Saturday, July 16, 2011

IT HAPPENED HERE (Kevin Brownlow & Andrew Mollo, 1966, UK)

After the Dunkirk debacle, England is conquered by the Swastika and its inhabitants subsumed by the need for order...even if it's name is National Socialism. Independent filmmakers Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo’s “what if” scenario was shot on a shoestring budget without professional actors, utilizing grainy 16mm film, but these constraints help add a veneer of violent reality, of a large world shrinking and contracting towards political collapse.

The compositions are in full-frame and capture the story in mostly medium shot and close-up. The moving images are accentuated by the bombast of Wagnerian grandiosity, a percussive score that shouts Hitler's triumph of the English will. The establishing shots have a feel of “home movie” authenticity as we see Nazis goose-stepping with Big Ben towering in the background or within the shadows of other landmarks. Though we see the world through a limited exposure, the attention to detail is remarkable with realistic uniforms, tanks, vehicles, and the Nazi propaganda that litters the walls, newspapers , television and airwaves. All of this is even more remarkable because the directors never resort to stock footage! A recent film (with a much higher budget!) that mirrors this attempt to create a violent society from the tiniest details is Alfonso Cuaron’s masterful CHILDREN OF MEN.

The story begins with World At War inspired exposition explaining the history of the German occupation and utilizes flash-cuts and close-ups to depict the bloody conflict. The story then focuses upon a nurse named Pauline whose neutral political ideals are soon corrupted by the New World Order. After her friends are caught in the crossfire of a partisan ambush, she is routinely indoctrinated into the Fascist ranks. The chilling lesson offers law and order at the cost of individual rights and how easy it is to accept and rationalize, to quickly become a participant in a murderous hierarchy. Pauline soon becomes a woman without a country, her conscience blind to the Jewish ghettos and euthanized immigrants. In one scene, the directors allow modern fascists to vomit their inane beliefs and it becomes obvious that not every Englishman would veto a Nazi occupation. IT HAPPENED HERE is a prescient tale, a dire warning that freedom comes at the price of flesh and blood, and that the ghost of Hitler still haunts the Earth.

Final Grade: (B+)

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