In an indictment of the British public school system, we follow Mick and his mostly younger friends through a series of indignities and occasionally abuse as any fond feelings toward these schools are destroyed. When Mick and his friends rebel, violently, the catch phrase, "which side would you be on" becomes quite stark. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
I watched this movie, for the umpteenth time, when it was shown on T.V. last night and was happy to see that it hasn't lost any of it's impact or relevance. Like so many other British films of the same time "if...." is a classic. The storyline, direction, location and acting are all stunning and as an allegory the film has as much to say today as it did when it was first released, onto an unsuspecting public, in the late 1960's. Much has been said by other reviewers about Lindsay Anderson, Malcolm McDowell and the film as a social satire, so there seems little point in going along those, well trodden, paths. I guess one aspect of the film, which always struck me as pivotal, but which hasn't been mentioned, is the inverse negative correlation between the story of Mick (Malcolm McDowell) and that of Jute (Sean Bury). While Mick starts out as a mild non-conformist who becomes increasingly disaffected with society, as represented by the school, Jute, who is initially an outsider, a new boy who doesn't know the rules, is gradually accepted and becomes an active member of that very same society. Mick's initial revolt is that of returning to school still sporting a moustache. But although he is flouting the rules by virtue of not being clean shaven, it is done on a purely personal level and he takes great pains to hide his facial hair from those in authority. Later his actions become, by stages, increasingly confrontational and open. Jute on the other hand is first shown as a small, almost lost, boy with large, frightened, puppy-dog eyes who doesn't even know that prefects are not addressed as "Sir", let alone the myriad of other complex rules that make up the society into which he has been thrust. Gradually we see his self assurance blossoming as he is accepted firstly by the other "scum" and later by the powers that be. The small socially isolated boy of the first scene is later seen playing an active role in a rugby match, sharing an impromptu meal with the other scum, confidently carrying a trophy in College Hall and finally taking an active part (as an altar boy) in the very celebration of traditional values that Mick has, by then, utterly rejected. A thought provoking film, which like that other celebrated allegory from the same era, "Lord of the Flies" (1963), has many levels and can be as deep as you wish it to be. Utterly Brilliant. Oh yeah and my favourite quote was from Mick when asked why he was sporting a moustache, his answer, "To hide my sins".
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