come together very quickly, in three months after the get go, finances in place – France is the main arena to show it.  It opens in about 600 screens in France and about 100 in GB/NI.  This story is discovered in so many places it shocks producer Rebecca O’Brien and the outlet, outcome will come touch so many who no the story at some level. Loaches way of working is to shoot in sequence then give script pages say a few days in advance if some scenes need ‘discovery’ let down gently so the performance evolves more naturally.  So actors have the most explained scripted but are taken on a journey also.


Foreign fields in our country

In the early summer at the end of May the European Cinema community meeting once again in Cannes expressed their acclaim of this Ken Loach film.  It should be mentioned the screenplay delivered by Paul Laverty is exceptional and their combined skills, talent have created a very clear depiction of the atrocious Department for Work and Pensionsxorganised abuse of human rights and morality.  Here is a report in May announcing the Ken Loach acclaim action in Cannes.

Last week there was an article in The Guardian about how Labour candidates in the last elections were like “middle class Ryanair passengers,” trying to suppress their metropolitan squeamishness while canvassing in traditional Labour areas.

The voters on the doorsteps said of the politicians: “You’re all the same” – by which they meant: “You’re nothing like me”. 

On the same day, it was reported that Ken Loach, nearing his 80th birthday, had just won prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes for I, Daniel Blake, a film about life on benefits.

This is great news for the makers of this thoroughly decent but very straightforward portrait of the film maker, which looks back over his career, while showing him making that very film. 

Proper Society demands

I am finding this film very hard to review as having now seen it twice can attest to its fiercely upsetting and concerning depiction of Britain – the United Kingdom – that is shown to have a rejection by proxy of large sections of vulnerable and virtually starving people trammeled by Government punitive Social Security actions.  Based on the Public Health. act they distort and reject basic human right principles of social provision for those in need of welfare assistance and breach the rights to privacy as attested by the system shown for all its harmful effect in this film.  Seeing it twice produced the view – seeing it twice assured me it was in fact a work of fiction though it may well have been a documentary of validity and authenticity given its flawless careful handling of a large societal picture which is treated like a soiled limited section of the support system people believe – wrongly – is a safety net.  


The depraved reformers

A local spokesperson for these Social Security ‘Welfare Reforms’ Dr Eileen Evason, who has been an advisor over many years to the Social Services Committee, adding insult to injury over the period appeasing and making noises on/off about possibly unworkability, while failing to solve the problems put up by the Social Security Committee, grandly attests that ‘she’ has advised the First Minister and Deputy First Minister ‘she’ has copper fastened the bottom of the safety net in the latest measures of ‘Welfare Reform’ – which are a removal of further support and diminution of Social Security – in every sense of the word and are as much an insidious harmful assault on people disadvantaged in numerous ways accessing Welfare.  

Reforms are the further rejection of people’s rights and betrayal of the Welfare Society on which our whole ‘sovereign’ entitlement has affirmed through the Public Health Act. It is how our civility has been established.  I could cite several Laws which are breached, among them the provision of emergency and hardship funds which are ‘means tested’ in becoming a claimant.  Worse still is the treatment of Asylum seekers, Refugees and some Immigrants and their diminished rights of access to shelter and the means financially to live in a dignified and civilised way which basically all consider alienating and intensly degradng on purpose by design by the Home Office.  They maintain their dignity as a measure of contrast to those who subjugate them, the depraved reformers. The Attorney General fails to find fault here while he contests the liberty of cakes and rights for access to criminal files by victims and has expressed his views on gay marriage, abortion and sexual prostitution practices.  Human trafficking and Healthcare deficiencies along with long term mental health problems cramming prisons with TV licence evaders, avoiding the rackettering going in also in drugs, property scams and theft from trammeled owners is left to one side when it comes to enforcement of legalities.

Subjugation 

The powerful in all generations beat down the populous in order to create a means to accumulate and amass, grow their fortunes.  Corporations now unleash the threat of ( now mostly seen off) suing Nations who transgress their Commercial practices by regulation – in contrast to other locations – as a means of finding lowest common denominator compliant States to carry out manufacturer and trade.  This is very much a part of the Political embrace, or the Corporations wrestling Governments into surrender by the throats into submission to their plans of work practices.  You may have noticed the floodgates having opened once Thathcher destroyed Manufacturing industries as the tooth nail and claws of overseas economic conditions took a nosedive and resurrected on a Conservative compliant employers agenda.  Followed by the breakneck catastrophic avoidance of needed market reforms when New Labour arose Phoenix like and adopted Neo-liberal economics which achieved what? Fairly evident. The Conservative backlash to the attempt at restructuring tax credits dealt with by the stop gap DWP minister Stephen Crabbe said there were to be no further cuts to Welfare.  What remains however are economic measures creating hardship not alleviating it as is the Conservativve way.  There remains no link to prices in terms of Benefits so any inflation will diminish their value.  The zero inflation likewise meant the adjustments needed were never going to reduce the vulnerability of very low ‘incomes’ never realistically matching survival needs as is clear from social deprivations the length and breadth of the islands.


Both Governments actually banned Ken Loach films which now find themselves on the right side of history.  Some elements (Wind that Shakes the Barley excluded as it was so naive in my view) relate to policies implemented in Northern Ireland which were volatile exposures of criminality of criminal proportions.  In NI film is pronounced ‘filim’ which also connects to the spooks Le Carre points to as finding legitimacy when the ‘sovereign cause’ was imperilled in the Northern Ireland troubles.  We have an o added to NI giving us the Northern Ireland Office and the begetters of many a violent consequence.  Ministers in Government/Assembly rather like the idea the truth is left concealed as to the real savage brutality of regimes acting out their power lust here. It suits their criminal acts and duplicity/double agent positions and hides their joint enterprise efforts of concealment.  The Blair contention he was responsible for healing the process is another myth.  George Mitchell if anyone, alongside wise counsel from Mary Robinson and others not up to their necks in corrupt dealings, stroke parties are the real authors along with the law abiding populous in creating peace.


Katie and Dan, Daisy and Dylan.
Mercy doesn’t come into it.  This film is harrowing and the awareness of both Ken Loach, in putting this account of a shifting period in our history, when the further effects of the 99% globally daily inflict greater influence and harm in the shaping of our society is coruscating and baleful.  It is like watching cities, generations, turned into enumerated sub-Orwellian dehumanised robots functioning to extract as much value from commodities goods and services as is mechanistic ally possible.  The machine age where those owning the power of process from land to building to healthcare extract more than they contribute along an economic symmetry, uniformity which is destroying the planet and its inhabitants.  More and more obvious by the passing years.

Katie, Dan, Dylan and Daisy come to the crest of a hill in a wide street shot, with Dylan acting up and playing on the relatively quiet suburban road.  I saw this as a pivotal point and it’s not a spoiler to be discussing it.  In ‘films’ about the making of this movie I have seen the set up being discussed as Loach and others converge to discuss and KL inevitably calls the shots!  This is where things look to be on the improve.  As you will have likely read the coming together of these people is through their treatment at the hands of the state.  ‘JobCentrePlus’ Newcastle.  After two years in a hostel in London after having lost a rented private flat (note here KL chooses the scenario to point up the lack of council, local authority built homes) through a minor complaint, they are doing separate things in the Job Centre and after another knock back Dan and most in the centre hear raised voices as a stressed Katie faces a knock back which will see her with no money for food or electricity.  Despite the condition, which has Daniel there in the first place, Dan intervenes ad sticks up for her in a scene which is being controlled by unreasonable overstretched staff.  They cannot be seen in their ‘role play’ to move one inch from the rules and agenda.  They are complicit and compliant nevertheless.  It does nothing to resolve the situation as the staff always control the situation by assertion.  By the passive aggressive violence of their inhuman interaction. Ca particularly abhorrent version of which is displayed your a thirty something floor manager whose bulk and belligerence is like a blank wall purposely.  In local offices it is just the same with blank walls and uniforms, badged floor staff acting like prison guards and traffic police.  Entirely designed as intimidatory and just as Latie and Dan find.  The children have to witness this humiliation also. Being so young they will have in futurectimesxstrong memories of this imprint of society they were brought up in.  

Dan cannot separate himself from this encounter given he is like them in the same sinking stinking boat.  Refugees in their own country.  Like anyone of any worth he helps and so Katie is given some hope and he sets about turning around the house she has been given.  It is barely habitable and lacks most things.  Beds, table and chairs excepted. The London policy of shifting out trouble families, single parents in their estimation a problem, all three have to detach themselves from their roots and go to Geordie land where they have no connections.  It is a form of cultural amputation loosing friends and family and all support. It might be regarded as like students, new job prospects – you move to a good job with arrangements for xyz prepared but here it is a complete nightmare and extremely low levels of support and even means to live and with few ‘possessions’ in tow or even storage.  It’s what middle class England voted/votes for and every aspect has implications undreamt of or excluded from the mind by the latest offer of the Sunday roast lunch at the supermarket.  Delivery can be arranged.  The carefully managed tiers of commercial life teased out into jumbo size excuses for lifestyle choices seen and tantalisingly mirrored back at expectations by the political manipulators governing.

  A town anywhere

The Foodbank

A minister recently reflected on Coffee shops – his observation continues into other places restaurants, shops, bars – that they install pews from disused and happy flappy churches who think nothing of ripping out the seats and bare bulbs, rusting grid lamp covers, galvanised mini buckets, boards as platters evoking a back to basics – unafraid of the distressed plate the sirloin steak sits on along both the rustic chips.  When Katie, Dan, Daisy and Dylan are at the crest f that hill they are heading to that phenonomen – the ‘Church’ led charity group – government authenticated – Foodbank.  There are a startling number in most major towns. Our four come to the ‘Church’ Foodbank and are greeted by an enormous queue of everyday folk standing chatting in orderly fashion. The experience inside is something which cuts to your core for many conflicting reasons.  Everyone is doing their best to alleviate the need for people to collect food to survive on top of their ‘income support’ IS ‘wages’ Workers support ‘Jobseeker’s Allowance’ JSA ‘Employment and support Allownce’ ESA and some on ‘Personal Independant Support Allowance’ PIPS. and each person has a Doctors, MPs, Social Security, Police, referral form stipulating they are likely to benefit from Food Aid.  Here in Belfast there is a Foodbank reached by four flights of stairs down a ammonia smelling lane way and with a lift (out of order?).  It is somewhere only the relatively fit and able can access , elderly and those unable to travel back and forth arriving what they get over long distances cannot avail of the meagre provisions.  There are very limited alternatives and despite this numerous deaths on the streets have occurred some not fifty yards away and destitution is hidden under trees and back lanes with an overhanging doorway or at the bac of arestiarant where the hot air comes through the vents.  In daytime in winter I have seen destitute backed up to a dry cleaners hot air discharge vent which is virtually as steam vent.  KL and PL could have continued to make numerous films on destitution and involving those of no status whatsoever who find themselves here but this should incinerate the lies of Poiticians on the relative wealth of this state’ should silence the complicit entrenched waged apologists – for creating a narrative – for having to enforce it – The Law Centre Northern Ireland is also in this category having played host to the doctrine and ignored all legal contexts of Human Rights in so doing.

Poverty of spirit

Acceptance of poverty is bound with having made sacrifice, poverty is nothing without some form of deprivation.  Imposed by others or oneself.  It is not a Christian renunciation – felt by some to to obtain an anti-worldly attitude – and it does not lead to the removal of social malaise but the opposite.  It is a pharisaical damaging concept for oneself.  It is especially clear in some religions as a belief in, confimation of the excecution of Gods will.  In addition to this how many could you name who hold this humility while themselves safe in the knowledge they shall not be impoverished.  The Church fulfills its aims while controlling the minds of the supplicants entreated in their role play.  Having wealth and holding it is primarily a function adopted in religions, nations and societies.  The use of wealth was intended in Gods world to create social fulfilment.  Be it the production of food, transport, education or health and caring it serves no purpose other than to create social purpose.  Manifestly detached from this is the vast accumulation of wealth which has neither function or form.  It is seen as a barrier against misfortune.  Calamity comes in many forms and natural disasters are common and reactions of an earth balancing its elemental fixed laws and structures disrupt many notions.  It has a randomness with which we consider the consequence of – act.

Humans relate to laws and instilled societal forms set in a familial almost fixed set of behaviour relying almost everyone ill defined and not of any real note or consequence.  It foresees a pattern and bonds.  In every moment expanding this is seen as obligatory.  Not so God will.  Telling the rich man if he wished to be perfect he should give to the poor is all that God willed.  So what might that  were made in the time of Constintine between the ruling establishment and the will of God – Christian values.  The progression though led to the diminution of those values and the application – routed in assumed power – hoarding and stifling distribution not based on supplying people’s legitimate means.  Social obligation is the key. Those keys are established through Marxism through Tolstoy, through continental mineral exploitation to create social and human fulfilment.  Where are we headed?


Conclusion #####5

We are thankful (once again) Paul Laverty for bringing forward a societal ill composed of State bureaucracy the malaise that is the UK Welfare system to a wide audience.  It opens on 21 October 2016 in 100 cinemas in The UK and 600 in France showing the depth of awareness films can have on societal issues. This is a compelling story of a man driven to the edge of his existence by bureaucracy and his life is shown with compassion and understanding by the filmmakers. He (Daniel) is joined in the aim to seek benefits by a young single parent, whose plight he finds when visiting the JobCentrePlus almost a confirmation of a conspiratorial system leaving people at the edge of their dignity and strength seeking the means to live a simple life and deal with their specific circumstances. Daniel is a figure summarising the breadth of the diminishing values and morality shrinking daily. With a condition denying him the health to work he is as a 59 year old required to apply for Benefits to sustain himself. He is advised by his GP and Consultant that he is unfit for work and applies for Employment and Support Allowance. Withstanding his Medical condition, confirmed by his physicians, he is compelled against his legal entitlement, to disclosing to a third party his health condition by statements in a q and a with a ‘Healthcare Professional’ (someone who has no responsibility for well being whatsoever and untrained in any medical analysis or part of any treatment plan) on the phone in a black void at the very beginning of the film.  It is a complete invasion of privacy by a third party and is itself a breach of Article 8 of The Human Rights Act,regarding privacy, going unrecognised by such as DWP, DSDNI, ATTORNEY GENERAL, DFC, LAW CENTRE NI, CAB, PATIENT AND CLIENT COUNCIL and the legislators in Parliament and an a priori defence for everyone in terms of its provision. 

It also is a breach of Client/Patient confidentiality as expressed in the General Medical Councils own codes (Hippocratic Oath) for confidentiality which the State by design subvert and disregard along with the apologists in a train behind them, the Citizens Advice Bureau, The Law Centre, the Social Affairs Committee, the Government Legal Services Department and The Attorney General for Northern Ireland who all refuse to acknowledge the a priori existence of these rights. So Daniel Blake represents the – again explained succinctly, more than my detailed account, – the sisyphean struggle – the task is endless and one of monumental endurance – eloquently described by Variety reviewer, OWEN GLEIBERMAN, on seeing it when it won the Palme d’Or. Wrote the following very insightful words in response – among others equally attesting the strength of the film – ” …it’s about something so much larger than bureaucratic cruelty (although it is very much about that). It captures a world — our world — in which the opportunity to thrive, or even just survive, is shrinking by the minute. With the right handling, the movie has a chance to connect with audiences as few Loach films ever have. It’s a work of scalding and moving relevance.”

When an outsider can see so clearly the desperation and degradation society is perpetuating it is a very clear warning.

Such is the picture of what plainly is a mirror of our divided, fractured, malfunctioning Government and Governance the case for a moral and just society is made all the more relevant and important by this films approach which is a dignified response to the perpetrators of the atrocious conditions they consider lawful and fair.  It is ruinous.
  
John Graham

20 October 2016

Belfast
On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from 21 October until 3 November 2016 and at selected Cinemas up to 100 screens in the UK will be showing it while it starts on 600 screens in France who provided considerable backing.

The Survivalist : A Film Review

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Writer and Director Stephen Fingleton, 2015, Ire/UK, Cert. 18. Duration 108 mins.  Cast. Martin McCann, Mia Goth, Olwen Fouéré and small plot parts by Andrew Simpson and others.

Entering a Bleak New World

This film was seen with a following q/a with Director Stephen Fingleton, so I begin with an early insight. I had noticed the beginning which is a flashback was a desaturated introduction and then some colour entered although barely making a difference – it was a subtle shift intentionally, confirmed, placed as an indicator distiquishing the following of the flashback as we are taken on a tension filled journey around the environs of a forest in which Martin McCann lives in a wooden shed with corrugated tin roof and among contemporary utensils with a make piece bed and shelving.  He is completely on edge.  He, despite the period he has been here, (more on that and the story later,)  he is still vigilant and carries a two bore musket which is highly serviceable and he also has what might be a shortened Bowie knife.  He is a figure like any frontiersman, hunting daily and without language could be in any forest of the clement kind.  Every day requires the same clarity as the day before.  It is a relentless anxiety.  He is what the French call on the qui vive, on the alert; watchful, and he is his own guardsman with a weather eye for trespassers. Twenty or so minutes pass as we become immersed and familiar with the scope, limited, claustrophobic and insular with little or no awareness of the eight mile horizon which is unseen. Tension is racked up continuosly and his isolation is set.

Polemic

There are few films like this around.  There are very few people in it.  The world the film exists in is a vision of what may transpire beyond a meltdown of our own planets occupation and making, of humans diminishing swiftly and on a downward slope as far as population is concerned.  At the beginning was the word and our planet became one on which mankind foraged and survived across land bridges moving out of areas cut off by the ice age into territories both unfamiliar and unpracticed means of acquiring the nutrition needed to live.  Ireland was a desolate place once and a fusion of two tectonic plates hence the bog land down its centre.  It gave up its forests once occupied for fuel, land, reclaimation and settlement.

The formula, premis is Fingleton coming down on the Collapse side (see obtain the 571 page Jared Diamond book of the same name at cpor.org › Diamond(2005)Collapse-How…) as it is unfolding and clear before 1985 or even earlier we crossed the threshold of planet debt. Stephen Fingleton has the Ulster cynicism gene imprinted meaning his vision is of a collapse scenario. Again I also believe he does not close off a route to recovery, for that is what it shall entail. The best potential for this would be total worldwide empowerment of women which he accepts is one part of the answer. (see also the Chris Martenson book The Crash Course from 2011 and updates for a wide analysis,)   

I attended a talk a day after seeing this which was a concise and very well spelt out analysis with it coming down on the less but ultimately more challenging thought of redress and reining back through advances in population control a lot of which depends on the equality across all nations of women thus could alter the course which would find its level below the present. 10,000 babies an hour added to today’s population. See http://www.garvincrawford.co.uk for a copy of the longer version. The talk will soon be on YouTube.

As illustrated in The Revenant it is very probable the Native American Indian came via. a land bridge along with, as my past review of it raised, their Appolossa horses.  A recent documentary underpins this colossally and with little naysaying, that the Appolossa horse originates, in the time scale of man utilising and forming nomadic connections with, in Kyrgstan and bordering China were they were also plentiful.  To survive there as here required a broad range of skills.

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Huge Narrow Scope

The film begins with a rolling line red and blue signifying population advancing almost vertically come the era of the industrial revolution.  Director Stephen Fingleton then takes his projection of the future as a story, not to say prophecy downward on that trajectory.  Enter the externals, a bit like Margaret Atwoods externals which I later raised with him and he affirmed saying it was a massive influence in writing the story.  There in The Handmaids Tale, read in several different contextual ways all valid, there is a ‘safe’ world where outsiders are used as numbers and for particular functions and within the confines of the ruled ‘safe’ world there are sexual tasks to achieve a continuing product of babies and assist the stability of the Survived.  In the final third others appear as do ghostly reminders of the past.  They serve anonymously to underpin the disease of destructive urges prevalent in hopeless states.  One hand to hand fight is another crossing point.

Meanwhile as is supposed in The Handmaids Tale, there are implied wars existing on the outside and all manner of danger is around.  It is this exterior our characters of a near future period exist within.  For eight years back we are shown in the opening sequence the demise of the brother to brother union and the sacrifice made to survive and then the present post collapse being now what liberals call the new normal is some eight years on in a shed, (it happens to have entirely been filmed in North Antrim and the entire sound track dubbed, itself a very definitive choice.  The soundscape is raw and as light has a surreal incandescence, sometimes beguiling and bewitching the mono soundtrack – there is only one speaker front and central, used in the film performance – a simmering engulfing detail landscape of sound is slowly raised out of the bed of the earth.  No music is used either.  Only a found harmonica and Miljia playing with sound as percussion to show her interior listening heart is conveyed.

Being on guard is for the good reason he is not and cannot be alone.  Someone will come and an encounter happens one day in daylight and he is inside when he hears noises and immediately drops the door bar and locks.  He looks through a tin reflective enough to be a mirror and hazy figures, two women appear to be standing in the middle of his vegetable plot.

Women of Persuasion 

Opening the door he sees two women, both on the limits of starvation.  They are mother and daughter, Kathryn and Milja played by Olwen Fouéré whose striking features of long white hair lean body and softly matured face articulate a knowingness and Mia Goth her screen daughter of an age barely into womanhood.  Her wildness, like the orphan in Les Miserablés and emerging sexuality, her lanky angular awkwardness is open and forming a response to what she sees in this world they now live in.  One where starvation is the norm, where violence happens.  It is where the trees plants flora and fauna are surviving without interruption and Martin McCann’s character, he has no  name in the movie – only names his brother, so we shall call him Orpheus, is asked to provide some of his crop in exchange for firstly trinkets then seeds.  Orpheus makes no demands rejecting what they offer then Kathryn cast up by implication her daughter who is aware of the forthcoming translation and steps forward while Orpheus decides to accept with perfunctoriness the offer.

Seeds are used as perfunctory and commodified trades including bodily fluids as the negotiation just taken place includes a breaking clause.

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A Wooden Bolthole

The three are filmed in the cabin and frank nudity and explicit, perfunctory exchange takes place which summons new reactions and implicit bonds of a joining contract where the three are bound in the survival game.  Orpheus is in charge and his musket a central theme of power.  For her own specific survival and for Milja it is less clear Kathryn what’s to be in charge and to obliterate Orpheus.  To do this will take nerve, conspiracy, swiftness, accuracy, daring and a lot of luck.

This is known as a post event movie and Stephen Fingleton eschews the preconceived barrenness of landscapes here to produce a fecundity of verdant and present forms of life which in his view, as far as mankind is concerned is best expressed, best symbolised by the Inuit tribes and in my own interpretation as a follow-on the Asian Mongolian and Native American nomads whose background was Asian and nomadic life being the link of all.  It transposes as the Ulster Museum struggles to point out a settlement of nomadic types here who became farmers as Orpheus has become.  Here they have and armed struggle group called the Indiegonous Race Etnic Allegiance whose an acronym escapes me.  They are like Peppers Ghost – unlike other dubious armed struggle groups – only appearing at their calling – on stage – deceptively harmful/threatening/pointless and of only fictional preciosity is a-ghastly, flagrantly, inhuman and mythological.

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Other natures

Our planet is challenged is the notion of the film.  Despite the over grave outlook presented by Stephen it is intelligent subterranean almost visceral realism charged with deep emotions of bonding within a family, caring and compassion and love expressed tenderly and unequivocally.  It sanctions goals but they are only to be accepted through agreement.  The narrative places several choices – and it is important to notice these polemic turning points when they subtlety arise.  They throw up questions of mere fate, desire, strength of character and ultimate sacrifice.  At the beginning of this paragraph I alluded to an overload of gravity. Very true. There is an absence of, and wrongly humour, and mere non-visual unspoken longing and bonding.  Only occasionally is there any clue to the bond internally of Orpheus The Survivalist, and Milja.

Milja uses her body to draw them closer as a more perfect bond. The nakedness at times when it’s not part of a earthly comeuppance is in both their state one of celebration of freedom as they bath and have time to breathe.  These times are few and the vocabulary of beauty and existentialist thinking and wondering are virtually minimal as dictates prevail. Nevertheless all thre characters use their bodies as an extra acting device unclothed they are of any time or place or origin giving only identify familiar through bone and flesh shapes.

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This is a tremendous film of quality with a hard path to redeem the ticket and entry to it.  To take in,cab sorb its rough and delicate transience, it’s life force is fragile and starkness of reality is summoned through Survival is uppermost your part of the deal.ccTo engage in its cinematic, provoking challenges.  There is one religious one, of serious contempt, there are bodies corrupted by violence and bloodily as well as the naturalistic settings and their stimuli.


Conclusion ####4

This is a formidable provocative apocalyptic film outside the genre of that overused adj. apocalyptic, it is beyond stereo forms of placement, heavily immersed in monolithic tableaux. Sound is a statement which initially is stronger than the visual as a mechanism of connection.  Then the visually deciphering of The Survivalist himself and how he lives comes in slowly.  In its pace also it moves deliberately slowing our senses down to engage with all its values.  They panoply of choices fighting among the trio is a woman man adventure, a power struggle of equal measure, of natural precedence, meaning nature is the master and cells and skin are interchangeable commodities.  It is, the film, at a cellular molecular level in a lot of aspects and the more you burrow the more you learn or will see.  It is a parable on life’s journey in that sense. It is begging to be seen widely and for the complexities to be drawn out of what appears on the surface only as a simple thriller and contemporary; dystopian and such appendages are not welcomed by either Atwood or Fingleton as the fiction is probably and horrendously contemporaneous as examples such as Isis and they are not alone, show.

One thing Stephen Fingleton mentioned and it features a core thrux of the film is commodity and entity in product which he is viscerally challenged as we all are by.  Except he attempts to make movies about them by I understand distancing himself from those stimuli when escaping (as a Surviavalist might, though without choice to survive this modern animal of entertainment come infortainment.

In for a penny in for a pound.  Except the pound is a barbed wire fence with you on one side and uncivilisation on the other.
I hope it receives the acclaim it deserves and is widely a success given its performances and messages that can be diversely drawn from it.  No reaction will have an equal and as ‘animals’ with a lot in common we continually surprise and alarm.

John Graham

3 February 2016

Belfast

The QFT show the film exclusively before general release around the 12 February 2016 when all sorts of wider audience will be devoured by it!

Their showing QFT is from  Friday 5 February 2016 to 18 February 2016 so it bridges the opening also.

On Friday 5 February Director Stephen Singleton and Martin McCann will be at the QFT screening for a Q/A

On Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 February Director  Stephen  Fingleton and key crew will be at those screenings.

So Stephen has a busy schedule immediately before he goes of to other films and some writing already in the plans ahead.

Go see hopefully with the Q/A elements.

Magpie is a prequel short starring Martin McCann in another guise directed by Stephen Fingleton which he advises is free online to view at the link www.magpieshort.com