Sunday, November 05, 2006

Red Road (18)

When Red Road premièred at this year's Cannes festival, some cinéastes apparently marvelled at how writer/director Andrea Arnold had created such a realistic-looking Orwellian dystopia in Britain, one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Little did the poor little rich reviewers realise, the bleak and dilapidated Red Road area of Glasgow is genuine; actual flesh and blood people live there. The set was a readymade provided by 21st century capitalist society.

There are currently 4.2 million CCTV cameras in this country, and in this film Jackie (Katie Dickie) monitors a bank of about thirty, covering an impoverished area in Scotland's second city. Her life is lonely but quiet and ordered, until one day she recognises a face from her past (that of Tony Curran) on one of the screens. Gradually, Jackie is drawn into the shadowy realm inhabited by the flotsam of society.

And when I say it's a shadowy realm, I mean it, because Arnold is leading a new wave of Scots inspired by the Dogme 95 'Vow of Chastity' rules established by Danish film makers Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, which means there is no extra lighting, and no gimmicky use of computers, sound effects or any other Hollywood weapons of mass distraction.

All that means that the story, script and acting have to be top notch, and Red Road scores two and a half out of three on that score. The main premise - once it's finally revealed - is almost literally unbelievable, and that takes some of the 'shine' off, even though that seems completely the wrong word for what may be the most realistic-looking Orwellian dystopia I have ever seen. On a cinema screen anyway.
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