Sunday, July 01, 2007


What to say about this :

The Public Information Films that everyone remembers are the "Charlie says" ones. When I saw them as a child in the 80s, they seemed pretty benevolent : the boy never got hurt, and Charlie always made a full recovery from having a pot of boiling tea fall on him, or falling in a lake, ready to suggest that we always tell mummy when we go outside etc etc.

But this one is horribly grim - one kid drowns in a silo, another is crushed by a tractor, another drinks poison and screams herself to death, etc etc. What the hell did the director have in mind when he shot it? How much effort must have gone into making a twenty-five minute film like this, only to warn children about the dangers of messing about on the farm? It is shot through with that very British, very 70s, very other-wordly type of surreality, and it's even funny - deliberately funny. Combine harvesters thrash ominously, only to continue their harvests quite harmlessly. "Ha ha!" it whispers in your ear, "you thought it was going to crush the little bugger!"

The children themselves are quite inhuman. The leader, who calls himself Geronimo, either doesn't notice that his Indians are dying out on a daily basis, or he doesn't care. When the girl drinks the poison, he gently asks her if she's ok. "I think so," she replies, only to emit her last, blood-curdling shriek later that evening. The next day, "Geronimo" is happily playing cops and robbers in a ludicrous American accent again. When he finally meets his maker, hurtling down a hillside on a tractor, you rather feel he had it coming.

They should show this at the BFI as a one-off - it has everything a cult arthouse film should have. Poetry, metaphors, a funereal denouement - it's all there.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


11:22 PM  

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