It was a great coincidence and blessing that I watched these two films on consecutive days. Both starring Tim Roth, albeit in shockingly different characters, they both deal with the dead endness of Thatcher’s Britain for so many. There is no future, little past for these young characters to yearn back to, and therefore the present is the only respite. The present becomes the only thing left to do is destroy in random acts of nihilistic vandalism.
This film unfolds like a play – in only a couple of locations and a limited cast. But the walk-and-talk energy of the protagonists, and the quick movements of the camera make it more cinematic than films with thousands of times more budget.
Roth’s character in Made in Britain has all the typical skinhead characteristics – it’s not even subtle. Skin shaved hair, swastika on the face, doc martens and white vests – but he spends most of the film with his Caribbean roommate, Errol – seemingly unaware of the hypocrisy of his position. Its reminiscent of a Louis Theroux episode where he visits a leading Neo-Nazi in the depths of the Midwestern US, and as the episode unfolds, we realise this man’s private vicious tirades against non-whites is in opposition to his apparent friendship with South Americans and others.
Errol, who, noting Trevor’s overbearing charisma, begins to act like a sheep, following him around, parroting Trevor’s racist language when targeting the home of an Asian family late at night – ‘Baboons, go back to the jungle!’ – from a young black boy, is perhaps the release he gets from trying to ‘belong’ in some strange way.
There is an exceptional scene in the middle of the film where Geoffrey Hutchings cannily calls on a blackboard in a locked room of the assessment centre every move in Trevor’s life – past and present – like a snakes and ladders game where the last square is always prison.
In a time where the skinhead stereotype was that of mindless thugs, Made In Britain is a sobering dissection of the truth.
Alan Clarke’s trademark use of Steadicam began with Made in Britain (actually one of the first uses of the rig for TV) allowing him to capture every spurt of energy the wild Trevor – who barely keeps still across the full 70 minutes.