Reviews and notes
MADE IN BRITAIN
, written by David Leland, is a portrait of one of Thatcher's most appalling children: an eloquent racist skinhead named Trevor, whose passionate belief in an Aryan Britain is brought to indelible life by newcomer Tim Roth. Political and aesthetic soulmates, Leland and Clarke had worked together twice before: on Beloved Enemy - a bracing film about capitalism's alliance with communist Russia - and Psy-Warriors, a play set in a training centre for psychological torture. This latter inspired Clarke's most stunning display of video technique -dazzling black-and-white lighting, long shots through the mesh of a prisoner's cage - in a testament to the duo's belief that the more highly charged the material, the more important it is to stand back.
Their approach to Trevor's story is unsettling not because of the violence, which is mainly verbal or mental, but because of the swings from attachment to detachment, proximity to distance, kinetic energy to static debate. Such alternations were to mark Clarke's style from this point on. Kinetic energy is achieved by a camera that stalks Trevor closely, seemingly attached to his back like a limpet. The viewer is borne along helplessly as Trevor marches on his rounds: whether he's destroying a job centre or smashing the windows of Asian homes, the viewer becomes his accomplice. One of Trevor's nightwalks takes him past a store window in which mannequins portray the perfect English family - a connection to the "sick mother and father" of Penda's Fen
, offering a parallel between Trevor's and Stephen's perverted views of Englishness.
Leland gives Trevor and the authority figures he despises texture and dimension - for instance, the social workers would honestly like to help him break out of the vicious circle in which he is trapped. But as the Superintendent chalks out on a blackboard during the long central debate, no education means no job, no job means the dole, the dole is inadequate which means thieving, thieving means prison, at the end of the prison sentence... no job. Trevor spits out his retort: "Teachers don't want kids to be honest, they'd lose control... all school teaches you is to work hard and get a job otherwise you're no good." And for Trevor, all the available jobs are low-paid crap.
At the end, when he's warned to "shut it and keep it shut", Roth gives a triumphant smile. Freeze frame: an assertion of defiance and a lethal warning - a society that cannot channel Trevor's energy and intelligence is in desperate trouble.
-Howard Schuman, Sight and Sound, September 1998.
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