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Pride, UK 2014

Posted by keith1942 on September 24, 2014

Pride_Movie_2014_Poster

This is another film in the British cycle that deals with the exploitation of the working class and specifically the conflicts in the Mining Industry which reached a climax in 1984. The   Sight & Sound review commented: “In its engaging, funny, affecting, even inspiring way, ‘Pride’ is essentially a rousing paean to joined-up activism in an era of radical conservatism.”

This is a message that to varying degrees is central to the cycle, and Pride recapitulates most of the earlier films in some way. Like Brassed Off the central story focuses on the problems faced by the miners and their communities. Like Billy Elliot it is set during the period of the actual major dispute. And also, like Billy Elliot, and to a degree to The Full Monty, performance is the key to the characters and plot. And like Made in Dagenham it twins industrial relations with a question of social oppression to the forefront before that of economic exploitation.

The film is scripted by Stephen Beresford and directed by Matthew Warchus, both of whom have predominately theatrical experience. This shows in the film. It relies on character and performance rather than cinematic techniques. There are occasional long shots of events and landscapes, but predominately we see a focus through mid-shot and close-up on the actors. There is much less reliance on, for example, parallel editing: something that is very effective in Brassed Off, and to a lesser degree in Billy Elliot.

Like the latter film we also see little of the actual strike. The story, like The Full Monty, Billy Elliot and Made in Dagenham focuses on personal relations and dramas and on divisions within the working class. Pride does address questions of gender effectively. Walters notes that “[Village life is more matriarchal]”. Here it scores over a film like Brassed Off, where the role of women is downplayed. Pride also has a much stronger sense of community. One does get a sense of the virtues and tensions of the Welsh mining community: something that Brassed Off and Billy Elliot fail to elicit. Billy Elliot and The Full Monty are extremely weak on empathy for working class life. Brassed off and Made in Dagenham are better at this. Pride emulates the latter two films.

The film is weaker on the Gay and Lesbian communities. The Gay and Lesbian characters do seem a little stereotypical. Of course, the villagers are led by stalwart British character actors who are masters of their craft. The younger actors in the London scene don’t have that experience. I also felt that the film was rather coy on the issue of sexuality and tentative on the issue of Aids. It has a 15 Certificate, so this probably reflects the pressures of the British Board of Film Classification’s obsession with what one might describe as ‘middle-class values of seemly behaviour’.

Walters also comments re the developments in the plot that “this is very much a story about public actions rather than private feelings. Or rather, the personal is invariably political:”. The axiom he quotes is the wrong way round: it should actually be that the ‘political is personal’. That seems to me to be what happened during the epic strike and in this particular strand within it. But, like it earlier companion films, Pride does not really address that. The economic imperatives for closing down the mining g industry, with the concomitant undermining of the Trade Union movement transformed the lives of many people who became politically involved.

Still Pride is an entertaining film. It combines drama and comedy in an effective fashion. It does actually dramatise aspects of the lives of ordinary working people that much of mainstream cinema is totally insensitive to. Like Brassed Off it makes good use of music. The film opens with Pete Seeger singing ‘Solidarity Forever ‘ and ends with Billy Bragg performing ‘There is Power in the Union‘, and an overlapping Welsh choir. In between there is a moving rendition of ‘Bread and Roses’ And as with the genre overall, it manages to end on a more upbeat note than the actual historic events – with Miners Delegations joining the 1985 Gay and Lesbian London Pride March. That, of course, is very much of our times.

 

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