Friday, 8 January 2016

I've Just Seen: The Selfish Giant (2013)

The Selfish Giant (2013)

Director: Clio Barnard

Non-period drama and non-royal/ aristocratic films about Britain do not do well outside the UK. The more grimy, grungy worlds depicted in many British films do not collerate with the image many people have about the country, who seem to think that life in Britain is very white, very posh and stuck in pre-World War II. This approach to British cinema robs many of seeing some incredibly beautiful and tragic films, including Barnard's The Selfish Giant.

The title refers to Oscar Wilde's child story of the same name, about a selfish giant who builds a wall to stop children from playing in his garden and having fun. This causes him to miss joy and love in his life. Barnard's film is inspired by this idea, as she explores the movement of selfishness around a young boy called Arbor, and his friend Swifty.

The image of a giant is born out in Barnard and her DP Mike Eley's establishing shots, which are breath-taking. They are mixture of pastoral (sheep, horses, grass) being overshadowed by industrial infrastructure (powere lines, chimneys) surrounded by mist. This combination of the natural and man-made is also presented in Swifty's affinity with horses; his nature is more gentle than Arbor's, who have behavioural issues. The two child actors are perfect in their performances, their friendship especially is very convincing.

The film is very beautiful, with a tragic ending that shocked me. Though the two main characters are children, this is not for children. It reminded me of Fish Tank, another British film about poor youth making their way in the world.

I would definitely recommend this; however, if you are not au fait with regional British accents, find a copy with subtitles, as the Bradford accents of the characters are strong and could make it hard to understand. But don't let that stop you from seeing this. 

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