If…

Essay

What are some of the ways in which your chosen film represents rebellion? (800- 1000 words)

Lindsay Anderson’s movie ‘If’ represents rebellion in many different ways. Similar to Jean Vigo’s film from the 1930’s, ‘Zéro de conduite’, also about the rebellion of children in school, as well as Anderson stating it had an influence on the ‘..scene-structure’ of ‘If’. The College as a whole represents society in this time, the young rebels protesting against authority and the generation before them, which is understandable as shortly before this movie the second world war ended. Within the college the three main characters Wallace, Johnny and Mick represent the rebellious youth of Britain in this time.

The first rebellious act the boys engage in is the possession of contraband such as alcohol and cigarettes. The three boys, the ‘rebels’ of their English public school, drink vodka and smoke in their studies, this is often accompanied by many controversial things Mick says such as, “ There’s no such thing as a wrong war. Violence and revolution are the only pure acts.” immediately introducing the idea that he thinks about these topics recurringly, rebelling against the ways posh, college boys are supposed to.

Anderson rebels in the sense he shows things in ‘If’ that would ordinarily never have appeared onscreen in the 1960s. The scene where Mrs. Kemp walks naked through the boy’s dormitory would’ve been highly controversial, shocking most of the audience, rebelling against the rules of cinema.

‘If’ is also one of the first movies to discuss and include a homosexual relationship between two boys, Wallace and Bobby Phillips. This again shows the rebellion of the film ‘If’ as it deals with topics never discussed before on screen. Homosexuality was only legalized a year before the movie’s release in 1968 so this would still be a very controversial topic for cinema, Anderson is quite clearly rebelling against the film industry, breaking all the rules.

The most prominent and memorable act of rebellion within ‘If’ is the final shooting scene. The boys and girl shooting former members of the military, a member of the royal family, their fellow students, the priest and most importantly the prefects and principal who punished them on speech day is their final act of rebellion against the college. This final scene comes after a rather brutal whipping scene in which Mick receives a prolonged canning from the prefects after misbehaving. After this their violent thoughts develope into a plan of actual violence, unknown to the audience. Mick’s possession of bullets further suggests he’s planning something, distributing them to Johnny and Wallace before the shooting during army drills outside.

Another act of rebellion from Mick a close up of his smile upon entrance to the gymnasium where he’s being punished for misbehaving. He does actions like these throughout the movie, appearing nonchalant when in trouble and answering authority back innocently. This is a very passive form of rebellion however very affective as it clearly irritates the prefects who’re used to unquestioning obedience from students. This also perfectly displays Mick’s character which from the beginning, where he arrives late with a black scarf around his face, he’s seen as rebellious.

The boys seem to enjoy ‘play’ fighting round the school, much like school boys do. However these three fighting around the school, even in the street. Shows that, before their severe acts of violence, they had violent tendencies. Each scene is well filmed and involves very realistic fighting, despite their lack of weapons.

Anderson displays posters around the school featuring leaders such as Che Guevara and Genghis Khan, cleverly shown in the backdrop of shots on the boy’s study and dormitory walls. This shows people who were actively involved in acts of rebellion, directly linking not only the three ‘rebels’ but other boys in the college to these acts.

The use of Sanctus by Missa Luba, african religious music, is used as both diegetic and nondiegetic music throughout ‘If’. It’s almost as though the music haunts Mick, following him to the Cafe where his sexual fantasy with The Girl occur. The music is tribal and relate to the posters in Mick’s study, showing his interest with foreign acts of rebellion. Also when Mick plays the music in the jukebox of the Cafe it’s highly unrealistic as the song wasn’t very popular and very unlikely to be held in a jukebox. This is an example of Anderson reminding the audience they are simply watching a film, another controversial thing this director does with ‘If’.

‘If’ regularly switches between coloured film and black and white, although this was due to a lack of finance for the movie, Anderson still chose to include both as he could’ve easily made it all black and white. Again, this had not been done before and was to remind the audience they’re watching a film. Rebellion in the fact Anderson is trying to trick us into thinking the colour changes have a meaning where in actual fact it was random and to help with lighting the scenes.

The last act of rebellion which I think it’s important to note is when Mick and Johnny steal a motorbike to drive to the cafe. This goes unpunished and goes to show how untouchable the boys felt at their time of rebellion. There were never any known consequences, which proves further many events in the movie were a product of Mick’s imagination.

 

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