Last week I was showing Looking for Eric [Loach UK/France/Belgium 2009] to some friends and neighbours, and in my introduction to the film I was struck by how I’ve grown to like Ken leach’s movies the older I’ve become. I always found his films rather preaching in tone, I realise on closer inspection that the politics or social reality of his films, firmly take second place to the drama involving the characters. The difficulties I faced earlier was the discomfort I felt with the level of engagement with the characters that Barry Ackroyd’s cinematography requires audiences to confront eye to eye.
This entry is an adapted version of my personal blog entry which can be found at: http://pandetoomslaws.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/looking-for-ken/
I ‘ve been drawn to the working relationship between Loach and his long-term collaborator Barry Ackroyd, and how Ackroyd’s intimate range of shot selections are key to Loach’s dramas.
Many of Loach’s film explore how individuals (barely) cope with maintaining a sense of self and dignity in the face of challenges to this humanity. These are most often the consequence of broader social issues. However, it would be hasty and inaccurate to describe Loach as merely a political film maker, if this were the case, his films wouldn’t have the broad international appeal they do. While his dramas are often located in urban UK settings, and the social backgrounds relate to issues of economic changes and the injustices brought about by these. The resonances they appear to offer are far wider than these localities, and Ackroyd’s camerawork is central to this power.
What Loach seeks to accomplish is a human connection between audiences and his characters and their struggles, the politics or social reality are backdrops to this and are significant in that clearly Loach has clear convictions, and sees little to be gained by hiding the social context which brings characters problems about, and which might draw wider attention to them.
Ackroyd’s camerawork, dominated by eye-level medium close-ups forces audience to confront the events and their consequence for the characters, this and the editing denies audiences any chance to avert their gaze from the often crushing weight of their circumstances.
I believe that this kind of interdependence and reliance on a trusted cinematographer is far more important in a fully realised filmic vision is far more common among our canon of greats than is ordinarily explored at IB level. However, this might prove an interesting area of research for IB fill students, particularly at higher level, for example how might key works of Fellini, Rossellini, de Sica and Pasolini have been realised without Otello Martelli?