by NEVIL GIBSON
Like the best wines, many filmmakers improve with age. But it can also have side effects, such as awareness that perfection can never be achieved.
In an interview with Sight and Sound magazine, director John Boorman, 82, reflected on a career that burst across cinema in the late 1960s with the Lee Marvin thriller Point Blank.
This was followed by the Oscar nominated Deliverance (1972), still remembered for its duelling banjos soundtrack.
Boorman recounted a recent conversation with Jean-Luc Godard, the French director, who said: “You have to be young and stupid to make a movie. If you know as much as we do, it’s impossible.”
Boorman said his point was that, “the clearer your vision is of the film you want to make, almost inevitably
you fail to achieve it totally”.
“Whereas when you’re starting out you’re amazed at these shots you are able to get — you know, ‘Wow!’ When you get older, you don’t quite get that. It falls short.”
Boorman’s later films ranged in subjects from war (Hell in the Pacific) and science fiction (Zardoz) to historical fantasy (Excalibur), Amazonian adventure (The Emerald Forest) and espionage (The Tailor of Panama).
But none was better than his earlier ones, except for Hope and Glory (1987), which won five Oscar nominations and was among the most awarded films of its year.
It was based on Boorman’s childhood during the London Blitz of 1940-41. It included a scene of Boorman’s seven-year-old alter ego, Bill Rohan, running from a bombed out schoolyard, shouting “Thank you, Adolf!”
This scene is repeated at the start of Queen and Country (Rialto) as Bill (Callum Turner) enters a Movie Review
period of National Service training.
It is 1952, Bill is 18, the Korean War is being fought and King George VI is known to be ill. Before the film
ends, Queen Elizabeth II is crowned.
Further links are made with Hope and Glory. Bill’s family still live on an island in the Thames near Shepperton film studios.
Boorman’s lifetime of film-making acts as a bookend to the latest episode, with scenes being shot on the river.
While not noted for his political and social attitudes, like contemporaries Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, Boorman nevertheless takes a jaundiced if not subversive view of army life, the class system and other signs of Britain under strain in the post-war era. Comparisons will be made with the much more upbeat A Royal Night Out.
The story is subservient to the characters, as Bill and his psychopathic fellow conscript (Caleb Landry Jones) rise through the ranks to sergeant at the camp.
They miss out on being shipped to Korea and instead are left to train the never-ending flow of other conscripts.
They constantly rub up against authority in the form of a rigid sergeant major, who turns out to be a war trauma victim (David Thewliss); a sardonic commanding officer (Richard E. Grant); and a vindictive regimental sergeant major (Brian O’Byrne).
But the most colourful of the uniformed characters is a private (Pat Shortt), a self-described “skiver” and all-round manipulator of the system, mostly to his own benefit.
Outside the camp are a lesser but equally interesting array of girlfriends, including socialite Tamsin Egerton, down-to-earth nurse Aimée-Ffion Edwards and Bill’s sister, Vanessa Kirby.
Rating: Mature audiences (violence, offensive language and sex scenes); 115 minutes.
by NEVIL GIBSON